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Spiritual Sounds of Central Asia shows Silk Road's musical diversity

     Three Central Asian vocal traditions accompanied by indigenous instruments will be brought together in a concert, "Spiritual Sounds of Central Asia: Nomads, Mystics and Troubadours", illustrating the diverse musical cultures of the Silk Road.

     Alim Qasimov, a "living national treasure" of Azerbaijan, is an internationally renowned master of mugham, an Azerbaijani form of improvised singing.  Acclaimed for his vocal dexterity and emotional delivery, Qasimov won the International Music Council/UNESCO Music Prize in 1999 and has been hailed by French newspaper Le Monde as "one of the most beautiful voices of our era", while The Times, UK, called him "Alim Qasimov: the living legend you've never heard of".  Qasimov and his daughter Fargana, also a gifted mugham singer, are leading performers in the opera "Layla and Majnun" on the Yo-Yo Ma Silk Road Ensemble's tour this year.  In their performance in Hong Kong, father and daughter are accompanied by musicians on the indigenous instruments of balaban, kamancha and tar.

     Hailed as "a superbly unpatronising approach to world music" by The Guardian, UK, Kyrgyz ensemble Tengir-Too will bring striking sounds from Tianshan. The group's music is rooted in the culture of the nomads who inhabit the mountains, lakes and grasslands and whose tales revolve around nature and mythological heroes. Since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, the ensemble's founder Nurlanbek Nyshanov has helped revive a wide range of traditional instruments.  While reclaiming the past, he also innovates by composing works for small ensembles, which traditionally would have been performed by soloists only.

     Kazakhstan, the world's largest landlocked country, has a rich bardic heritage, taking in subjects from romance to social commentary and personal philosophy. Accomplished bardic divas Ardak Issatayeva and Uljan Baibussynova sing and accompany themselves on long-necked lutes known as dombra. Issatayeva's warm alto voice, together with Baibussynova's evocative renditions of didactic poetry, a traditionally male bardic genre referred to as zhyraulik, present the colourful nomadic art at its best.  The Independent, UK, said "Uljan Baibussynova sang more deeply from the chest than any mezzo ever does".

     The three groups have toured the UK and US to great acclaim, and their groundbreaking Hong Kong debut will be an enchanting musical adventure through the Caucasus, Tianshan and over the Kazakh steppe.  The performance will be accompanied by projection of images introducing the life and musical cultures of Central Asia.

     "Spiritual Sounds of Central Asia: Nomads, Mystics and Troubadours" is one of the programmmes of the Silk Road Arts Festival presented by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. It will be at 8pm on October 24 (Saturday) at Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall. Tickets priced at $120, $200, $280, $360 are available at URBTIX outlets.  A meet-the-artists session will be held after the performance.

     Half-price tickets are available for full-time students, senior citizens aged 60 or above, people with disabilities and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients.  Discounts of up to 20% are available for full-price performing arts/film programmes of the festival.

     A lecture demonstration will be held at 8pm on October 23 (Friday) at CR2, Level 7, Concert Hall Backstage, Hong Kong Cultural Centre. Conducted in English, it will be hosted by Alim and Fargana Qasimov, Tengir-Too and the bardic divas.  Admission is free and limited seats are available on a first-come-first-served basis.

     Programme brochures are available at URBTIX outlets and at the website .

     For programme enquiries, please call 2370 1044. Internet bookings can be made at . Credit card telephone bookings can be made on 2111 5999 and telephone reservations on 2734 9009.

Ends/Friday, September 25, 2009


Alim Qasimov, a "living national treasure" of Azerbaijan, and his daughter Fargana Qasimova.


Kyrgyz ensemble Tengir-Too.


Uljan Baibussynova from Kazakhstan.


Ardak Issatayeva from Kazakhstan.




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