Music of Central Asia, Vol. 2: Invisible Face of the Beloved
Much like with qawwali and ghazals, music and poetry are inextricably linked in shashmaqam, the classical music of the Tajiks and Uzbeks. On Invisible Face of the Beloved, they perform the complete cycle of one of the six maqams that make up the shashmaqam repertoire. There are male and female singers, sometimes singing solo and sometimes as a group, accompanied by a frame drum (doira) and three different lutes: the bowed sato, the strummed dutar, and the plucked tanbur. One can hear the relationship between shashmaqam and qawwali, but shashmaqam doesn't reach the same ecstatic heights that most qawwali does (at least in this performance), and there is a periodic emphasis on instrumental passages that doesn't normally occur in qawwali. The detailed liner notes do a much better job of describing and analyzing the performance than can be done here, and the accompanying DVD documents the Academy of the Maqam (whose founder and students are the performers here) and goes even further in describing all the elements of this tradition (poetry, music, and dance) and how they work in conjunction. The overview of Central Asia and instrument glossaries provide additional information and context. The Aga Khan Trust for Culture and Smithsonian Folkways are doing a wonderful job of making the rich traditions of Central Asia more accessible to the rest of the world.