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The IV International Shashmaqam Forever, a two-day Festival in Queens and Manhattan, will bring together Muslims and Jews to celebrate the legacy of the People’s Artist of Uzbekistan, Yunus Rajabi. The Memorial Concert will feature virtuosi vocalists and instrumentalists performing Shashmaqam, a musical tradition that developed in the royal courts of the Emirs of the Bukharan Empire over hundreds of years.

Previously presented at Carnegie Hall, Shashmaqam Forever has been described as a “unique cultural event link[ing] the Bukharian Jewish community, Uzbek-Americans, and their historic homeland.” Founded by Bukharian Times Editor-in-Chief and composer Rafael Nektalov and philanthropist David Mavashev, who directs the Izkhak Mavashev Foundation - Institute of Bukharian Jewish Heritage in Diaspora, Shashmaqam Forever “is an event like none other, a bridge between communities and a celebration of culture,” said Nektalov, “Everyone is encouraged to attend.”

Festival presenters include The Bukharian Jewish Congress of the USA and Canada, American Sephardi Federation, Bukharian Jewish Community Center, Turkistan-American Association, Uzbek-American Art Foundation, and MiRaf Entertainment with the support of the Republic of Uzbekistan’s Cultural Ministry, Embassy to the United States, Consulate General at New York, and Permanent Mission to the United States.

“Once again this year the Shashmaqam Forever program will allow New Yorkers to experience the artistry of the world’s leading performers of Central Asian classical music and learn about important figures in the music's history,” said Peter Rushefsky, Executive Director of the New York-based Center for Traditional Music and Dance.

The Symposium on Central Asian Classical Music: “Yunus Rajabi and his Jewish musical environment” will occur on Sunday, 4 February, from 11AM to 5PM, at the Bukharian Jewish Community Center (106-16 70th Avenue, Forest Hills, New York). Researchers invited include: Prof. Walter Zev Feldman (New York University in Abu Dhabi), Prof. Steven Blum (CUNY Graduate Center), Rafael Nektalov (President of the Shashmaqam Forever Festival), Prof. Evan Rapport (Eugene Lang College at the New School), and Zoya Tajikova.

“Shashmaqam Forever proves that Yunus Rajabi’s life’s work saving Shashmaqam—the sophisticated, centuries-old Muslim and Jewish musical tradition once centered in Bukhara and which encompasses astounding achievements in literature and mathematics—from Soviet suppression is a living legacy, rightly recognized by UNESCO as a masterpiece of humanity’s intangible cultural heritage,” says Jason Guberman, Executive Director of the American Sephardi Federation. He added: “Shashmaqam Forever is a wonderful expression of ASF’s mission to preserve and promote the history, traditions, and rich mosaic culture of Greater Sephardic communities as an integral part of the Jewish experience. We are excited to build bridges between scholars, musicians, diplomats, and communal leaders, as well as to connect the Bukharian and other Russian-speaking Greater Sephardim with the broader Jewish community.”

The Yunus Rajabi Memorial Concert will start at 7:30PM on Monday, 5 February, in the Center for Jewish History’s Leo and Julia Forchheimer Auditorium (15 W 16th St. between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, New York City). Tickets are $30-60. Reserve by visiting X or calling 1.800.838.3006. Shashmaqam masters performing at the Concert will include:

  • Khasan Rajabi (Uzbekistan) - vocalist, tanbur (long-necked plucked lute), sato (bowed lute)

  • Roshel Rubinov (USA) - vocalist, tanbur

  • Tahir Rajabi (Uzbekistan) – vocalist, rubab (lute with skin-covered deck)

  • Roman Tolmasov (USA) -vocalist, tanbur

  • Aziz Rajabi (Uzbekistan) - vocalist, tanbur

  • Ilyusha Khavasov (USA) - vocalist

  • Ulmas Allaberganov (Uzbekistan) vocalist, tanbur

  • Abohay Aminov (USA) - vocalist

  • Rustam Khajimametov (Uzbekistan) – vocalist

  • Osher Barayev (USA) - doire (hand drum)

  • Jahongir Tuvdiev (Uzbekistan) - ghijak (bowed spike fiddle), vocalist

  • Nodir Djuraev (Uzbekistan) - vocalist

  • Ezro Malakov’s Youth Shashmaqam Ensemble (USA)

About Shashmaqam:

For centuries, under the patronage of the Bukharan Emirates, Muslim and Jewish musicians worked together to develop the Shashmaqam into one of the world's most sophisticated and refined classical music systems. Shashmaqam (literally “six maqam” -- maqam is roughly equivalent to the concept of mode or scale in Western music) is a canon of instrumental melodies and poetic texts set to music, traditionally performed in long suites that are organized melodically around one of the maqam.

Beginning with Stalin’s subjugation of the Central Asian republics, the Soviet cultural apparatus worked to collectivize and censor culture, eliminating bilingual (Tajik/Uzbek) lyrics and suppressing musicians who did not follow party-approved performance guidelines. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, virtually all of the leading Jewish master musicians of Central Asia have emigrated to the U.S. (particularly the neighborhoods of Rego Park, Kew Gardens, and Forest Hills in Queens, New York City), Israel, and Germany. The Muslim master musicians, who have tended to remain in Central Asia, struggle to maintain their traditional arts within a much-diminished infrastructure of support.

In 2003, UNESCO placed the Shashmaqam tradition of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan on their international list of ninety masterpieces of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity. The current president of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, has been very supportive of the Shashmaqam tradition.

About Yunus Rajabiy:

The IV International Shashmaqam Forever Concert is dedicated to Yunus Rajabiy (1897-1976), a composer, musician, and scholar who collected, systematized, and transcribed more than a thousand songs and pieces from the Shashmaqam repertoire. Shashmaqam is the classical music of Central Asia that developed in the courts of the Emirs of the Bukharan Empire for hundreds of years. For centuries prior to Rajabiy’s work, the Shashmaqam corpus had existed only in the memories and oral tradition of musicians. Rajabiy’s legacy was to help preserve and ensure the survival of this music for future generations.

Yunus Rajabiy enrolled as a student of nai (Uzbek flute) at the Tashkent National Conservatory in 1919. As a student, Rajabiy demonstrated prodigious musical talents. Later, cooperating with his tutors at the Conservatory, Nikolay Mironov and Viktor Uspenski, Rajabiy created several musical dramas “Muqanna”, “Revenge”, “Qo’chqor Turdiyev,” as well music to such plays as “Farkhod and Shirin” and “Layli and Majnun.” He wrote numerous songs to the lyrics of classical Uzbek poets, including Zahiriddin Muhammad Bobur, Muqimiy, and Furqat. Rajaby would go on, in 1927, to found the ensemble of national instruments at the Tashkent Radio Committee. He is best known today for publishing major multi-volume compendiums of both Uzbek folk music and the Shashmaqam classical repertoire.

For his work with Shashmaqam music, Rajabiy was named a People’s Artist of Uzbekistan, the Soviet Union’s highest honor in the arts, and was awarded the prestigious Hamza State Prize. He continues to be celebrated in Central Asia and across the world. In the Uzbek capital of Tashkent, Rajabiy’s house, which is located in a Jewish neighborhood, has been preserved as a museum (his son Khassan Rajabi, an acclaimed singer and tanbur player, is the Museum’s Music Director), and a subway station has been named in his honor.

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