The former Soviet Republic of Uzbekistan lies in the heart of central Asia, sandwiched between Kazakhstan and Turkménistan. This area's diverse history is reflected in traditional music which shows strong connections with Persian and Arabic music - in its rhythms, the use of Sufi poetry and the classical maqâm repertoire which informs even contemporary modern bestekâr (performer-composers) who continue to update its traditions.
The leading performer of classical Uzbek music and its Persian-language cousin Shashmaqâm is the singer Munadjat Yulchieva. She was born in 1960 in the Ferghâna valley near Tashkent, and from an early age it was obvious she had a great gift as a singer. This nearly resulted in her being channelled into a career as an opera singer, but she was inexorably drawn towards the slow, aching music of her own ancient culture, something that seemed almost pre-ordained by her name, which means 'ascent to God' or simply 'prayer'.
For almost her entire career as a traditional singer, she has been associated with the prominent bestekâr Shavkat Mirzaev, a master of the long necked rabâb lute. Her repertoire includes many of his compositions, and she usually performs with his ensemble. Typically the group use local instruments such as the dutar (two stringed lute), the tanbur (3-stinged lute), a gidjak spike fiddle, doira frame drum, ney flute and at times the chang zither. Those lucky enough to attend one of her rare concerts abroad will witness a sumptuously dressed performer of startling gravitas and charisma, with long pigtails trailing down to her waist.
Only two recordings of her music are widely available - the first for the French label Ocora (1994) and the most recent (1997) on Germany's Network label, which has the subtitle A Haunting Voice.
The eminent Uzbek musician Muhammadjan Mirzaev eloquently described her voice as "like a flying dove, turning over in the currents of warm spring air," and of her own attitude to singing, she simply says the following: "It should come from the soul, from the heart".
Jon Lusk, November 2003
Read other peoples comments
I am from Tashkent... and really really nostalgic about Uzb at the moment... hearing her voice was just like coming back home for a sec...
Sat Dec 3 15:52:27 2005
Her voice and the way she sings...
That is what I call as an Art!!!
She indeed deserves all the best words in the world!! :)
Sat Dec 3 10:12:13 2005
She is the best!!!!
Sat Dec 3 00:27:03 2005
I am an Uzbek and so proud of her. Her voice is really remarkable.
I can tell you that there are many more of future Munojat'a back home.
Wed Sep 28 02:17:58 2005
I heard her at the Purcell room about 2 years ago and she blew me away with her phenominal vocal. She made listen to uzbeck music more closely and to music of central asia. It has because some of my favourite music. She is up there with singers like Abida Parveen, mariza, Oumou snagare and Sainkho Namtchylak.
make a point of listen to her and discover what wonderful music come out of Uzbekistan and central asia!
Tue Jul 5 01:00:53 2005
I am in fact from Munojat's country...i am uzbek. I am really really proud to live in the same country with such a wonderful angel lady, who has extremelly exceptional voice...and to tell the truth i realized it more, when i came to India to study and heard from other people about her performance....her voice is like a hymn, which i play almost every morning ( i am happy to bring the cd with her songs with me). Bravo, Munojat!!!!! We, uzbek people are proud of you. :))))
Fri Mar 18 09:29:08 2005
yulchieva is a Diva a devine spirit a reason to live. Allah u aqbar .
Sun Nov 21 12:12:11 2004
I think one of the most enchanting voices I have ever heard.
Sun Jul 18 11:30:06 2004
I find her music soulful and energetic. It does take your heart to the world she is singing about even though you don't understand the real meaning of words. This is what can be called a "skill" or geniune talent to be able to realize magnificent power of music. I would rather give award to her, though Ms Sevara Nazarkhan is also very original.
Sun Jun 20 21:55:33 2004
i think too many americans believe our music and country to be the center of the universe, and thereby miss out on such wonderful sounds as this. it's my first time hearing her and i'm hooked!
Thu Feb 12 19:22:15 2004
Her voice comes from her heart. She is a wonderful person too. We really love her.
Mon Feb 9 13:10:47 2004
Perfect! Me and my family constantly listen to songs
by Munojat Yulchieva.She is the best singer all over the
Wed Feb 4 06:10:54 2004
why classical music never dies? listen to M.Yulchieva if you want to know the answer.
Thu Jan 29 12:33:11 2004
She has an incredible voice. Her conservative and serious eminence makes her voice exceptional.
Wed Jan 28 20:47:22 2004
I know this singer and she is also from my country.What i can say about Munojat, she is the best classic singer in world!
Sat Jan 24 03:19:30 2004
Fantastic, Super and the Best of course
Fri Jan 23 15:48:59 2004
The best voice I have ever ever heard.What a classic!!!
Fri Jan 23 14:41:27 2004
Muhajat Yolchieva is probably one of the very few musicians in Uzbekistan who is faithfully keeping classical Maqam music on its best! Her commitment and love to Maqam Music is astonishing. She has fabulous and very melodic voice. Therefore, no wonder her Maqam performances are so superior.
Thu Jan 22 17:37:55 2004
Wed Jan 21 18:19:22 2004
I just want to vanish... this must surely be the most incredible voice and performance I have ever heard.
Wed Jan 14 20:52:27 2004
I heard Munadjat Yulchieva singing in a folk festival in Norway and fell in love with the intensity and truthfulness of her performance. Her voice is bewitching whilst the lyrical power she puts into her performance helps you to feel that you do really understand the words she is singing. She is a serious and great singer who is working within a tradition little known in the West. Her dedication to the purest form of her art must be helping to keep that tradition alive.
Thu Jan 1 17:32:47 2004