Thursday, April 3, 2008

Time flies....

Wow, two weeks flies by fast when you're trying to get your fieldwork done in record time...!

A lot has been going on, so I'll try to just sum up a few of them here:

1. I went with a friend to the State Republican Uyghur Theater of Musical Comedy (love the names of these places, don't you?) to see a show in celebration of Nauryz. The show started with a song by a Kazakh folk singer, which I thought could be interpreted either as a sign of "international friendship" or as symbolic of Kazakh cultural predominance ("okay, do your show, but only after we do our song."). The show was great - I love Uyghur music - although it was tough to take photos in the dark theater (sorry if this one's blurry). There was a man sitting right behind us who was really excited that a couple of non-Uyghurs (and foreigners, no less!) were attending the show - he provided a running commentary and pointed out the director of the Theater to me. He also recruited us to give a sound-bite for several local Uyghur community news programs and newspapers! So after the show, my friend and I basically got passed around to all these journalists who asked us to "say something." What do you say??? I just made some blithe statement about how it's important for Uyghur traditions to continue and how important the theater was in this regard, blah blah blah....I never saw myself on the news, but when I went back to talk to the theater director the next week, he definitely remembered me. Score!

2. I've started giving English lessons to a very prominent figure in the music industry here - the owner of one of Kazakhstan's biggest music labels and distributors. Another score! Well, maybe not yet, but I'm hoping that it will yield some good contacts further down the road. For now, I'm learning a lot about business and anti-piracy efforts in Kazakhstan (and getting paid for it!).

3. I've been doing an average of two interviews per week for the past three weeks -- so far I've spoken to three kobyz players, one pop star, one musicologist, and one student ensemble that's doing some really interesting new music. I should be happy with this, but the pressure is seriously on at this point to talk to ask many people as possible in a fairly short amount of time!
Another musicologist that I spoke to asked me to translate a couple of articles for her, and I'm still struggling over whether or not I should do this - on one hand, it's good to give back and I would like to establish a good rapport with her; but on the other hand, it's A LOT of work that I really don't have time for (plus, she should really find a PAID professional to do this kind of thing).

4. The Olympic torch came through town on April 2 - Almaty was the first stop on the torch tour after being lit in Athens, Greece. The city officials basically went apeshit in trying to spruce things up for the arrival of the torch -- and the throngs of Chinese journalists. A lot of things suddenly appeared, like lane and crosswalk lines on the main roads (but only those roads that were part of the torch route!), country and city flags on the lamp posts, old bus stops mysteriously being dismantled and replaced with snazzy new ones... I couldn't resist checking it out, so I hung out at a main intersection where lots of other people were waiting, and got to see the torch passed from one runner (actually walker) to another. It was so fun that I walked to another point on the torch route and got to see it passed again. :) People got really excited when the torch passed by - even though a large portion of the crowd were students at the state universities who were REQUIRED to be there! Anyway, there was a nice ceremony and concert in the Old Square where the "ethno-pop" band Ulytau performed (they're one of the groups I'd really like to talk to for my research).

5. Lots of concerts this week, mainly due to the 3rd annual "Nauryz 21" festival of new music at the Conservatory. Last night a chamber orchestra from Uzbekistan performed the original soundtrack to Charlie Chaplin's film "City Lights." The film was shown on a big screen behind the orchestra - it was great! Everyone, not only the foreigners, really enjoyed it. (Chaplin's pretty well-known here because many of the older generation watched his films during Soviet times.)

6. One small last thing: My refrigerator's been breaking down about three times per day/night for the past week, and I finally asked my landlady to replace it - they're supposed to be delivering the new one today, hurray!

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