EastWest

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The Music

EastWest (ÇıqışBatış) is a musical genre originating from Turkestan and popular in its various forms in much of Central Asia. In essence, it is a fusion of traditional Central Asian music with (usually Western) classical and global guitar-led popular rock music. It parallels much of the Balkan phenomenon of Turbofolk, including the diversity of expressions within the single genre.

The typical EastWest band has a fairly large band roster including the popular trio of guitar/drums/bass, melding that with at least one classical instrument (often a violin or concert flute) and several local instruments, eg the Qazaq dombra, the Kırğız komuz, the Uzbek rubab or the Türkümän dutar.

This blending of influences has become very popular in cosmopolitan Turkestan since the fall of the snorist EBÜK regime, and has become widely known in the region, though often less popular in more rural and traditional settings, where people tend to prefer their own unblended traditional folk music.

The style is named after the first band to popularise this kind of music, the Turkestani ensemble EastWest. The band never called its music after itself, except for once in an early interview for the magazine "Yaşlıq". When asked about their musical style, one of the band members told the interviewer: "It's our music – EastWest music!"

This quote became the rallying-call of the first post-EBÜK generation, printed on shirts, posters, bags and anything else that was marketable to young people.

The Band

The band was born out of the musician/songwriter Kärim Tumutoı-ulı's musical college days. Kärim was a talented folk musician, playing both the rubab and the saz, and because of his talent he was sent to study at the prestigious Samarqand Musical Institute between the years 1984 and 1988.

It was at the Institute that EastWest music, and EastWest the band, would both be born. Kärim Tumutoı-ulı and his friend Farhad Sulemeyni arranged an after-hours gathering of the student musicians to jam together, on a "whoever can come, regardless of genre or instrument" basis.

Initially, it tended to be just Uzbek and Tajik folk musicians, and there is enough similarity in those styles that no-one remarked. Then one day, Farhad set up his Western-style drumkit, just to experiment with the combination of sound, and by some stroke of fate, this was the day that Russian exchange student and guitarist Vadim Korşakov would choose to walk in, and the new combination of sounds was born.

Many of the traditional folk musicians disliked the introduction of foreign Western instruments and stopped coming to Kärim and Farhad's gatherings, but a core group was formed who enjoyed the new combination.

At the centre of the core group were Kärim Tumutoı-ulı, Farhad Sulemeyni and Vadim Korşakov; later Farhad's sister Zulfiya would join them. Other members of that original core group included the Qazaq asatayaq (zob stick) and doyra player Jomart Nurlan-ulı (who would go on to found another band playing similar EastWest-type music, the mostly Qazaq "Dala Dausı") and the Tocharian bassist Gılım Çoqan-ulı (of Russo-Central Asian band "Riybok" fame).

Concert violinist Şırzad Qamran-qızı

At this initial stage the band played what was essentially Tajik-Uzbek Turbofolk, but that would change when Kärim entered into a romantic relationship with the beautiful concert violinist Şırzad Qamran-qızı. Şırzad began attending the core group's gatherings in 1985, since the band needed a violinist/fiddler anyway, and with her presence, the EastWest band and its signature sound was born. EastWest gave their first large-scale performance in the Samarqand Musical Institute's New Music Festival in 1987, and suddenly found themselves a hit. The synthesis of styles and instruments seemed to fit the experience of being Turkestani in that generation – many cultures, many styles, all fused into one greater whole.

In the EBÜK period, even at its end phase when EastWest were first forming, political considerations coloured everything. The initial read of the Department of Homeland Security's propaganda and censorship subdirectorate was positive – to all intents and purposes, EastWest's music and "message" dovetailed very well with the Turkestani government's official position. Records seem to indicate that some kind of offer of State sponsorship was made by the Government of National Unity, and also that EastWest turned them down.

On the face of it, it seems improbable that a sponsorship offer would be made at all, let alone that the band should get away with rejecting it, but at that stage the Turkestani government was failing on almost every level and badly needed some kind of PR coup among its own people. However, the band seem to have read the political climate almost better than the State, and whether through the sheer self-belief of the young or through some uncanny knowledge of the internal problems of the EBÜK regime, they not only got away with it, but increased in popularity. It appears that the government's internal machinery was at that point so chaotic that there was nothing they could do.

EastWest continued to insist on the apolitical nature of their music. Kärim Tumutoı-ulı is reported to have said in a 1991 interview that "...music is supposed to be about having a good time, not upholding the state. We're artists, not Homeland Security police!"

With the collapse of the EBÜK regime along with the other snorist governments in 1990, the band's non-association with the failed National Unity government served to cast them, willingly or no, into a symbolic role as harbingers of a new age in Central Asia, and their music became widely known in the region.

Their philosophy was almost diametrically opposed to that of the EBÜK government. Politics, rather than being everything as it was in the snorist era, became nothing. The up-coming generation wanted nothing to do with a system that saw everything in political terms, and became widely regarded as the "party generation", an epithet used disparagingly by the older generation that had been raised in the early days of the regime, but adopted with gusto by the generation themselves.

The band split up in 2002 after the death of Farhad Sulemeyni in a drug overdose, but the style of music named after them has continued, with other bands filling the gap. Today, EastWest music is a kind of Central Asian rock-'n'-roll, associated with just having fun without politics hanging around your neck.

Band Roster

Kärim Tumutoi-ulı - Rubab, Saz, Vocals
Şırzad Qamran-qızı - Concert Violin
Vadim Korşakov - Guitar, Vocals
Farhad Sulemeyni - Drums
Zulfıya Sulemeyni - Ney, Concert Flute
Enver Timür-ulı - Bass
Gülnara Rustam-qızı - Rubab, Sato, Vocals

Discography

EastWest 1988
Future Memory 1989
Under No Obligation 1991
The Red Maqam 1993
Party Generation 1994 (compilation)
Immerse 1995
Evropa 1998
Opium 1999
End of the World 2000
"The Last Album" 2002 (produced after Farhad Sulemeyni's death from extra recorded pieces & partly complete studio album)
The Unending Maqam 2005 (retrospective compilation)
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