Study of Central Asian Humanities and Cultural Heritage at UCA

Date: 16 January 2013
Other languages: Русский язык |

A dynamic group of Central Asian and international research fellows are engaged in scholarship that reflects the diversity and richness of the cultures of the region at the University of Central Asia (UCA). In partnership with other scholars and custodians of culture in the region, their research is capturing and preserving existing information and cultural collections, while generating new dialogues and narratives on cultural heritage and identity in Central Asia.

This emerging area of research activities at UCA is directly related to its mission to preserve and promote the diverse cultural heritages of the region . Research fellows are engaged in ethnographic studies on unique cultural traditions, many of which are oral traditions in danger of disappearing. Another key focus is musical heritage, building on ten years of seminal work conducted by the Aga Khan Music Initiative (AKMI) (formerly the Aga Khan Music Initiative of Central Asia) to revive traditional music through education, recordings, and support of teachers and composers in the region.

“The custodians of traditional knowledge are aging and faced with diminishing opportunities to transfer knowledge and skills to younger generations. In addition, this knowledge is under threat from several forces including scarce resources, migration and outside influences.  UCA is committed to preserving the unique and diverse cultural heritage through research, documenting, archiving and supporting the work of regional scholars. It is presently supporting a small group of Central Asian and international research fellows that are actively involved in several projects in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan,”
said Dr Nasreen Dhanani, Director of Research.

In 2012, in partnership with AKMI, a pilot edition of the textbook Music of Central Asia: An Introduction was produced. The textbook is being taught in a course offered by UCA in Almaty, Bishkek and Dushanbe, and will be revised and published in 2013. With contributions by 21 specialists from ten countries in Central Asia and an accompanying DVD with performances and a glossary of instruments, the textbook is edited by Ted Levin and Elmira Köchümkulova of AKMI and UCA respectively.

Music in Central Asia: An Introduction.











Trained as a classical pianist and musical ethnographer, Ted is Arthur R. Virgin Professor at Dartmouth College. He was the first executive director of the Silk Road Project, founded by cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and serves as Senior Project Consultant to AKMI and a Senior Research Fellow at UCA. Ted provided critical leadership in the development of the textbook and is currently working on a book entitled Argonauts of Cultural Development: Western NGOs and the Struggle for the Future of the Past in Central Asia.

In addition serving as co-editor, Elmira contributed several chapters on Kyrgyz musical traditions and is teaching the pilot course in Bishkek in 2013. Hailing from a family that holds its Kyrgyz nomadic traditions dear and a self-taught komuz player, Elmira received her PhD from the Interdisciplinary Program in Near and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Washington. Elmira’s current research is on Kyrgyz musical and oral traditions, including funeral lamentations, proverbs and life histories of Kyrgyz herders who lived in Soviet Uzbekistan. She served as scholarly editor of the seminal study of Kyrgyz komuz music, Kyrgyz Küüs: Analysis, Thoughts, and Opinions by Asan Kaybïlda uulu, published by UCA’s Cultural Heritage Book Series in 2011, and is working on a book on Islam, Nomadic Heritage and Kyrgyz Identity.

UCA Fellows Saida Daukeyeva and Will Sumits also contributed to the music textbook and are teaching the course in Almaty and Dushanbe, respectively. Both have PhDs in Ethnomusicology from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London and are involved in conceptualizing the development of a sound archive on traditional music by UCA and AKMI. Saida heads the Folklore Research Laboratory at the Kurmangazy Kazakh National Conservatory in Almaty and is a researcher and performer with expertise in Kazakh traditional and modern music. She is author of the book Philosophy of Music by Abu Nasr Muhammad al-Farabi and is currently studying dombyra performance and rituals for the dead in Kazakhstan and western Mongolia.

A strong focus of UCA's work on cultural heritage is preserving
 the diverse musical traditions of the region.







Will is an ethnomusicologist, musician and producer, with an interest in the history of maqam theory and practice in the Middle East and Central Asia, historical musical treatises, early sound recordings, organology, tradition and music technology and performance.  He is also supporting AKMI music programmes in Tajikistan, and conducting research on the history of maqam and the practice-performance of Central Asian folk repertoires.

UCA is hosting Fulbright Scholar and Professor of Music and South Asian Studies at Harvard University, Richard Wolf. An expert on classical, folk and tribal musical traditions and music in Islamic practices in India and Pakistan, Richard performs on the South Indian vina and recently completed an ethnomusicological monograph in the form of a novel, The Voice in the Drum. Through his research, Richard aims to show how South, West and Central Asian musical traditions interconnect via the practices of particular singers and poets, and to gain insight into the transformations Wakhi and Kyrgyz bardic traditions have undergone as a result of musicians from the Wakhan valley and Murghab drawing on Tajik styles in their musical environments.

UCA Fellow Sunatullo Jonboboev holds a Kandidat Philosophskikh nauk in Philosophy, from the Academic Council of the Institute of Philosophy and Law in Dushanbe. Formerly Senior Programme Manager of the Curriculum Development and Faculty Development Programmes at UCA’s Aga Khan Humanities Project, Sunatullo’s research focuses on the development of the humanities and social sciences in Central Asia and the history of Ismaili philosophy. Sunatullo is helping develop UCA’s Pamir Archive, which will build and preserve written, sound and visual collections on life in the Pamirs. He also facilitates the publication of works by regional scholars by UCA’s Cultural Heritage Book Series. Sunatullo is currently involved in the development of several volumes on the History of Tajik Philosophy with the Academy of Sciences Republic of Tajikistan.

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