Over the past two decades, the AKMP has supported two long-term music education projects in Tajikistan, one of which is ongoing, as well as a number of music performance, preservation and documentation initiatives.
Khunar (“Talent”) Centre, based in Khujand, operates ustod-shogird (master-apprentice) programmes whose target beneficiaries are secondary school students in seven districts of northern Tajikistan (Khujand, Pendjikent, Istarafshan, Buston, Isfara, Kanibadam and Mastchoh) as well as in several other locales: Ghissar, Darvoz, Kulyab and Dushanbe. In 2021, Khunar’s 33 master teachers worked with 192 students. Many of Khunar Centre’s teachers are pensioners with limited income who find the opportunity to teach young people to be an economically and socially beneficial endeavour.
Khunar sponsors frequent concerts, prepares television shows for regional channels, publishes books and music manuals, and releases video and audio materials for its students, all with the aim of strengthening the role of musical heritage in contemporary life. Music groups from Dushanbe and Khujand under the aegis of Khunar Centre have performed at the Dushanbe Ethno-Jazz Festival and Roof of the World Festival in Khorog. In partnership with the Khujand City mayor’s office, Khunar Centre also oversees a music laboratory whose 10 participants, all graduates of Khunar’s ustod-shogird programme, perform, arrange, and compose traditional and neotraditional music. Another collaborative project, this one with the Republic of Tajikistan’s Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Education, is designing age-appropriate music curriculum materials that draw on Tajikistan’s musical heritage.
Academy of Maqom
From 2003 to 2015, the AKMP supported the Dushanbe-based Academy of Maqom, founded by celebrated Tajik musician and musicologist Abduvali Abdurashidov. The Academy’s mission was to train an elite group of future musical leaders of Tajikistan based on a deep study of maqom, the traditional classical music that flourished in Bukhara, Samarkand, Khujand and other urban cultural centres with Tajik-speaking populations.
Under the tutelage of Abduvali Abdurashidov, students studied historical, theoretical and practical elements of the maqom tradition, and participated in a performing ensemble whose 2006 recording Invisible Face of the Beloved: Classical Music of the Tajiks and Uzbeks, released by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings as volume 2 of the CD-DVD anthology Music of Central Asia, was nominated for a Grammy Award.
In 2016, to mark the 25th anniversary of Tajikistan’s independence, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Tajikistan published the Academy of Maqom’s six-volume critical edition of Shashmaqom, the canonical repertoire associated with the city of Bukhara. This critical edition represented the culmination of the Academy’s scholarly research and historically informed performance practice over the preceding 13 years.
Graduates of the Academy of Maqom remain professionally involved in performing and teaching Tajik classical music in many state-supported ensembles and higher education institutions and have represented Tajikistan and AKDN at important diplomatic events.
Aga Khan Music Awards
In 2019, Dushanbe’s Gurminj Museum of Musical Instruments became one of the laureates of the inaugural Aga Khan Music Awards, established by His Highness the Aga Khan in 2018 to recognise exceptional creativity, promise and enterprise in music performance, creation, education, preservation and revitalisation in societies across the world in which Muslims have a significant presence. Gurminj Museum was cited for “preserving and revitalising the musical heritage of Central Asian peoples and cultures, and, in particular, the musical culture of Badakhshan”.
In addition to its activities within Tajikistan, the AKMP has presented musicians from Tajikistan in prestigious concert and festival venues worldwide, and included musicians from Tajikistan in university residencies and masterclasses. The Badakhshan Ensemble, featuring members of the “Pomir” state folklore ensemble, which is affiliated with the Bazmoro concert organisation under the Ministry of Culture of Tajikistan, is a longstanding member of the Music Programme’s international touring roster. Sirojiddin Juraev, a graduate of the Academy of Maqom and a virtuosic performer on dutar, tanbur and sato, is a core member of the Aga Khan Master Musicians, the performing ensemble of the Aga Khan Music Programme, which brings together the Music Programme’s leading artists. The Music Programme has also released Juraev’s solo CD, co-produced by Harvard University music professor Richard Wolf, who hosted Juraev’s residence at Harvard as a Fulbright Fellow.
Finally, the AKMP has promoted the research and scholarship of music ethnographers Chorshanbe Ghoibnazarov and Faroghat Azizova, who are amongst the 27 authors from 14 countries represented in The Music of Central Asia, a 700-page textbook published by Indiana University Press (2016) that is widely used in university-level music classes around the world to teach about the music of Central Asia.