The chromatic silk road


From the Anatolian plateau to the arid deserts of Central Asia, passing by the snow-covered mountains of Caucasia, the regions crossed over by the Silk Road are as much marked by their geographical diversity as their cultural and musical diversity. The commercial exchanges on the Silk Road have not only decorated the rich Roman matrons of Chinese silk, who were coveted since the 1st century BC, but also has brought about a mixture of musical genres, developing relationships between popular Steppes music, originating from Turkey or Mongolia, and the skilful urban music of China, India or Persia.The Silk Road therefore reveals a rich variety of musical styles, mixed up and influenced one from another, forming a true musical continuum.

With barely anymore understanding than that contained in this small introductory paragraph, I am setting off to discover this musical chromaticism. The Silk Road being in fact only a term to show the network of tracks followed by merchant caravans, a real bundle consisting of several distinct itineraries, I am allowing myself a certain freedom as for those I myself will follow.

My trek will thus start with Turkey, discovering Sufi music and its dervish as well as Kurdish culture and its spoken art, Dengbej. I will continue on to Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, where the polyphonies of Caucasia and the art of the Duduk mixes with Islamic and Soviet musical influences – the Garmon, a rather kitsch Russian accordion, appears for example in popular Azerbaijani music. I will then follow my path to Iran, in search of Persian music, unfortunately nowadays mistreated and watched with suspicion by the islamic government. Finally this joyful vagrancy will involve losing myself in the lands of Central Asia, to the sounds of Maqâm in Uzbekistan, Persian music in Tajikistan and the vocal art of the Turkic nomad bards of Kazakhstan and Kirghizstan. A finale in China will depend unfortunately on my budget!

Like Marco Polo in search of the most beautiful cloth, I am evidently a taker of all types of musical plans on my trip. If, therefore, it is a cause close to your heart that I go to meet your dear lute-playing grand-aunt in Kirghizstan, send me the details and I will take pleasure in going to record some songs!

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