When the government of Uzbekistan began to explicitly discourage university professors from conducting academic work on Russian culture and language and “alien” European-style art forms, this internationally acclaimed composer and professor of music composition became the subject of intimidation and censorship.
With nearly two decades of teaching experience at the Tashkent State Conservatoire in Uzbekistan, this scholar has produced musical scores for 52 films and over 20 theatre performances. In 1996, with the support of the Open Society Institute, he founded one of the most important venues for internationalizing and promoting Central Asian culture, the Tashkent Contemporary Music Festival formally known as The Ilkhom-XX International Festival of Contemporary Music. Ilkhom is the Uzbek word for “inspiration”. Numerous acclaimed young composers have studied under the scholar and have followed his lead, enriching the culture of Uzbekistan while concurrently contributing to the international music arena.
A renowned musician, he has won numerous awards for his musical compositions, including a prize at the International Competition of Sacred Music in Fribourg, Switzerland; an ALEA III International Prize in Boston, USA; and an award at the International Film Festival in France for his musical score in a nominated film. His orchestral and chamber pieces have been performed by acclaimed musicians, including the New Julliard Ensemble and The Silk Road Ensemble, and at music festivals and concerts in Asia, Australia, Europe, Mexico and the U.S.
In 2006, the music festival he founded ten years earlier in Tashkent was forced to close due to opposition from the government and their suspicions about foreign funding provided to the festival. According to a Harvard University colleague, the scholar had become one of the most prominent and vulnerable cultural figures still working in Uzbekistan under President Islam Karimov’s authoritarian rule. Because his work was viewed as “Western,” authorities regarded him as a threat to nationalist identity and Uzbek autonomy.
During his first year as a SRF grantee, he served as a visiting professor with Dartmouth College’s Music Department. He also completed five music compositions, including a full-length cello concerto for Yo-Yo Ma and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Ma has previously complimented the scholar’s works saying that they “combine the tradition of Uzbekistan with a fabulously well-crafted modern contemporary idiom; they are sophisticated, deep and accessible”. He described the full-length concerto as “one of the finest concertos to be written for the cello in the last thirty years.” In his second year as a SRF grantee, the scholar is teaching at North Central College in Illinois while composing commissioned pieces.