Song on the Times

February 2, 2014

Salam Kyrgyzstan!

So this was the view down the street in Bishkek on the first day we got there. Then the clouds rolled in and it started snowing, so it feels like home, but we can’t see the mountains anymore.

I had my birthday in Bishkek and I went out to a Georgian restaurant and had lots of wonderful food and Georgian wine.

We’ve been collaborating with an awesome Kyrgyz folk group called Ustatshakirt. We corresponded a little bit before we left for this trip, and so when we got into the rehearsal room, they started playing Going Across the Sea on flutes and Komuz. We have been making mashups of American and Kyrgyz songs and making up harmonies.

Ustatshakirt are incredibly talented musicians. They have all been playing traditional instruments since they were three years old and they all figured out how to play the banjo in about ten minutes. Aizada, the oldest is my age, Sherkul and Askhat (the boys) are around 21, but Aisaana is 16! They all play every instrument in their ensemble including an incredible jaw-harp quartet.

Before the concert tonight, they burst into our dressing room and said “We have a surprise for you.” What followed was a very vigorous hatting. Jeremy and I received excellent tall felt hats, and Lynn was given a nice round embroidered hat.

Lauren wasn’t in the room at the time, and when she came back, Askhat stopped her in the hallway and made her close her eyes before bringing her in and ceremonially hatting her.

The show in Osh went amazingly. We introduced ourselves in Kyrgyz, and we had everyone clapping and singing along. There was a huge block of Kyrgyz soldiers on the left side who reacted audibly when we introduced Poor Soldier.  Everyone cheered when I started playing the jaw-harp. Ustatshakirt played a set after we finished, but at the third song from the end we came on one by one and joined them wearing our hats to much applause.

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