Uzbekistan: When in Doubt, Tashkent Blames Rap Music
Fans of the comedy show Saturday Night Live might remember The Church Lady, the Dana Carvey character who routinely blamed “Satan” for society’s woes. Well, it looks like an incarnation of The Church Lady is now coming to you … live from Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
Uzbek state television broadcast a TV documentary called “Melody and Calamity” on February 21 that portrayed Western music, specifically heavy metal and rap, as a pernicious influence on Uzbek young people.
“Evil forces created this satanic music to bring about the total moral degradation of youth in Western countries,” the Uzbek documentary claimed.
It asserted that “rock music originated from African hunting rituals,” adding that "rap was originated by inmates in prisons - that's why rap singers wear wide and long trousers."
The documentary extolled the virtues of classical Uzbek music, claiming that scientific research showed that listening to traditional tunes had health benefits.
President Islam Karimov’s government in Tashkent has long been known for its antipathy toward freedom of religious expression. This latest diatribe against Western cultural influences suggests the government in Tashkent, feeling embattled on the economic front, is in the process of trying to seal the country off from outside influences. Karimov may be trying to emulate former Turkmen despot, Saparmurat Niyazov, by turning his country into a hermit khanate.
Justin Burke is Eurasianet's publisher.