Day 4: Yulduz Usmanova

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My last day in Bishkek was a whirlwind of activity, culminating in the concert of Yulduz Usmanova, the biggest pop star in Central Asia. Our local partners managed not only to get us into what was a VIP concert, but also got us the best table in the house.

Yulduz Usmanova is no lightweight pop star. She’s an opposition member of parliament in Uzbekistan. Her music – like that of Natacha Atlas or the late Ofra Haza – fuses traditional music with modern equipment (samplers, synthesizers). She’s considered a role model for young women because of her progressive stand but is loved by older generations for making traditional music popular. She’s deeply cool.

What was also great was that after the concert, we got to go backstage to meet her, thanks to some serendipitous connections. Osmanova greeted us in perfect English, and talked about her frequent tours, which take her to Western Europe.

Considering that our plane would leave in an hour and a half, it didn’t make much sense to sleep, and then on the plane back there wasn’t much room for sleep. But one thing to keep in mind about British Airways – they do have Gilles Peterson on their inflight radio.

I landed in London, weary but looking forward to my next round of meetings. But that’s for the next post.

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