Pop songs as a formidable ideological weapon
Photo: Yulduz Usmanova
Uzbekistan will be celebrating another anniversary of its sovereignty on September 1. Ideological preparations for the celebration are getting into high gear. National TV network run special caption reminders on the hourly basis. Patriotic songs, an element of the repertoire of every more or less prominent pop singer in Uzbekistan, are a central and inevitable feature.
Ideology promoted by Uzbek pop stars on behalf of the state comes down to the following theses: Uzbekistan is the best country in the world, its leader Islam Karimov being the wisest contemporary politician blessed with long-term vision. All news related to everything from culture to literature to athletics and even to political events abroad are presented from one inevitable angle: thank all gods that are for the happiness of having been born in this beautiful country - and be happy in such a manner that all enemies of Uzbekistan will feel envy.
List of the said enemies is regularly revised - depending on the political situation and the mood of the national leader. Russia and "the past as a down-trodden Soviet colony" associated with it were enemies once. They were replaced with the US and international non-governmental organizations when their time came, but nothing can beat the so called "religious extremists". As things stand, practically every faithful in Uzbekistan runs the risk of being branded one every day.
Let us, however, get back to Uzbek entertainment ruled as it is by ideological considerations and the brainwashing machinery of the state. "There is a unwritten law here that is rigorously forced on absolutely everybody," a Tashkent pop singer said. "At least 30% of the repertoire must be patriotic." Failure to abide by this law will cost one his career - with luck.
Uzbek pop singers in the meantime meet the quota with gusto, and even come up hits that earn their performers both substantial financial benefits and respect. Ideological departments must be happy with this state of affairs: numbers like that revive patriotism and help people forget all about their everyday problems. In other words, they are like an ideological drug.
Hundreds of patriotic numbers are performed in Uzbekistan. Dozens become hits, owing it to successful adaptation, promotion, and clips. Practically all of the country is humming them under the breath. Even Karimov himself is not immune to their charm. All of Uzbekistan remembers the episode that occurred during one of the Navruz celebrations where the performers list included Yulduz Usmanova. When she finished one of her hits extolling Uzbekistan and its wise leader, Karimov stunned everybody (and particularly his bodyguards) by stepping over and giving the singer a hug accompanied with a kiss.
Authors of these patriotic songs know what they are doing. They always produce their latest "masterpiece" exactly when it will produce the best desired effect. When, after explosions in Tashkent the president said "Save your house and your mahallja!", they came up with a hit whose lyrics included these words exactly. (The phrase became a national slogan, by the way.) Usmanova's number "We Will Never Give You Up, Uzbekistan!" was recorded soon after one of Karimov's statements where he urged the people to combat "enviers from foreign countries wishing to disrupt our life of peace and impede our prosperity."
These days, Uzbek TV networks run "Uzbekistan", a hit by a starlet named Gulsanam Mamazoitova. The lyrics come down to "Do not teach us or tell us what to do" which is a gist of Karimov's message to the Western community and first and foremost to the US Administration nowadays because they "force their ugly democratic principles on our fair Uzbekistan."