Prowlin' Around Uzbekistan - Part 1
Welcome to the Henhouse Prowlers /Bluegrass Ambassadors narrative on our incredible trip to the Silk Road!
Most of this missive is going to be about all the mind-blowing things the Prowlers did in Uzbekistan, but the first and last chunk is actually going to be things I (Ben) did when I arrived early and stayed after. I discovered some pretty incredible things about this beautiful country and I hope it gives readers a bunch of reasons to visit!
It turns out that most international flights in and out of the capital Tashkent are at two AM. Not that it mattered to guys that just spent 30 hours in transit. If you’re wondering, we flew from Chicago to Frankurt (Germany) to Istanbul (Turkey) to Tashkent. Pretty nice airport, eh?
Much to my pleasant surprise, AirBnB is a thing in Uzbekistan. I got a really great apartment in this amazing Soviet era complex for $60 a night with there being a ton of cheaper options at around $20.
Plov: The National Dish (YUM!)
This is Plov. The Uzbek people take their Plov seriously. Like, VERY seriously.
Put simply, it’s delicious and hearty. Rice, carrots or parsnips, raisins or dates, lamb or beef, small boiled eggs…and horse sausage. You can see the sausage on the back of the plate in this picture. I obligatorily took a bite of it but my western notions of horse meat didn’t really allow me to enjoy it. So be it. This was an incredible feast and the video below just added to the experience.
Two Schools - One Bluegrass Band
After the rest of the band arrived and rested (only about 12 hours!) we headed off to our first stop of the tour. Tashkent has several schools for disabled students and we visited two of them, starting off with a school for the blind. One of the best things about these trips is getting exposure to music we’ve never heard and we got a huge earful on both these days. Check out the performance below of two talented musicians playing on traditional Uzbek instruments, the Bukhara (Uzbek violin) and Doyra (drum).
The second school we visited was for young people with a lot of different disabilities. We had a really wonderful time getting to know the students and talking with the staff at this really well run well organized school.
Kyle jumped at the opportunity to try out the Bukhara!
A Brave Woman and Her Legacy
We were taken on our second full day to a museum (and former home) of a woman named Tamarah Khanum who was a dancer in the 1930’s. She was the first woman to perform without a veil (and not be punished for it). Tamara travelled to more than 80 countries and learned to sing songs in all of their languages and do their traditional dances. It was inspiring, to say the least. The video below is a small portion of the tour. Definitely read more about here if you find it even remotely interesting.
Also, Props to Muhlisa for being such a great translator!
Two Bands, Two Traditions…and The Beatles?
After the museum tour we sat down with a local Uzbek band and had a meal where we were able to ask questions about what their lives were like as professional musicians. It turns out they play a lot of weddings and “Plov Ceremonies” (as we said, they take Plov very seriously). Most of them went to a conservatory to learn to play music, but they did mention that there are a handful of professional musicians that are self-taught. These moments where we’re able to nerd out with our international counterparts are so fascinating and rewarding.
If you have a moment, check out the video below of a true professional Dutar player and his performance just for us. It was clear he was the boss in this group, and how.
…and here I was able to try it out for myself.
There was a bunch of instrument swapping going on here. This guy took to the banjo quickly.
And in the end…we all found common ground in The Beatles!
Stay tuned for more…much more from this incredible adventure. We’ll leave you with this photo of Sarbast, a very delicious beer from the Silk Road!