Grassroots Projects as a model for the globalization of Central Asian traditional music and as a subject of research

The article is devoted to the substantiation of a new subject of modern culture study. In the article the concept of Grassroots Projects as a cultural phenomenon is discussed that is widespread in America and involves projects initiated by musicians without the support of the state or large institutions. Such projects are now becoming one of the most effective and high-quality examples of the globalization of Central Asian traditional music. The obvious novelty and relevance of the article is connected with the emerging new perspectives for musicians and researchers of Kazakhstan. The possibility of the existence of certain and new musical groups on their own terms, without government funding, allows to implement of independent projects at the expense of the community of professionals and music lovers. It is important that such Grassroots Projects should have value for the community, which can unite representatives of different countries and social strata. Globalization processes are an objective and unavoidable reality, they can contribute to the development and prosperity of national cultures. The interchange of cultural and scientific values is a part of natural evolution. The difference between American and Kazakhstani musicology is indicated which is manifested both in research methodology and in the direct connection between science and practice. In conclusion, the existence of all the conditions for the initiation and development of Grassroots Projects in Kazakhstan is indicated. It is also proposed to develop Grassroots Projects within the framework concert and performing practice of Kazakhstan, initiating joint concert programs. The importance of studying the phenomenon of Grassroots Projects and introduction of the experience of such projects into modern practice is emphasized.


Current musical culture demonstrates a huge variety of the types and styles of music, of the ways of the existence of musical art as well. The development of modern technology allows for the existence of even virtual (online) orchestras. In this regard, the international experience of the development of musical culture and the characteristics of the cultural landscape as a whole are a kind of principle interest for our national musicology, creative industry and education.

The focus of this article is on Grassroots Projects, traditional music of Central Asia, and globalization of culture. The concepts of «globalization» and «globalization processes» have undergone a certain evolution. In the twentieth century, art historians and cultural scientists carried out direct analogies between globalization and the westernization of culture, emphasizing American economic expansion. Moreover, globalization and cultural diversity were considered irreconcilable concepts. In Russian-speaking sources, «globalization» was interpreted as a one-sided process of cultural influence, the source of which was considered the «American cultural empire».

However, our reality shows almost polar opposite results, globalization now has equal significance for all cultures, including non-European ones [1]. A.Kh. Arystanbekova notes: «Globalization is an objective historical process that contributes to the strengthening of interconnections and interdependence between people, societies and states in all spheres of activity at the global level. This is a relatively new phenomenon, and it requires fundamental changes in the understanding of world political and economic processes» [2]. Fears of crowding out the national principle of non-national, unification of cultural diversity have proven to be unconfirmed. In our opinion, globalization is an inevitable and progressive element of civilizational development. The cultural programs designated by the government of Kazakhstan also imply the globalization of traditional samples of music, literature, cinema and other types of art. The interaction of national cultures can contribute to the mutual enrichment and prosperity, the creation of a new musical language and new works of art [3, 4].

Studying processes of globalizing different types of world music, especially in contemporary and traditional genres, is one of the actual scientific and social problems that have been closely connected with solving various educational tasks. More effective and most efficient methods for studying these processesand influencing the environment, society and the development of culture, are the use of tools and capabilities from Grassroots Projects.

First of all, we should clarify the main concept. So what is the essence of Grassroots Projects? What is this? This is certainly a polysemous concept that may be related to social movements and communities. In this point we mean by this term a more specific phenomenon, namely, projects that were initiated and implemented by musicians and music communities without financial and organizational support from the state or large institutions. The idea of studying such projects was born in a dialogue with the American ethno-musicologist Tanya Merchant, the author of the book «Women Musicians of Uzbekistan. From Courtyard to Conservatory» [5]. Such projects in their pure form can be observed in the cultural landscape of America. Each Grassroot Project has its own goals, rules and opportunities that equally provide the cultural diversity of our world.

On the base of the example of Grassroots Projects, we can consider the specific conditions and peculiarities of the existence of non-European music in its traditional genres in the modern globalizing world. These problems and questions currently have a fundamental sound for both the scientific community and performing groups in many non-European cultures [6]. These questions are raised by many researchers, including undergraduates and doctoral students [7, 8]. In practice, the author is faced with the relevance of designated issues as the head of doctoral and master's theses, producer of radio CLASSIC, a cultural and public figure.

Thus, the main purpose of the article is to articulate the relevance and perspective of studying the phenomenon of Grassroots Projects for the dissemination and scaling of this experience as a tool for the globalization of Central Asian music. This may be surprising, but it is USA where there is a sufficient number of grassroots project examples that are efficient in the development of the Central Asian music in the contemporary world. Today's culture of the USA demonstrates a unique experience of existing of the utmost diversity of musical communities that develop various national musical schools and genres. Such «cultural tolerance», efficiency and impact of the American musicology onto real cultural processes causes the desire to research this experience and extrapolate it to different countries, including Kazakhstan.

The main part

Literally, the Grassroots Projects phenomenon is considered for the first time in connection with the globalization of Central Asian traditional music. At the same time, modern scientific knowledge has accumulated a sufficient amount of work, in which the problems of the traditional Central Asian culture are raised in the designated perspective. The researches that are significant in their methodology can be put into the following categories: musical and historical works on USA music history, works on history and theory of music of Central Asia; theory of globalization, works on art projects and creative industries; theories of inter- cultural interaction.

The Post-soviet and American musicology are different in principle, based on a variety of parameters: the methodology of research, prioritized themes, efficiency and validity of the results, application of modern technologies, the interaction of research and practice [9]. It should be noted that such comparison often favors the American science.

The present theme acquires different presentation in the research by Cultural Variation, it contributes to preservation of the cultural identity in the meantime. Among the most significant research works of the nonEuropean cultures there are works by Yunusova (2007, 2009, 2014, 2015), and works by Mikhailov, who has founded a unique methodological system of research of World's musical cultures and he has founded Scientific and Art Center «World Music Cultures» at the Moscow Conservatory (1981, 1986). The newest methodological approaches to inter-cultural interaction are rooted in semiotic concepts by Bakhtin, 1994, Lotman, 1992, Kristeva, 1993. The actual implementation of the cultural dialogue in music is studied together with the idea of musical semiotics by Tarasti, 2002, and others.

Similar issues are referred to English musical literature in works of art historians and ethnomusicologists. Of particular interest are studies of Uzbek music by T. Merchant-Henson (2006), as well as works by Bates (2012), Megan Rancier (2014) [10, 11]. Among the few available literatures on this and a related topic, mention should be made of prospective studies of Rogers Brubaker (1996), Lawrence Sidra (2017) and others. A lot of research works dedicated to the issues of globalization of the central Asian music is carried out by the musicologists in my country, including myself. The most significant works were done by Kunanbayeva, Kuzembay, Mukhambetova, Shegebayev, Utegaliyeva, Kaliev and others [12].

Summing the above, today the scientific thought demonstrates a significant amount of works that can successfully support the new research direction.

Grassroots Projects. So, at present, the impact of grassroots projects on the daily change of the cultural landscape of the world is seriously underestimated. The processes occurring in the culture and in the musical world in particular, often anticipate serious scientific discoveries in various spheres of human activity. The music of Central Asia contains microintonation, specific timbres, free improvisational forms [13] — those elements of the musical language that are the most actual for present day and that are investigated by leading composers and musicologists, and even by such respectable organizations as IRCAM (Paris), CIRMMT (Montreal), etc. In our opinion, it was the richest and most relevant basic characteristics of traditional music of Central Asia that caused Grassroots Projects specializing in this content to spread.

In America, interest in Asian music can be seen in the example of such professional communities that emerged in the 20th century, as the Society for Asian Music, Silk Road House, Society for Ethnomusicology, some ensembles.

Society for Asian Music is an academic community founded in 1959. Ten years later, in 1969, the Asian Music magazine of the same name appeared, which was devoted to questions of ethno music and was supervised in different years by such authoritative scientists as Mark Slobin, Martin Hatch, Sean Williams, Ricardo Trimillos. As an important goal, this message formulated «the cultivation of gratitude and love for the music and art of Asia». Society for Asian Music has become a very influential and efficient community that has been organizing concerts, seminars, publishing books and magazines for almost 60 years.

Another unique organization is Silk Road House. This is a cultural and educational center dedicated to the culture and art of Central Asia. Here creative meetings with musicians, artists, scientists of Central Asia are held. Alma Kunanbayeva, a well-known Kazakh musicologist, who moved to America more than 20 years ago, directs Silk Road House activities [14].

Society for Ethnomusicology is an international community founded in America in 1955. The community currently has about 1800 members, bringing together academics, teachers, students, musicians, activists, curators, and other professionals. American colleagues managed to create a kind of comprehensive forum for sharing knowledge about non-European traditional music. Moreover, the community declares the protection of the interests of non-European music as an important task. The Society for Ethnomusicology organizes annual meetings, regularly publishes the journal Ethnomusicology, and even instituted its own prizes for outstanding research in the field of ethno-musicology.

Of particular interest are musical groups and ensembles that promote traditional music. One such amazing example is Eurasian Ensemble. This group brings together enthusiasts who have devoted their time to studying and performing a repertoire based on the music of the Eurasian continent. The focus is on the vocal and instrumental traditions of the people of Central Asia. Ethnomusicologist Tanya Merchant leads the team.

All designated projects were born as initiatives of interested musicians, have neither government funding, nor grants, these projects are not works paid for by a separate structure. In fact, all of them belong to the category of Grassroots Projects, demonstrating rare effectiveness, regularity and quality, popularizing traditional music of Central Asia, contributing to its development, study, and distribution.

It should be noted that in Kazakhstan, traditional Kazakh music has become a field for speculation and ideological experiments in recent decades. Such attention to traditional music from the side of state organs and organizations brings both advantages and problems for this sphere [15]. The advantage is support in the form of financing, the main disadvantage is the dependency position and minimization of free creativity. Nevertheless, a vivid example of ideological support was the declared state program «Ruhani Zhangyru», within which a significant number of music projects are being implemented [16].

It can be stated that at the present time traditional music is interpreted on the one hand as a strategic ideology of the state, on the other hand as an equal product of the modern art market [17]. This status causes contradictions both from the point of view of designation of the prospects for the development of this direction, and from the standpoint of today's urgent management decisions [18].

Perhaps the emergence and wide distribution of traditional music in the format of Grassroots Projects will become an important component of the culture of modern Kazakhstan, ensuring its stability and natural environment.


Initiate a new direction. In fact, existing examples of Grassroots Projects all over the world require special study, as promising and important tool for the development of traditional non-European music. Such research can and should have specific goals, among which would be indicated:

  • – Study theoretical works and practical experience of the globalization of Central Asian traditional and contemporary music based on the American musical life and culture;
  • – Put together a database for Grassroots Projects related to the Central Asian traditional and contemporary music in USA;
  • – Develop and implement new concert programs in traditional and contemporary music in Central Asia on the Eurasian Ensemble basis (California). Include the latest works of composers from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan into the concert programs.

The research of the development of Central Asian music in America via grassroots projects implies the use of the methods of musicology, art management and, in part, sociology [19, 20]. Besides that, the study requires a series of interviews with musicians, leaders of Grassroots Projects, the working with audio and video archives of universities in America, a particular investigation of the databases of university radio stations.

The initial data, including the name, general description of the projects, photos and, if possible, audio and video recordings, should be fixed by standard software tools (Microsoft Word, Excel, Windows Media Player). Afterwards it can be based either on Microsoft Access or on My SQL for creating the grassroots projects database.

Terms and conditions of separation and intellectual property rights for the results of the research should be governed by copyright laws and agreements, with articles of publications in scientific journals.

Realization of the proposed new research direction will allow the preservation and development of the traditional and contemporary music in Central Asia, integration of the most interesting examples of this music into the global cultural context. The cultural diversity is, in its part, the foundation for mutual understanding and collaboration of every country in the world.

Today there is a vague understanding of terminology related to the Central Asian music. It is really important to examine how Central Asian music has globalized and that some of that has happened under the auspices of what is called «world music», but other dissemination has occurred outside of large institutional projects (i.e. the grassroots) (from dialogues with Tanya Merchant).

The structure and contents of the musical market has become a problem in Kazakhstan and other countries of the Central Asian region: the main stream consists either of pop music or classical music of the 18th — 20th centuries. Traditional and contemporary music, something that has been created by nations from within, not something brought from outside is pushed to the periphery. The important thing is that it is the content of those genres that can be considered as a contribution to the global musical treasury.

We guess that the above questions open up new perspectives for the further existence and development of traditional music in the global world. The results of the proposed research direction would aim to cardinal change of the current situation via implementing the new and progressive American experience into concert practice, musical research, and education. I assume that new professional contacts will allow the attraction of America's best specialist to the future shared conferences, research and art projects.



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Year: 2019
City: Karaganda
Category: Pedagogy