The first of a planned mini-doc/diary series about my musical travels.

From All Points: 2012 Asrlar Sadosi Festival, Karakalpakstan from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.

Several years ago I received a call from an old friend who asked me if I wanted to go to a world music festival in Uzbekistan. I accepted and got hooked. Central Asia is a fascinating place, partly because it is terra incognita, partly for its history, and mostly (for me) its culture. Uzbekistan in particular was an important part of the early Silk Trade, and the Timurids developed a court culture there that was highly sophisticated and drew upon both external and local aesthetics. Even through Russian Imperial and Communist domination, enough of this culture has survived, and now the government encourages and rewards its artists and artisans.

What one finds is a combination of classical and folk forms living side by side; the formality of shashmaqam is appreciated along with the epic passions of the bakhshi’s repertoire. And in contemporary music, the same can be said, with pop music that combines a distinctively eastern feeling with western sounds.

The Asrlar Sadosi Festival is a wonderful introduction to this colorful quilt. It focuses only on the music and culture that exists within Uzbekistan and as such is a kind of gateway; it would make a terrific jumping off place for a tour of the major historic cities of Samarkand, Khiva and Bukhara. Consider this, the next time you feel the urge to go someplace different. My route took me from New York to Dublin to Paris, to catch a special flight to Urgench and thence by car to Nukus, the capitol of Karakalpakstan. (It seems that the French make up the bulk of tourists to Uzbekistan, and the Savitsky Collection* in Nukus has become quite a draw. Hence the flight from Paris.)

Attending the Asrlar Sadosi festival was my fourth trip to Uzbekistan, and each time it has been a different experience that leaves me wanting to return. Perhaps what made this particular journey so unique was that because I wanted to document the artisans I met at the festival, I was able to visit people in their homes, to experience how they live, and their gracious hospitality. In addition to the ubiquitous plov, I got my fill of soups, dumplings, salads, yogurts and home grown fruits and vegetables. I was even served fresh pressed cherry juice from one family’s cherry trees, and on another occasion had roasted apricot kernels to start off a farmhouse meal.

This is a land of vibrant color and culture; I came back with so much footage that did not make it into this video! So I am putting together segments about the artisans who invited me to see how they work, up close, and you can go to my site at to meet them and observe their techniques close up. You will find musical performances there, too, of course.

I hope that this video gives you an idea of what it was like to be there. But also I hope that you will take your own journey there some day.


2 Responses to “From All Points: Uzbekistan, the Asrlar Sadosi Festival”

  1. Axel Porsch says:

    Rahmat! Wonderful memories!

    • Michal says:

      Hi Axel: Yes, the Asrlar Sadosi festival is no more, but I still have enough footage to make a story about the textiles and the people I met in Uzbekistan last time around. I’ve been working on that on and off.
      Thanks for visiting, and I hope you wander about in my site and find more things to enjoy!


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Here’s where you’ll find my weekly original world music video blogs that appear on Huffington Post, as well as an archive starting in April of 2009.

This is also the place where you will find video that is exclusive to my site. I’ve traveled to places like Uzbekistan, Morocco, and Taiwan and no matter where I go I have found amazingly talented and creative people working in every genre from the deepest traditions to the cutting edge.

It’s been incredibly rewarding to interview them and to capture some of what they do on video. Enjoy what you see and hear, and let me know what you think. I welcome your feedback.