The government of Uzbekistan has set up a special body to censor rap music, Radio Ozodlik, the Uzbek Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and 12.uz have reported.
Rappers in the Uzbek language have become popular among young people in Uzbekistan and have spread on Youtube, but the government is unhappy over their growing influence. Now the singers are being tasked to clean up their lyrics and remove anything offensive -- and replace them with more tunes about the Motherland, featuring virtues like loyalty, kindness, and love of one's family.
The government has tapped some well-known rap singers to serve on the new Council of Rap Music Performers, including Ruslan Saliev, known as Mr. Slan, editor of Radio Terra, and Shahriyor Argonov, known as Sharik. A representative of Uzbeknavo, the state-controlled performance agency, had no comment when contacted by Radio Ozodlik other than to refer readers to the agency's website.
Uzbeknavo's website says among the council's obligations will be to create a data base of rap singers and hold round tables once a month to "coordinate" the musicians' work. The rappers are also to be steered toward more patriotic and upbeat fare than the usual dark gangsta fare, and they are supposed to support conservative morals. A rapper contacted by Radio Ozodlik did not want to comment about the state's new controls, but said he welcomed the creation of the council.
As 12.uz reported, a round table has already been held where participants spoke of the need to "take into account the Uzbek mentality" and "correspond to the interests of society" -- which means taking out swear words and slang. Also present at the meeting were Ikbol Mirzo, chairman of the Council for the Development and Coordination of the National Performing Arts, who is also a senator; Azamat Haydarov, general director of Uzbeknavo; and Ozodbek Nazarbekov, a state-recognized People's Artist.
One rap music producer who requested anonymity told Radio Ozodlik that recently state censors have been carefully checking all the lyrics of Uzbek rappers. Uzbeknavo has begun to demand that rappers remove from their repertoires any songs that are too slangy or offensive, and replace them with patriotic tunes or songs about nature, peace, beauty, etc. Music critics are saying the rappers themselves are to blame for their censorship, as their songs have gone "way out of bounds," Radio Ozodlik reported.
A typical song the government is now weeding out is one by a singer named Akrom that can be found on Youtube. The lyrics describe a young man cruising around in his car, then stepping on the gas to escape the police, then sticking his hand out the window to give the cops the finger, bragging that he has to stay in shape by taunting the authorities.
Artik Atajanov, another People's Artist of both Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan said he welcomed the new council, just as he welcome rap as a genre, but said that the young people had to be "educated."
"It is our obligations as elders to set them on the right path. What escapes from their mouths must be corrected. It's true that if you train them a little, nothing bad will come of it," said Atajanov.
Meanwhile, Prof. Zahid Khaliknazarov, also a People's Artist, said that he felt that music required absolute creative freedom. "Frankly speaking, I don't see anything bad about that. But it does not fit exactly with our musical culture," he told Radio Ozodlik. .
In February, the state youth program Yoshlar denounced rock and rap music as "satanic," and expressed alarm about the influence of Western music on Uzbekistan. The government's increasing concerns about popular culture seem to have prompted the creation of the council as a way to channel and filter youthful creativity instead of blocking it completely.
A hip-hop festival is planned this year in Uzbekistan, and those allowed to perform at it will likely have their lyrics filtered by the new council.