Interview – Sevara Nazarhan
(loosely paraphrased from a machine translation by Lens Universe)
The Uzbek singer Sevara Nazarhan invited us to meet her. She has been produced by Hector Zazu and Victor Sologub. The BBC recognised Sevara as the best Asian performer in the genre of world music (2004).
Recently the first Russian-speaking album of Sevara Nazarhan “So Easy”, let out under a signboard, “has stirred up Sevara and Elf” (Elf’s second release) and one in which they have made beautiful music the like of which we haven’t seen. The release comes again from Real World Records, the label begun by Peter Gabriel, registered in London, Tashkent, Moscow and New York. Among others, Nikolay Devlet-Kildeev, sound producer Tequilajazzz Andrey Aljakrinsky and producer Bruno Ellingham, who earlier co-operated with Goldfrapp and Doves, helped record the guitarist of “The Moral Code“. Lyric in Tashkent s were written to Sevara’s melodies by Sergey Mihalok from “Ljapisa Trubetsky”, Boris Grebenshchikov, Vadim Stepantsov and Karen Kavalerjan.
We asked the singer from Uzbekistan about her relation to world music, musical predilections and reference points and her eclectic life.
– How did your musical career in native Uzbekistan have its beginnings?
– It all happened very naturally. My parents are both musicians. Mum teaches on a game class on рубабе. It is a central-Asian string tool. And daddy worked at musical school and as editor on national radio. That is, music and everything that is connected with it, were always readily accessible to me growing up. And further there was musical school and conservatory work in ensemble дутаристок (one more string tool) at the radio committee, the first pop group with conservatory friends. And, almost imperceptibly to myself, I became a independent actress, when in 2000 I gave my first solo concert in Tashkent.
– What has led you to world music? And how you have come to be in “a genre citadel” – on Peter Gabriel’s Real World Records label?
– World music – I am prejudiced against concept. I only do what I do – together with the “modern” songs I sing also national classical compositions; simply I adore them. Naturally, experiments with sounding, attempts of new arrangements keep coming. Therefore, as in that bad joke – I look – world music, and has got accustomed – the Uzbek classical song! And the more mature I become, the more I like a classical song without any mixtures. Here then a new album was written down – simply a set of songs which I love, and any electronics added in the studio – I hope all can soon hear them. And to Real World Records I arrived almost casually: I had flown to England for the festival WOMAD (Festival of World of Music, Arts and Dance) which has been for several years produced by Peter Gabriel. I wished to listen to Haleda, Jussu Н’Дура and others. Well there had been an absence – one of the singers had to cancel and as such could not perform. Someone mentioned to the festival management that they saw Sevara among the public. They paged me and had taken an interest, but I could not act as replacement. Next day, together with a local drummer and bass player, we sat down for a jam.
The new album “So Easy” sounds eclectic enough even for pop. The desire to please all is felt: both for thinking music fans, and thoughtless party-goers. Is this because you don’t want to miss any potential listeners?
– In general our thoughts were primarily of content over marketing. This album of songs which are pleasant to me were simply written down. And as they were pleasant to the sound recording company, it is our hope certainly that they will be desirable and pleasant to many who might listen.
– What, in your opinion, should be modern pop? What do you listen to and recommend?
– What it should be, I can not answer, as I am not a critic. But different, innovative, moving apart to horizons … And I listen to very many. Today in my mp3-player David Bowie, Depeche Mode, M.I.A., Roger Waters, Sade, Nusrat Fateh Ali the Khan, Bjork, Prince, CocoRosie, Radiohead, Dzhonni the Cache, Frank Sinatra. Sometimes I dwell for some days in hip-hop and R&B – Farell Williams, Lorin Hill, Wayne, Drake, Kanye West, Snoop Dogg, Andre 3000 Poured. From the Russian actors for today such collection: “Aquarium”, Mityaev, the Dolphin, “Center”, Hvorostovsky, “Mummies the Troll”, Zemfira, “Spleen”, V.Presnyakov, A-studio (with Shukenovym).
– How you have got acquainted with your present collaborators? Reading on a site your biography where in each line there is a star name, someone, perhaps, will see in it all only artificiality and the huge budget. As though you parried conjectures of foes and envious persons?
– All is much more prosy – I solicit verses from what sources of creativity I respect. I was familiar with some earlier, with some have got acquainted in the course of work on an album. The budget was normal – not big and not small. Flights have eaten much budget.
– Judging by your last interviews, an album “Sevara and Elf” is not the only project in which you now are engaged. What else are you preparing for listeners?
– Now we have completed an album of the Uzbek classical songs which I have adapted with the best instrumentalists. It very heavy for perception the unprepared listener, but I adore it. And besides I have begun work on a new album – it will be big and dark. I think it will take at least another year to finish. And still more time will be required for additional studio work.