Yulduz Usmanova

Alma Alma

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Nestled between Russia, Iran, and China, Uzbekistan offers a fascinating fusion of musical traditions. Usmanova, in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet regime, has, in this, her first American-released album, taken those traditions and fused them with Western dance music. Such a hybridization often yields a monstrosity, but in this case the product is an inoffensive mix of uptempo quasi-disco and heartfelt ballads. For example, "Schoch Va Gado" opens with a prelude on solo lute and moves to slow, soft singing by Usmanova, backed by gentle washes from the synthesizer; the selection is also punctuated by short solos from the regional fiddle. Some songs are less Westernized than others, like "Yor-Yor," which is dominated by local percussion and fiddle as well as Usmanova's crooning, imploring vocals.

Although this album can't be strongly recommended to those who prefer their world music unadulterated, it might be good fun for the dance music aficionado or for the world music beginner who needs a bridge to such an alien culture.

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