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IAUNRC Hosts Special Performance at the 23rd Annual ACES Conference

The Association of Central Eurasian Students (ACES) held its annual conference on Saturday, March 12th at Indiana University. This year marked the 23rd anniversary of the conference and brought together over forty scholars across more than a dozen panels, with the Keynote Speech given by Dr. Manduhai Buyandelger. Through generous support from the IAUNRC and efforts by Dr. Nazif Shahrani the 23rd Annual ACES Conference was able to host a featured performance by world-renown dutar virtuoso, Sirrojiddin Juraev.

Considered one of the most virtuosic dutar players in Central Asia today, Sirojiddin Juraev is the
Fulbright Scholar in Residence at Harvard University.  Born in the Sughd region of Tajikistan, he hails from a lineage of dutar players, and began studying dutar formally at a young age. He attended Khujand State University where he honed his skills in the subtleties and craftsmanship of playing the dutar. In 1995 he was pronounced a dutar laureate after taking first place in an international dutar competition in Tashkent. Upon graduating from Khujand State University in 1999, Mr. Juraev became a member of the Faculty for Arts.

 © Sebastian Schutyser / Aga Khan Music Initiative


In 2003 Sirojiddin Juraev joined Tajikistan’s Academy of Maqam and studied there until 2007 under the tutelage of People's Artist of Tajikistan and Academy founder, A. Abdurashidova. Maqam follows a system of melodic modes and is popular in Central Asia, the Middle East, and northern Africa. Shashmaqam is a special genre of maqam specific to Uzbeks and Tajiks.  Also founded in 2003, the Academy of Maqâmis an ensemble of Uzbek and Tajik singers and musicians. Smithsonian Folkways best captures the uniqueness of the Academy and shashmaqam music in the following description:

Nestled among the majestic Pamir Mountains in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, the Academy of Maqâm was founded, with support from the Aga Khan Music Initiative in Central Asia, by Abdul Abdurashidov, a Tajik musician with a passionate commitment to the preservation of the Central Asian sub-genre of Shashmaqam. Literally referring to ‘six maqâms,’ the Shashmaqam canon comprises six pieces, each based on a different melodic mode of traditional maqâm music. Typically performed as cycles or suites, each Shashmaqam combines the emotional quality of its particular melodic mode with the lilting, rhythmic ambience of antique Persian poetry—usually the words of longing and desire of the great bards of Sufism, the mystical dimension of Islam.”

Shashmaqom Academy in Tajikistan

       © Sebastian Schutyser / Aga Khan Music Initiative
(Read more about the Academy and Abdurashidov here. For a video about the Shashmaqam Ensemble click here.)

During his studies at the Academy, Mr. Juraev went on a number of tours together with other graduate students to perform at concerts in such countries as Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, France, England, Germany, Norway, Italy, Sweden, Greece, Spain, Slovenia, Egypt, Morocco, Iran, India and others. In 2006 Abdurashidov and his students released a CD through Smithsonian Folkways, entitled Music of Central Asia vol. 2: Invisible Face of the Beloved: Classical Music of the Tajiks and Uzbeks. The album falls under Maqâm-I Râst, which utilizes the râst mode as its primary melodic foundation. Nominated for a 2006 Grammy for Best Traditional World Album, Invisible Face of the Beloved is the second part of a ten part series between the Aga Khan Music Initiative and Smithsonian Folkways Recordings to document music of Central Asia. (You can find the CD here.) Upon completion of the Academy of Maqam in 2007, Sirojiddin Juraev began to teach at the National Conservatory of Tajikistan. He now teaches at the National Conservatory of Music in Dushanbe and performs in the State Shashmaqam ensemble.

       © Sebastian Schutyser / Aga Khan Music Initiative


Sirojiddin Juraev stunned the audience with his performance at the 2016 ACES conference. For 45 minutes he demonstrated a prolific ability of the dutar and tanbur, two long-necked lutes known throughout Central Asia. One of the songs included in Mr. Juraev’s performance was the Taijik instrumental piece "Sayri Badakhshon". “Sayri Badakhshon” is a folk piece that translates into
A Stroll in Badakhshan”, referring to a historic region that includes parts of northeastern Afghanistan and southeastern Tajikistan.  Joey Cleveland, a PhD student in CEUS and Anthropology and President of the Mongolian Student Association noted that,  “I think that Juraev’s performance was a great addition to this year’s ACES conference. His performance was absolutely mind-blowing, and I really hope ACES continues to integrate other events like this into future conferences."

       © Sebastian Schutyser / Aga Khan Music Initiative


Held for the first time in Indiana University’s newly finished Global and International Studies Building, the conference included panels such as: Frontier Encounters in Imperial China; Afghanistan in the Wake of Imperialism; Untold Histories and Contexts in Tibet; Central Eurasian and Middle Eastern Comparative Linguistics; Contemporary Movements in Mongolian Music; Politics in Post-Soviet Eurasia; Premodern Ritual in the Archaeological Record; and more. Presenters included undergraduates, graduate students, Visiting Professors, international scholars, and one advanced high school student. Dr. Manduhai Buyandelger of the Massachusetts Institute for Technology gave the keynote speech entitled, “A Thousand Steps to Parliament: Elections, Gender, and New Political Subjectivities in Post-Socialist Mongolia”.

ACES was founded by students in the Department of Central Eurasian Studies (CEUS) in 1980’s with the purpose of providing a forum for students interested in the historical and contemporary Afghan, Balto-Finnic, Hungarian, Iranian, Mongolic, Tibetan, Tungusic, and Turkic peoples, languages, cultures, and states. The conference began in 1994 due to the effort of two doctoral candidates in CEUS, Johan Elverskog and Alexsandr Naymark. ACES has been responsible for the organization and implementation of the annual conference since 1997.  The conference developed into a forum for Indiana University graduate student work, as well as a site for scholarly collaborations among students, faculty, and independent scholars from around the world.