Accepted paper:

Hip-hop as a genre in Central Asian consciousness


Andrew Kaye (Ramapo College of NJ)
Zhibek Tleshova (Individual researcher)

Paper abstract:

Hip-hop, or rap, is a diverse mix of recitation styles and musical accompaniment. The genre is believed to have developed in the 1970s and 1980s in North America, although it expresses poetic-musical styles of ancient lineage. The spread of modern hip-hop or rap styles in Central Asia, as for many other world regions, seems to date to the 1990s, and sources suggest increasing prevalence and success from the first decade of the 21st century. Musically, hip-hop or rap is can be defined as a form of discourse speech in very driven rhythm. This paper will offer a historical and stylistic overview of the current state of hip-hop and rap performance and research in Central Asia. We will analyze performances by several artists and groups, including Scriptonite, Shoxrux, Soosan Firooz, Tata Ulan, and RapXana. Rap in Central Asia seems to share core characteristics in common with North American rap styles, but also reflect local cultural habits in music, lyrics, and choreographic presentation. The music is structured, in choice of sounds and instruments, in addition to the human voice, around typical a studio ensemble consisting of synthesizers, electronic bass and electronic percussion, with occasional additions of lutes, fiddles, flutes, and mouth harps; in harmony, we find that the minor key is common, including variants such as the harmonic minor (or hijaz) and minor pentatonic modes; tempos average between around 88 and 104 beats per minute, and frequently use a 4/4 meter and a backbeat, also prevalent in western hip-hop rhythmic practice; and songs may use riff-like melodic backgrounds over which the rappers deliver their verses in a "similar-style" with occasional chanted or more highly modulated melodic vocal refrains. Lyrics touch on a wide variety of topics including partying, the gangster life, the battlefields of love and romance, women's issues, politics and religion. Choreography emphasizes youth, modern dress, and a variety of hip-hop dance steps. Hip-hop, or rap, is rapidly becoming a major musical style across nations. It has strong commercial as well as consumer personal appreciation. This paper will attempt to explain the success of the genre in Central Asian cultural settings in comparative perspective to its success as a world-wide cultural and musical phenomenon.

panel CUL-04
Expression and Conciousness