Tashkent was the cultural jewel in the Soviet crown and, although Uzbekistan is now a notoriously corrupt totalitarian state, that pride lives on through the city’s architecture and its focus on the arts. You’ll find musicians, actors, artists, photographers, and fashion designers all working, living, and socialising together, often on the same projects. Bohemian is an understatement.
The Ilkhom Theatre is legendary for courting controversy through its experimental repertoire in a heavily censored culture. Its founder, Mark Weil, was brutally murdered in 2007. The official line went that he was targeted by Islamists, offended by one of his plays, but many believe it to have been a politically motivated assassination.
We were honoured to play Ilkhom and put on our own experimental show, complete with local musicians and leotard-clad interpretive dancers.
At the end of our series of concerts, we threw an after party in our hotel’s penthouse suite, which cost $10 to upgrade to. Travka tried to bribe the hotel workers to let us party all night but, take note folks, this was the only ‘Stan we visited where it didn’t work and we were thrown out!
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Musician and video journalist Ru Owen left London three years ago due to a case of extreme boredom and hasn't been back since. Living in Kabul, Afghanistan amongst a small, but dedicated group of rockers, filmmakers, photographers and drifters, she joined White City in 2009 and has since led them all over Central Asia, including playing and filming Afghanistan's first rock festival in 2011. She's currently working freelance, making short news features and promos, while developing Big In The Stans as a full-length documentary.