TAJIKISTAN WAS THE POOREST of all the ‘stans we visited. Dushanbe, once a beautifully built example of Soviet architecture, is falling apart, while the President is building a brand new palace down the road. There was a cop standing at almost every corner stopping cars for a bribe for “traffic offenses.” However, it’s a matter of $1 or $2 and tops up a rarely-paid salary.
We were hosted by a local man, who used to chaperone tourists and guests during the Soviet era. He was a die-hard fan of Communism and chatted at length about the superior past where everyone had a job and the streets were well-maintained. He seemed nonplussed that our brand of rock n’ roll had no core “message” to the people and couldn’t come to terms to the concept of doing something just for the hell of it. Reflecting on it, I suppose it is a luxury.
We organised a one-day festival for local bands. The deal was that we would hire the equipment and anyone could come along to play. In a town where the $40 to hire a back-line is too expensive, everyone took the opportunity. Compared to Afghanistan, it was a culture shock. The young girls were dressed like Avril Lavigne, while the older women seemingly took Ivana Trump as an inspiration.