Originally published by Ajam Media Collective on January 24, 2012.
Tajikistan may be an integral part of the Persian-speaking community, but very often it seems as if culture and information tend to flow from Iran (or the Iranian diaspora) into Tajikistan, with very little coming back the other way. This goes for everything from relief aid during the 1990’s civil war to trashy LA Iranian pop. For example, watch this little country lay out the stops for Tehrangeles megastar Andy’s visit a few years back:
Of course, the unbalanced nature of the cultural flow between Iran and this small state at the Perso-Iranian cultural periphery has a lot to do with the economic and political strength of Iran as well as the comparative youth and poverty of our cousins in Tajikistan. Additionally, Soviet restrictions on cultural exchange and various reforms (like the introduction of the Cyrillic language and the promotion of the Russian language) have left Tajikistan underequipped and isolated from the Perso-Iranian cultural mainstream, and it is only recently (and rather fitfully) that the country has quietly re-emerged.
Every once in a while, though, you stumble upon an absolutely hilarious video like this and are reminded of the potential for cultural production in the world’s youngest Persian-speaking state. Once you watch the video, you’ll think I’m kidding, but honestly it floors me everytime.
If you haven’t seen it, watch it now:
For those non-Persian speakers reading, the video is called “You’re not going to get married?” and portrays a man asking (more like harassing!) a young woman with this question, listing off men of various professions and asking if she is willing to tie the knot with them. The woman rejects each one based on a list of alternatively hilarious or bizarre complaints about each profession (“Teachers talk too much!” “Butchers kill animals!”). After rejecting a polo player, she decides a chauffeur works, though only if he ditches his Soviet-era car and gets a (still pretty old) Mercedes.
The video is a rather comical examination of the search for a financially solvent husband in post-war Tajikistan (one of the poorest countries on Earth), as well as the kinds of stereotypes associated with various professions (is playing polo really still an option in Tajikistan?!). Best, it’s all done in a formal Tajik accent (replete with various Tajik expressions), giving the whole thing a pretty humorous bent to Iranian Persian-speakers unaccustomed to accents besides their own.
To finish, I’ll leave you with another rather comical video from Uzbekistan that integrates a traditional style of music with a dance beat. The video, called “Boboy jonim,” follows a couple’s quest to marry in spite of the young woman’s grandmother. The video takes place on the steppe and involves a lot of yurts, horses, and an opening scene that involves a failed khastegari, giving a fun perspective on how Uzbeks relate to nomadic traditions that have mostly died out (Soviet policies of forced settlement mostly eliminated nomadism in Central Asia) but often re-appear in popular culture.
Listen hard and you might pick up some Persian words in Uzbek (and if you speak Azeri or Turkish, you’ll get a lot more!). While Uzbekistan, like Tajikistan, has been forcibly isolated from the larger Perso-Iranian milieu it once formed an integral part of, the renewed advent of communications across the region means that today we can witness how our shared history and culture have resulted in the development of a humorously similar pop culture