Language, Subject Matter At The Heart
What’s the problem with Uzbek rap music? Apparently, the censors don’t like the crude language and vulgarity that populates the Uzbek rap music scene. Instead, they’ve issued warnings to rappers to produce more music about the Motherland, good family values, non-political and non-controversial subject matter.
The Motherland? Really? For those of you who don’t know much about Uzbekistan, population-wise it’s about 80% the size of Canada on a patch of land that’s about 4% of Canada’s geographic size. Uzbekistan was at one point part of the Soviet Union. On paper, it maintains that it supports individual freedom (in the Western sense of the word) but in reality, it’s a highly authoritarian country.
What does all of this have to do with rap music? Most of Uzbekistan’s population is young. In fact, more than one-third of its population is under the age of fourteen. Nearly half of its population lives on less than $1.25 per day, and all of this poses an interesting problem for the sitting government. Rap music has played an important role in the recent protests in the Middle East, a fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Uzbeks. In short, the government is worried. Unfortunately, the government is less worried about the fact that half of its people make $1.00 per day than it is about the fact that the same people make their own rap beats.
Why is rap music so dangerous? How does it possess the power to bring down governments? Simply put, rap music comes from the heart, and it sticks to the audience in a way that other popular music forms don’t. While other music forms rely on musicians and studio recordings, rap music has found a way to be lyrical and meaningful on a shoestring. Much of the “objectionable” music is self-produced, which gives these rap beats a unique, yet memorable, sound.
In some ways, rap music doesn’t possess the distractions that other musical genres do. It’s easier for the listener to get into the message, and it’s easier for the message to get into the listener. Uzbekistan and places like it are ripe for the political picking. You can be sure that rap music will play an important role in the shaping of world politics in the months and years to come. Countries like Uzbekistan, where the youth population is large, are at risk of being up-ended by musicians and a musical genre that has what it takes to inspire its listeners to action.