The Badakhshan Ensemble was the brainchild of Soheba Davlatshoeva (Сохиба Давлатшоева, born 1970), a singer and dancer who grew up in a small village on the Ghund River, fifty miles from Khoroq, Badakhshan’s capital and, with a population of around 50,000, its largest town. “We created the ensemble ourselves,” Soheba recounted proudly. “It’s not a state-sponsored group. We were students in the Institute of Arts in Dushanbe Tajikistan’s capital at the end of the 1980s. We finished one semester there, and then in the winter of 1990, the Institute closed because of the conflict that grew into Tajikistan’s civil war. We had to leave Dushanbe and return to Badakhshan. Half the city of Dushanbe left.” Eventually, Soheba and other ensemble members regrouped under the umbrella of the regional drama theater in Khoroq, where they played music for theatrical productions and gave concerts. Their music-making extended beyond the theater, and at many events they were joined by Jonboz Dushanbiev, a charismatic ghijak (spike fiddle) player a generation older than Soheba and her cohort, with a broad knowledge of Badakhshani music, poetry, and musical instrument-building. The Badakhshan Ensemble takes its name from the mountainous region - poetically known in Persian as Bam-i Dunya, the “Roof of the World” - that comprises the sparsely populated eastern half of Tajikistan and northeast Afghanistan. There, nestled in a series of riverine valleys that desc...
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