With hype for the Eurovision Asia Song Contest already building, fans are beginning to speculate exactly which 20 countries, and which artists, will take part in the inaugural contest in 2018.
One country on our wish list is Uzbekistan. Home to 33 million people, it’s touted as one of the most musically diverse countries in Central Asia, owing to the variety of musical styles and instruments used throughout its history. Popular music has flourished since the early 1990’s, combining traditional folk sounds with modern production. A number of Uzbek singers are also beginning to achieve commercial success in nearby countries, including Russia.
We’ve previously delved into the musical talents of its silk road neighbours Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. But today we’ve identified five potential artists that Uzbekistan might send to the contest, in order to whet your appetite and show off what might be in store with their potential participation in Eurovision Asia.
Born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s capital city, to an award winning actress, Rayhon has had artistry running through her veins since birth. Despite featuring in a couple of films herself, Rayhon has instead put her talents towards a career in music, and now has 13 studio albums under her belt. Her acting skills are, however, on clear display in her numerous music videos, as in the one above for her single “Javob ber”, which racked up 5.5 million views in a year and a half. Combined with her silky vocals, we’ve no doubt this queen could transition to the Eurovision Asia stage and provide a captivating live performance.
Having been awarded the Tarona Award (i.e. the Uzbek Grammy) for ‘Best Female Singer’ and ‘Best Album of the Year’ multiple times during her career, it’s clear that Rayhon is capable of slaying at the highest levels, and would surely be up for snatching the Eurovision Asia crown!
During the early 2000’s she sang in Russian under the stage name ‘Maya’. But it wasn’t until 2003 that Lola’s Uzbek singing career picked up with the release of “Muhabbatim” (“My Love”). Rising quickly and wining numerous Tarona Awards, Lola took an indefinite hiatus from singing in October 2005 to focus on family. However, she returned stronger than ever in 2010 and has subsequently released another four studio albums to add to her three previous releases.
If Eurovision Asia manages to keep the same spirit as its European counterpart, then one thing that may well make the crossing is ‘EuroDrama’ (or ‘AsiaDrama’). And Lola has experience handling controversy. In February 2015, while performing the duet “Ko’nikmadim” with Rayhon, Lola wore a stunning red low-back dress (see below for a video of the performance). Despite winning the Tarona Award for ‘Best Stage Outfit’ in 2004 and 2005, this dress was seen to “conflict with the national mentality”. In addition, the official music video of the song was criticised for having “lesbian overtones”. Following the controversy, Lola’s performing license was suspended for six months, and a directive was issued that all female singers in Uzbekistan were thereafter not allowed to: a) wear clothes exposing their shoulders or legs; b) appear “half-naked” at public events; or c) include any sexually suggestive moves on stage.
Unfazed by the situation, Lola has moved on and continues to perform, with her Instagram account detailing just how big she can go with a live performance. What better place than Eurovison Asia for Lola to be herself and show us all what she’s capable of!
Sevara is possibly Uzbekistan’s biggest star, with music spanning both traditional Uzbek folk and contemporary genres. Born in Asaka, near the Kyrgyzstan border, Sevara’s first album “Yol Bolsin” was released by the UK label Real World Records to critical acclaim. Sevara extensively toured the album around Europe and Asia, and was the support act for Peter Gabriel (yes, the six-time Grammy winner and “Solsbury Hill” hitmaker!) in his Growing Up Tour. In 2004 Sevara was awarded the BBC Radio 3 World Music Award for ‘Best Asian Artist’.
Not slowing down, Sevara has released two additional folk-based studio albums, with 2011’s “Tortadur” also being released in the US. She’s not a one-trick pony. Her more contemporary Russian-language single “A On Ne Prishel” was a big hit in much of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Sevara didn’t come to play, she came to slay!
More recently, Sevara competed in the first season of Golos (The Voice of Russia). Her blind audition of “Je T’aime” (which you can see above) is still the 12th most viewed video of any season on the official Golos YouTube channel, with 4.8 million views. Joining Leonid Aguin’s team, Sevara was unfortunately eliminated in the 3rd round knockout battles. However, with the global career Sevara has already had, it’s obvious that she could easily conquer the Eurovision Asia stage.
If you’re starting to miss the testosterone, then worry no longer. Originally born in Tajikistan, Daler moved to Uzbekistan at the age of four. Starting out in a homemade studio, Daler joined forces with rapper Oscar Jalilov in 2011 to become the lead singer of the duo Sahro. The duo went on to win ‘Discovery of the Year’ at the 2011 Uzbek M&TVA Awards. Despite separating in 2013, Daler forged ahead as a solo artist and has released numerous albums and singles in the Uzbek, English, Russian, Tajik and Karakalpak languages. No matter what the language rules might be for Eurovision Asia, Daler is certainly covered!
Daler also has experience as a judge, forming part of the jury for the televised music competition Zo’r Zo’r Star. The show aimed to find the best young musical talent in Uzbekistan aged 18-25. With this experience in tow, Daler just might have the upper hand in knowing what the jury (if there is one) and public would be looking for in a Eurovision Asia winner.
Born in Tashkent to Yulduz Usmonova, one of Uzbekistan’s most popular singers (whose 30-year career is still in full swing) and a former member of the Uzbek parliament, Nilufar has always had big shoes to fill. After spending four years studying in the UK, Nilufar returned to Uzbekistan and graduated from the Tashkent State Law University in 2013. However, despite her many years of study, Nilufar has still managed to enjoy a successful singing career at the same time.
Nilufar released her first single and music video at the age of eight, singing the duet “Shaytonga buysungan yuraklar” with her mother. Nilufar also gained her first experience of singing in font of large crowds by joining her mother on stage at her concerts (something tells Nilufar doesn’t do stage fright). Her professional career began in 1995, and she has since released four studio albums and won the M&TVA Award for ‘Best Singer of the Year’ in 2011. Her mother may have helped her start, but Nilufar can certainly stand on her own two feet.
Another string to Nilufar’s bow is her experience of international singing contests. In 2008 she represented Uzbekistan at the popular New Wave competition (previous winners of the contest include Eurovision 2016 champion Jamala). Despite reaching the semi-finals, Nilufar unfortunately had to pull out for personal reasons. Undeterred from achieving international success, Nilufar represented her country once again, this time at the inaugural Turkvision Song Contest in 2013 with the song “Unutgin” (see her semi-final performance above). After making it through the semi-final, she ultimately finished 11th out of 12 countries in the grand final. Despite the disappointing result, Nilufar’s star has only continued to rise in her home country, and she has racked up over 2 million views on her latest music video for “Kel ikkimiz”. Perhaps Eurovision Asia could be third time’s the charm?
What do you think of our choices? Who would you choose to represent Uzbekistan at Eurovision Asia? Let us know in the comments below!