Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Putin’s War in Ukraine Means De-Colonization ‘No Longer a Metaphor’ in North Caucasus, Music Producer from Nalchik but Now in Georgia Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 16 – Bulat Khalilov, one of the founders of a company that records the music of the peoples of the North Caucasus, says that when he began a decade ago, he and his colleagues spoke of decolonization as nothing more than a metaphor. But Putin’s war in Ukraine means that it is “no longer a metaphor” but a real challenge.

            His company, Ored Recordings, was set up in Nachik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria, and has produced a remarkable series of recordings of the traditional music of the nations of that region (oredrecordings.bandcamp.com/). But in October 2022, its organizers decided to move to Georgia because working inside the Russian Federation had become almost impossible.

            In a new interview, Khalilov says that his company continues to work both with diaspora groups and with those in the North Caucasus still willing and able to cooperate with Ored. The situation is difficult but not impossible, and he argues it is critically important for these nations (cherta.media/interview/lejbl-ored-recordings-o-muzyke-kavkaza/).

            When Ored was still in Nalchi, he says, “we didn’t say or declare anything illegal. We simply condemned colonialism, imperialism and militarism and this position was still not criminal.” But the situation is worsening because these issues have become all too real and everyone must adopt a clear position on them.

            After the expanded war in Ukraine began, Khalilov argues, “we understood that [decolonization] is not some terrible dystopian metaphor” but instead, a description of “the horror of today’s reality.” We recognized that “this is a real threat” as people are dying and wars are spreading.  

            “Our music has always been political” but now it is more so. It is about saving the peoples who sing or play it, helping them to see themselves as part of the world, and changing the narratives others have about them. North Caucasians aren’t Russians as all too many people in Moscow or in the West say; and the music they have proves that.

            “Music complicates the picture of the world in a positive way,” Khalilov concludes. It is not about promoting the idea that we are “so unique” but that we are part of the world. As such, “we are against local nationalism” and want our nations by means of their music to become part of the world directly rather than through the mediation of anyone else.


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