The Hundred Thousand Fools of God: Musical Travels in Central Asia (and Queens, New York) [With 74-Minute CD]

Theodore Levin, Author Indiana University Press $39.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-253-33206-6
Dartmouth professor Levin ventures in search of ""the 100,000 fools of god,"" those enlightened Central Asian musicians whose art conveys both moral and spiritual power. He's interested in how musical life ""reflects the... fluid boundaries and identities"" of people in the rich cultural domain sometimes known as ""Transoxania"" now that Soviet domination of the region has ended. From Uzbekistan to Tvarkist, and through parts of Kyrghyzstan and Kazakhstan, Levin travels in an old Russian auto with a fellow ethnomusicologist and Sufi chauffeur as companions. The subject is music, but Levin uses it to cast a wider light, revealing places of considerable sorrow long hidden in the shadows of Soviet power, and to create a travelogue with wide potential appeal. Along the way he encounters men who entertain him lavishly without asking his name, brilliant forgotten composers, baxshis (healers) and a thoughtful Uzbeki pop star. Gracefully responsive to craft, Levin takes in architecture, food and cultural mores. He cannily appraises cultural issues in polyglot cultures where nationalism threatens indigenous musics--many practiced by both Muslims and Jews--as much as Soviet policy ever did. Candor about his own uncertainties and personal struggles helps make this a personal as well as a scholarly adventure. A superb accompanying 24-track CD with location recordings proves integral to Levin's commentary. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
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Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-253-21310-5
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