Social and political problems are on full display
This article was written by Nurbek Bekmurzaev and originally published on the Global Voices (GV) webpage on July 01 2023. It is republished here according to the media partnership between GV and Shouts.
On June 25, Uzbek rapper Sharif Abdullaev, who goes by the pseudonym Konsta, created headlines by releasing a new song called “Xavo” (Air). In it, Konsta raises the issue of environmental degradation caused by deforestation, development projects, and air pollution in Uzbekistan’s capital Tashkent. The rapper complains in the song that he is unable “to take a deep breath,” the city feels “like a cage,” and everything “white has turned grey.” Konsta notes that the root cause of these problems are humans, who behave like pests and have gotten used to cutting down trees, instead of planting them.
Here is a music video of the song “Xavo.”
“Xavo” is one of Konsta’s many songs produced in the genre of music he calls “conscious rap”. Konsta’s songs focus on Uzbek society, its problems, and the role of each individual in unfolding events. His source of inspiration is his personal experience of working at a bazaar in his hometown of Guliston in eastern Uzbekistan and being migrant labour in Russia.
Around two million Uzbek citizens work as migrant labour in Russia, where they are often subjected to discrimination and harassment by law enforcement bodies. Konsta’s songs are all in Uzbek, although he admits that he could have been more popular if he continued to write songs in Russian. “My life is incomprehensible to Russians. Our world is Uzbek,” said, Konsta explaining his decision to write songs in Uzbek in an interview with Gazeta.uz, one of the biggest media outlets in Uzbekistan.
Here is the full video of Konsta’s interview with Gazeta.uz.
In his most viewed song on YouTube “Odamlar nima deydi?” (What will people say?), Konsta tackles the country’s social issue where many feel the need to seek public approval for their personal life decisions. Konsta describes parents’ disapproval of their children’s unconventional professional choices and the pressure they exert on daughters to tolerate domestic violence and not to divorce, due to fear of social stigma.
Here is a music video of the song “Odamlar nima deydi”.
In another song related to social pressure titled “To’y” (Wedding), Konsta appears as an ordinary Uzbek man who spent all the money he saved while working as migrant labour in Russia and got into debt to organize an extravagant, large wedding. His next move is to return to Russia and continue working as migrant labour to pay off his debt. Through this song, Konsta brings light to the tradition of organizing lavish weddings most people in Uzbekistan cannot afford, forcing them to go into debt.
Here is a music video of the song “To’y”.
Konsta also reacts to political scandals in the country. On March 6, he released a song called “Sariq jiletka” (Yellow vest) in response to the news that the authorities were planning to force pedestrians, schoolchildren, and bikers to wear light-reflecting jackets at night to prevent car accidents. The Ministry of Interior rolled back its plans after a public backlash. In the song, Konsta appears as a corrupt official who came up with this idea, so he can make money on the sale of vests and go to the Maldives on vacation.
Here is a music video of the song “Sariq jiletka”.
Konsta stands out in the sea of Uzbek singers for his creativity and for tackling social and political issues. His conscious rap is a mirror where Uzbek society can see its struggles.