UCSC Central Asian Ensemble honors traditional Uzbek music with special guest master dutarist Rozibi Khodjaeva

Rozibi Khodjaeva; photo courtesy of the artist

Saturday, March 2, 2024

3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Music Center Recital Hall at UC Santa Cruz

FREE and Open to the Public/no tickets required

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (February 9, 2024) — On Saturday, March 2, 2024, the students of the UCSC Central Asian Ensemble will present folk and traditional music from Uzbekistan with special guest master-dutarist Rozibi Khodjaeva. 

This performance is culmination of a month-long residency that Khodjaeva is engaged in at the University of California, Santa Cruz, including rehearsals with the ensemble, meeting with graduate students, and lectures/demonstrations at UCLA and University of Colorado, Boulder, while she is in the United States. 

Tanya Merchant, an associate professor of music at UC Santa Cruz, started the Asian Ensemble (formerly the Eurasian Ensemble) in 2008 with the goal of educating students on music outside of the western canon. Her two-credit course teaches students about the dutar, a two stringed instrument that is traditional in Iranian and other Central Asian musical traditions. 

As the only dutar ensemble outside of Central Asia, Merchant is “super proud” of her students, especially the ten new members who spent the first four weeks of this quarter learning their first song. “To see how far absolute non-musical beginners can go in 11 weeks is super exciting,” says Merchant.

The March performance will showcase music both from Merchant’s beginning students, followed by music majors who she has taught before. Finishing off with her and a special guest Rozibi Khodjaeva.

Khodjaeva taught Merchant how to play dutar in the early 2000s. The two met when Merchant stayed in Uzbekistan while studying ethnomusicology at UCLA with a focus in Uzbek music. While there Merchant also worked as part of Khodjaeva’s wedding band, playing the drums, often for gender segregated wedding events which are common in Uzbek traditions. “I have such fond memories of spending all this time on her balcony,” says Merchant, “drinking tea and learning the dutar and working together.”

Merchant and Khodjaeva had not seen each other for 15 years before joining together for this special residency. Although there was an attempt to bring Khodjaeva to the U.S. in March of 2020, that did not work out. Khodjaeva is currently here on a work visa and the pair are also playing shows in Denver, Boulder, and Los Angeles between flying back and working on lessons at UC Santa Cruz. Khodjaeva has been assisting with the Central Asia Ensemble despite not knowing any english. “It is wonderful to see how people who don't share language can still share music,” says Merchant.

The concert will also feature Tara Pandeya, an internationally recognized dancer who has worked with Cirque du Soleil and is the first Westerner to dance with the Tajik State Ensemble.

This upcoming performance showcases UC Santa Cruz’s focus on diversity and promoting the voices of those who are underrepresented. Khodjaeva and Padeya, as international experts in the world of music and dance, encapsulate diversity around the world and on campus.

“This is the culmination of more than 20 years of collaboration between this master musician and I,” says Merchant. “I'm really excited that all of these wonderful people can come together and play music together.”

More Information:

March 2, 2024

3 PM - 4:30 PM

Music Recital Hall

402 McHenry Rd

Santa Cruz, CA 95064

More Information Available Here