History of Bucharian Jews
The origin of Bukharian Jews can be traced back to the destruction of the Northern Israelite and Judean kingdoms. Exiled Jews left in droves, mostly heading north and west, but a smaller number settled in the east, in what was then the Persian Empire. Many of them made the city of Bukhara their home, hence the name “Bucharian” Jews. In the 600s, the Arab conquest of Central Asia began and Islam became the dominant religion of the region. It was already evident here that the Bukharian Jews were taking steps to protect themselves from assimilation. They strove to live together in Jewish neighborhoods, and lived under their own rule with a community chief, called a kalontar.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989, the region was split between the newly independent republics of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Jews began leaving in large numbers in the early 1970s, when the Soviet Union relaxed a ban on Jewish emigration. It accelerated in the 1990s after Uzbekistan became independent because of a fear that this would inspire Muslim and nationalist extremists to target Jews. More than 70,000 Jews have left the country since its independence, many moving to Israel and the United States.
Read more about Bucharian Jewish history here.
Bucharian Jewish Music
At weddings, parties, and other internal community events, Bukharian Jews' music of choice is a cosmopolitan mix of popular music styles and languages. Although associated with the new and modern Bukharian Jewish identity, party music is rooted in traditional roles and repertoire (such as the female wedding entertainer called sozanda) and retains distinctive Bucharian Jewish elements such as poetry from ancient Persia.
Although an increasingly restricted repertoire for women, religious music is perhaps the most dynamic area of expression for Bucharian Jewish men in New York, closest to the community's newfound religious freedom. Professional singers are increasingly performing religious music as synagogues proliferate. Religious music is the major avenue by which Bucharian Jews can negotiate their relationship with other Jewish communities, especially Sephardic Jews and Hasidic Jews, as they aim to carve out their own niche as a Jewish community. Maqom melodies with Persian texts serve as the most distinctive Bucharian Jewish repertoire and express Central Asia and the Land of Israel as twin homelands among members of the Bukharian diaspora.
Read about and listen to Bucharian Jewish music here.
Bucharian Jewish Music
Find more videos on Bucharian Jewish dance here.