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Protesters Occupy Canadian Gold Mine


Kyrgyzstan's president says he's quitting to avoid bloodshed

MOSCOW -- Kyrgyzstan’s embattled President Sooronbai Jennbekov said Thursday he was resigning following protests over a disputed parliamentary election, the third time in 15 years that a leader of the Central Asian country has been ousted by a popular uprising.

Supporters of Jennbekov's rival, newly appointed Prime Minister Sadyr Zhaparov, rallied in the capital of Bishkek and threatened to storm government buildings if he is not elevated to acting president. Under the constitution, the speaker of parliament would be next in line, but he refused to serve as caretaker leader, according to Zhaparov, who claimed the top office.

The fast-moving events capped a government crisis that was dizzying even by Kyrgyzstan's chaotic, clan-influenced politics.

The resignations of the president and the parliament speaker's apparent refusal to succeed him followed unrest that gripped the country of 6.5 million people on the border with China since the Oct. 4 parliamentary election that was swept by pro-government parties.

Supporters of opposition groups dismissed the results, pointing at vote-buying and other irregularities, and took over government buildings hours after the polls closed. The protesters freed several opposition leaders, including Zhaparov, who was serving an 11-year jail term.

The Central Election Commission nullified the election results and rival regional clans begun jockeying for power, their supporters swarming the capital and occasionally clashing with each other, hurling stones.

Jeenbekov, who had introduced a state of emergency in Bishkek and deployed troops in the capital, dismissed calls to resign on Wednesday. But in a statement released Thursday by his office, he said that he feared violence if he stayed in power, noting that protesters were facing off against the police and the military.

“In this case, blood will be shed. It is inevitable,” Jeenbekov said. “I don’t want to go down in history as a president who shed blood and shot at his own citizens.”

Jeenbekov said the situation in Bishkek “remains tense” and that he didn’t want to escalate those tensions. He urged opposition politicians to get their supporters off the streets and “bring a peaceful life back to the people.”

Zhaparov's supporters quickly besieged the parliament to discourage its speaker, Kanat Isayev, from taking over as acting president.

Soon after, Zhaparov told his jubilant supporters that he was now acting head of state because the speaker agreed not to become a caretaker president. The parliament is still scheduled to meet Friday to endorse the speaker's refusal to serve as president and Zhaparov's appointment to the post.

The curfew and the troops' presence in Bishkek eased tensions in the city, where residents feared the violence and looting that accompanied previous uprisings and had been forming vigilante groups to protect their property. Stores and banks that were closed last week have reopened.

As in the uprisings that ousted presidents in 2005 and 2010, the current unrest has been driven by clan rivalries that dominate the country’s politics.

Kyrgyzstan, one of the poorest countries to emerge from the former Soviet Union, is a member of Russia-dominated economic and security alliances, hosts a Russian air base and depends on Moscow’s economic support. It formerly was the site of a U.S. air base that was used in the war in Afghanistan.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Thursday said “a certain pause” in providing support to Kyrgyzstan “makes sense” because “there is no government as such, as far as we see.”

Associated Press writer Vladimir Isachenkov contributed to this report from Moscow.


Russian rule

1876 - Russian forces conquer the khanate of Kokand and incorporate what is now Kyrgyzstan into the Russian empire.

1916-17 - Russian forces suppress anti-Russian rebellion in Central Asia

1917-23 - Civil war breaks in the wake of the 1917 October Revolution in Russia.

1920s and 1930s - Soviet land reforms aimed at creating large state-owned farms upset the traditional Kyrgyz way of life, which is based on nomadic livestock-herding Kyrgyz Communist Party established as the sole legal party many members of the Kyrgyz intelligentsia who express dissent are imprisoned or executed.

1920s - Many formerly nomadic Kyrgyz resettled as part of land reforms improvements in literacy and education made.

1921 - Area of present-day Kyrgyzstan becomes part of the Turkestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR) within the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (RSFSR).

1924 - Kara-Kirgiz Autonomous Region (renamed Kirgiz Autonomous Region in 1925) formed, corresponding to the borders of present-day Kyrgyzstan, after the Soviet authorities delineate new territories in Central Asia along ethnic lines.

1926 - Kirgiz Autonomous Region upgraded to an ASSR.

1936 - Kirgiz Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) - also known as Kirgizia - becomes a constituent republic within USSR.

1990 - State of emergency imposed after several hundred people are killed in interethnic clashes between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz around the southern town of Osh Askar Akayev, a liberal academic on the reform wing of the Kyrgyz Communist Party, elected by the legislature to the newly created post of president.


President: Sadyr Japarov

Frontrunner Sadyr Japarov won a landslide victory in the January 2021 presidential election.

He also acquired sweeping new powers after voters amended the constitution in a referendum.

Mr Japarov effectively ran the country after President Sooronbay Jeenbekov was ousted in a popular revolt in October 2020 against allegedly rigged parliamentary elections.

A nationalist opposition politician, Sadyr Japarov spent four years in exile during the rule of President Almazbek Atambayev and his successor and ally Mr Jeenbekov, and was imprisoned for taking a rival politician hostage until his supporters freed him in October.

He has pledged to make tackling corruption his main priority, and to maintain close relations with Russia.


Controversy Over Mummy’s Background

One of main reasons that led the Kyrgyzstani government to rebury the mummy, according to Kazakov, was that the mummy was "just an ordinary woman" and not a "chieftain" worthy of preservation as the Soviet regime had claimed over 60 years ago. Tashbayeva finds Kazakov’s claims unfounded and ridiculous, as the most significant information about the mummy is already known. “Her gender is known, we know she was quite young—probably less than 30—when she died. We can see that her skull has undergone artificial deformation, which was a popular custom among nomads of our region and era. We could learn even more with DNA testing but we lack specialists," she said as Phys Org reported .

The Kyrgyzstani archaeologist and her colleagues have refused to share the same stage with self-proclaimed psychics and she has openly accused the mediums of filling this important topic with nonsense, "I am worried we are destined for a dark age," she adds.


Kyrgyzstan: Kumtor’s fate uncertain once more

Kyrgyzstan appears to be gearing up for a fresh assault on its largest private investor – the operator of the gargantuan Kumtor gold mine.

The prospects for this campaign look uncertain.

Earlier this month parliament announced it was forming a 12-member commission to take one more look at whether Canada-headquartered Centerra Gold is living up to prior government-mandated commitments on how it runs the mine.

The Kyrgyz state owns a one-quarter stake in Centerra, the Toronto stock exchange-listed miner running Kumtor, but that has not been enough to end the company’s recurrent regulatory headaches.

President Sadyr Japarov, who came to public prominence a decade ago through his decidedly lively campaigns to have the mine nationalised, is for now sending mixed signals.

Shortly after seizing power in October, he moved to dispel concerns that he would seek Kumtor’s nationalisation. The time for that was gone, he said, because the mine’s reserves had been substantially depleted in the years since his supporters were staging the rowdy protests that made him famous.

A review would be more appropriate at this time, he said.

Two governments have pushed to tinker with the agreement reached between Centerra and the government since 2017. Both portrayed the changes as victories for Bishkek.

Former prime minister Sapar Isakov, a loyal ally of then-president Almazbek Atambayev, oversaw negotiations that year that won over $100mn in concessions from Centerra. These mostly involved environmental claims and staggered land reclamation payments.

Authorities had cranked up the pressure on the company in the buildup to talks through lawsuits filed in the highly pliable local courts and travel bans for Centerra’s foreign employees.

Before that arrangement could come into force, Isakov’s successor, Mukhammedkaliy Abylgaziyev, argued the deal had been badly negotiated. He argued for and won an increase of $63mn dollars in payments on top of Isakov’s gains – “without taking on any obligations”, as he boasted.

Fat lot of good it did him.

That second deal is now the subject of a criminal probe that landed Abylgaziyev in jail on January 26. Explaining its motivations for the arrest, the State Committee for National Security, or GKNB, said the 2019 deal allowed for an expansion of Kumtor’s concession “unreasonably and in violation of national law”.

Meanwhile, Kumtor Gold Company told news outlet 24.kg that the perimeters of its concession have remained unchanged since a framework agreement thrashed out in 2009.

That is true, although the Abylgaziyev deal did reverse a 2012 government resolution that had for all practical purposes reduced the concession’s territory by 160 square kilometres. Forty square kilometres of that land are part of a national nature reserve.

Abylgaziyev’s lawyer has told media that investigators had not brought up Kumtor in their initial interrogations of the former premier, who faces other unrelated charges too.

Another investigation into alleged Kumtor malfeasance initiated less than two weeks after Japarov went from prisoner to president has gone quiet.

On October 27, the anti-economic crimes service, known locally by the abbreviation Finpol, announced that it had uncovered machinations at the company that deprived the state of $100mn in unpaid taxes and insurance contributions.

Finpol has since had its wings clipped, however, and been placed under the purview of the Interior Ministry. The body’s chief, Syimyk Japykeyev, who briefly worked as a lawyer at Kumtor and had ascended to the job during the same turbulence that propelled Japarov to power, was far from happy about this change.

He complained on Facebook that his office’s anti-corruption efforts are being blocked by vested interests. “The people support Finpol!” he claimed.

Japarov countered the same day with comments in support of the restructure, advising authorities not to "trample on the interests of the people for the sake of the interests of one revolutionary".

This bureaucratic rumpus neatly embodies a vexing conundrum for Japarov.

Having once styled himself a thorn in the side of corrupt elites, Japarov now risks ceding ground to new populists less burdened by the responsibilities of state.

Two government sources told Eurasianet on condition of anonymity that the Finpol investigation into Kumtor was not initiated by Japarov.

The pliant parliament’s newly established Kumtor commission almost certainly was, however, and Japarov's administration recently contributed experts to the commission, upgrading its status.

Independent lawmaker Dastan Bekeshev certainly took this view when he accused Japarov of using the commission to do the president’s dirty work on the mine during a parliament session on February 17.

“What is the aim of this commission? Have there been some new violations or is it about horse-trading?” asked Bekeshev. Team Japarov might still be coming up with an answer to that question.


Bakiyev poll victory

2005 July - Kurmanbek Bakiyev wins a landslide victory in presidential polls.

2005 August - President Bakiyev inaugurated, nominates Felix Kulov as prime minister.

2006 February - Parliament speaker Omurbek Tekebayev resigns after row with President Bakiyev, goes on to become opposition leader.

Mass protests demand constitutional reform and more action against crime and corruption.

2006 November - President Bakiyev signs a new constitution that limits his powers in response to mass in Bishkek demanding his resignation.

2006 December - Government resigns, paving the way for early parliamentary elections.

President Bakiyev pushes revisions to November constitution through parliament reinstating some of his powers, particularly over government appointments.

2007 January - Azim Isabekov becomes prime minister after parliament twice rejects President Bakiyev's bid to reinstate Felix Kulov.

2007 March - Government resigns and moderate opposition leader Almaz Atabayev named prime minister in the face of planned opposition plans protests.

2007 April - Police use force to disperse a week-long demonstration in Bishkek demanding President Bakiyev's resignation.

2007 May - Medical report says Prime Minister Almaz Atabayev was poisoned with a toxin of unknown origin, in an incident he says is linked to government privatisation plans.

2007 October - Voters in referendum approve constitutional changes, which the opposition present as a step towards authoritarianism. Monitors criticise conduct of the vote.

Bakiyev dissolves parliament, calls fresh elections.

2007 December - Parliamentary elections. The president's Ak Zhol party wins most seats in parliament, the opposition none. Western observers say the poll was marred by fraud.

2008 October - Major earthquake in southern province of Osh kills at least 65 people.

2009 January - President Kurmanbek Bakiyev announces the closure of the US air base at Manas, after Russia offers Kyrgyzstan more than $2bn in loans and other aid. US officials deny having been notified of the decision and say talks on the base's future continue.

2009 July - President Bakiyev signs into law a deal to allow the US to continue using Manas airbase to support troops in Afghanistan, after US agreed to more than triple the annual rent it pays for the base to $60m (£37m).

President Bakiyev wins re-election in a vote described by European monitors as "marred".

Kyrgyzstan tentatively agrees to allow Russia to establish a second military base.

2009 October - PM Marat Kadyraliyev and his government resign after President Bakiyev calls for sweeping reforms. Mr Bakiyev appoints close ally Daniyar Usenov as new PM.

2009 December - Journalist Gennady Pavluk is murdered in Kazakhstan. He had been planning to establish a new opposition newspaper.

2010 January - Former defence minister turned opposition leader Ismail Isakov is sentenced to eight years in prison for corruption, sparking opposition hunger strikes.

2010 April - Opposition protests spread from northern Kyrgyzstan to capital Bishkek, sweeping President Kurmanbek Bakiyev from power. Opposition leaders form interim government headed by former Foreign Minister Roza Otunbayeva. President Bakiyev resigns and is given refuge in Belarus.

2010 May - Roza Otunbayeva becomes interim president.

2010 June - More than 200 people are killed in clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbek ethnic communities in the southern cities of Osh and Jalalabad. Hundreds of thousands of people flee their homes.

More than 90% of voters in a referendum approve a new constitution reducing the powers of the presidency and turning Kyrgyzstan into a parliamentary republic.

2010 July - Interim leader Roza Otunbayeva sworn in as caretaker president to prepare for new elections in October 2011.

2010 September - Uzbek rights activist Azimjon Askarov sentenced to life in prison. Kyrgyz ombudsman and international rights groups condemn case as fabricated, politically motivated.


Kyrgyzstan News - History

THE STORY
Synopsis of "The Kidnapped Bride"

FACTS & STATS
Economy, Government, Bride Kidnapping

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Society and Culture, Women's Rights/Human Rights

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Should the international community intervene when cultural traditions clash with modern notions of women's rights?

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For centuries, Kyrgyzstan was a remote, mountainous outpost along the Silk Road to China. Under Soviet rule, few Westerners ventured here. But since the country gained independence in 1991, Kyrgyzstan is slowly opening to the West.

FRONTLINE/WORLD correspondent Petr Lom -- a professor at Central European University in Budapest -- first traveled to Kyrgyzstan to investigate Islamic extremism. But he stumbled across a strange local custom, which he decided to explore.

With his translator and friend Fatima Sartbaeva, a young Kyrgyz woman, as his guide, Lom sets out on a journey of discovery, driving deep into the countryside to a small village just outside the ancient city of Osh.

Petr and Fatima arrive as a wedding is about to begin. Women are busy making traditional Kyrgyz bread for the occasion, and men sit in chairs outside, talking and sipping tea. The groom confesses he has had some difficulty finding a bride, but he is hopeful that "this one will stay."

When the bride does arrive, she is dragged into the groom's house, struggling and crying. Her name is Norkuz, and it turns out she has been kidnapped from her home about a mile away.

Fatima had prepared Petr for this scene, telling him that the custom of bride kidnapping is shocking, but he is still stunned by what he is seeing.

As the women of the groom's family surround Norkuz and hold down both of her hands, they are at once forceful and comforting, informing her that they, too, were kidnapped. The kidnappers insist that they negotiated the abduction with Norkuz's brother, but her sister, a lawyer from Osh, arrives to protest that her sister is being forced to marry a stranger. Ideally in Kyrgyz circles, a bride's family gets a price for their daughter, but Norkuz is 25 -- considered late to marry -- and the women remind her she is lucky she was kidnapped at all.

Within the space of an hour, Norkuz struggles less, looking exhausted but laughing along with the women who have placed a scarf on her head. Tradition dicates that once the bride accepts the ceremonial scarf, the matter is settled and the wedding can commence. Norkuz relents.

A few days later Petr and Fatima return to see how Norkuz and her new husband are doing.

"Only one in 100 Kyrgyz girls marries her true love," Norkuz tells them as she cleans her new home. "After the kidnapping, you've no choice. You start loving, even if you don't want to. You have to build a life."

Having finally found himself a wife, the groom seems pleased. "We're happy," he says. "Keep visiting and we'll be happier."

Petr learns that the origins of this strange custom are murky: "Some say Kyrgyz men used to snatch their brides on horseback. Now they use cars, and if a villager doesn't have a car, he hires a taxi for the day."

Petr and Fatima speak with a taxi driver in Osh who says he helped kidnap a girl earlier that same day. During Soviet times, bride kidnapping was banned, but in the past decade, the old tradition has revived, especially in rural areas.

Jumankul, 19, is under pressure from his parents to marry and bring home a wife who can help work on the family farm. Jumankul tells Petr and Fatima that he's seen a girl in Osh whom he likes and plans to drive to the city in a few hours to kidnap her.

"We can't afford her hand," says Jumankul's father. "They wanted too much money."

The family has hired a taxi to drive Jumankul to Osh where he and his friends plan to find and kidnap the girl he has seen at a bazaar. But when they get to Osh, Jumankul can't find the girl. The group drops by a vodka stand to try to find out where she lives, but the girl working there suspects a kidnapping and refuses to tell Jumankul's brother, Ulan, the address of the girl. "Find it yourself," she tells him.

Not wanting to return home empty-handed, Jumankul and his friends decide to change plans and kidnap the girl in the vodka bar.

Her name is Ainagul, and by the time Petr and Fatima return to Jumankul's village outside of Osh, she has been resisting a room full of women for more than ten hours. Though Jumankul's older brother claims her family has already agreed to the kidnapping, Ainagul stands in a corner of the room, crying, and continuing to fend off the women who take turns trying to put the wedding scarf on her head.

"It'll be over soon," Jumankul's brother, Ulan, tells Petr. "You'll see."

But Ainagul puts up a strong fight, and the women tire of trying to convince her. After the oldest woman in the village makes a final attempt, telling Ainagul to stay or she will be unhappy, the women give up. Her ordeal over, Ainagul is free to go.

Once she has left, the women sit outside Jumankul's home and curse the departed girl. They say that her child will be a drunk and that her mother-in-law will be cruel. Jumankul, too, is upset and worries that he will never find a bride who will stay.

Petr and Fatima catch up with Ainagul two weeks later in Osh, where she is living with relatives.

"Because of what people say, you think you should stay," Ainagul tells them, sitting at a table. She is still shaken from the experience, looking down while she speaks. "But no one lives your life. You build your own future. Follow others, you'll be unhappy. I'd have lived in the mountains and tended sheep. I'd be a sheep too. I would waste my life."

Fatima identifies with Ainagul's hope to make a life of her own. Fatima confides to Petr that she herself was nearly kidnapped before she met her husband, an instructor at the American University in the capital, Bishkek. She says that her mother wanted a Kyrgyz man to kidnap her so she wouldn't study at the university and one day perhaps leave the country to live abroad.

Fatima's mother was kidnapped as well. In Balykchy, Fatima sits down with her mother to talk about bride kidnapping.

"Even though we want to stop violence against women and support gender rights we still practice bride kidnapping. My parents followed this custom even during Soviet times," Fatima's mother tells her daughter and Petr. "If my daughter was stolen by a man that I didn't want or know, I would be disappointed but I wouldn't reject our tradition it is a part of us, our custom, our mentality."

In the most disturbing case of all, Petr and Fatima learn of a girl, Kyal, who was kidnapped from outside her home, then died. Four days after the kidnapping, her father picked up her body from a village a few hours away. She'd hanged herself. Though it isn't clear exactly what happened, Kyal's father has a theory.

"I think they kidnapped her," he tells Petr and Fatima. "And she refused to stay. Maybe she resisted and was raped, so she hanged herself." Even though the groom's family does not admit to any wrongdoing, Kyal's father wants to see an investigation. Though a widely practiced tradition, bride kidnapping has been illegal in Kyrgyzstan since 1994, but the law is rarely enforced. Kyal's grief-stricken family prays for justice.

"In one of the poorest countries in Central Asia, bride kidnapping is not high on the agenda for reform," observes reporter Petr Lom.

Back in the city, Petr and Fatima make one last stop to check in on a man whom, earlier in their filming, they watched attempt to kidnap a bride. After the girl refused to stay and was eventually let go, the groom kidnapped another girl the next day. This bride stayed.

By the time Petr and Fatima return to visit the groom and his new wife, it has been four months since the marriage. The couple stands together in a light snowfall, laughing with each other. The woman is two months pregnant.

"I have a husband. Before I got married, I was alone," she tells the visitors. "Now I have someone to take care of and to dream with." As the couple bids Petr and Fatima farewell, Fatima -- a university-educated woman who escaped being kidnapped -- wrestles with more complicated, conflicted feelings about this Kyrgyz tradition. In this case, at least, the couple seems happy.

Reported, Produced and Filmed by
PETR LOM

Senior Producer
KEN DORNSTEIN

Editors
MICHAEL H. AMUNDSON
ANATOLY SIVOHA

Associate Producer
FATIMA SARTBAEVA

Special Thanks
SOROS FOUNDATION OF KYRGYZSTAN
OPEN SOCIETY INSTITUTE
CENTRAL EUROPEAN UNIVERSITY
AKTAN ARYM KUBAT
ASEL ALIYASOVA


Kyrgyzstan ballads, Okinawa folk, Ugandan hymns … the album rewriting global music history

Excavated Shellac rejects the western canon of pop, rock, jazz, classical and more to champion 78rpm gems from overlooked corners of the world – ‘an alternate universe’, according to the man behind it

Last modified on Tue 26 Jan 2021 11.13 GMT

I magine an anthology of 20th-century music making that purposely ignored pop, rock, jazz, blues, country, classical and opera. Cue outrage, at least from English-speaking listeners. But away from the western canon that has come to dominate our conception of music-making, much of the world was busy creating swathes of very different, extremely beautiful music.

These overlooked styles are collated on a new 100-track compilation, An Alternate History of the World’s Music, and presumptuous as it may seem to announce that the best album of 2021 has already been released, to my mind it’s unlikely it will be topped. Helmed by Dust-to-Digital, the US label that has done a magnificent job with box sets chronicling overlooked areas of pre-second world war music, the digital release also features a 186-page ebook (complete with beautiful illustrations like the ones here), in which every tune gets discussed – the first is a South African miner’s protest against police brutality, the last a sultry Cuban dance tune whose singers sound like they might have been hitting the rum while recording. This sonic smorgasbord from across the globe lives up to the provocative title, with music from Afghanistan, Sudan, the former Yugoslavia, Uganda, Spain, Albania, Mongolia, Mexico and elsewhere. Ever wondered what the Crimean Tartar Orchestra might sound like? Well, their raucous, minor key, brass party music is fabulous.

Maori Music catalog, Columbia and Parlophone. Photograph: Benno Häupl collection (PA Mss 26), UC Santa Barbara Library

The album is the work of Jonathan Ward, a collector of old 78rpm records who started his website Excavated Shellac in 2007, posting up a recording every day. Avoiding Robert Johnson, Geeshie Wiley and other such blue chip 78-era collectibles, Excavated Shellac focuses on music recorded across the non-Anglo world, offering a glimpse into myriad communities at the dawn of recorded sound. “When people think of early recorded sound – if they ever do – they tend to think of early American jazz music,” Ward says. “We’ve been told for decades that those are the primary performers and performances to revere, but every country had their own roots musicians, their pop bands, their entertainers and troubadours.”

Ward is a Los Angeles-based “metadata tsar” who works in the field of museum documentation. Applying the same scientific rigour to his record collection, he has gained huge amounts of information on recordings where there has often been very little, becoming one of the world’s foremost authorities of the 78rpm era.

“My collection slowly and constantly grows and shrinks,” he says, picking up new finds on travels abroad but more often “through private connections and via the global marketplace, for lack of a better phrase. Maybe all collections are just representations of a collector’s state of mind at any given moment. Mine certainly is. That said, I’m not sure if it takes any real talent to collect – mostly just patience and money.”

Cover of Columbia Bohemian Records catalogue, 1926. Photograph: Benno Häupl Collection, UC Santa Barbara Library

Ward emphasises that record collecting, for him, is not about rarity or value but an opportunity to learn about and engage with other people and cultures. “I don’t own the music or the histories behind it – I’m basically compiling information from wildly disparate and sometimes lesser-known sources into what I hope is something approachable.

“It was very important for me to add as much contextual information as possible,” he says of his Alternate History, “and to remove as much of myself and my own particular opinions from the text as possible. I’m pretty sure the world doesn’t need another white guy record collector waxing rhapsodic about music from cultures that are not his own. I wanted to avoid as best I could all cultural romanticism, tourism, and exoticism, yet also be able to offer interesting and uniquely rare selections.” He has worked closely with Dust-to-Digital on several projects already (Opika Pende: Africa at 78rpm Excavated Shellac: Strings Excavated Shellac: Reeds), plus Indian Talking Machine on the Sublime Frequencies label, collating recordings from south Asia.

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The 78, he notes, was invented at the end of the 19th century and remained the recorded music format until the late 1950s (for the US and UK) while continuing in Asia, the Soviet Union, parts of Africa and South America, and several other regions well into the 1960s – to emphasise this, Alternate History features 60s-era 78 recordings from Uzbekistan, Kenya, South Africa and Myanmar. Ward wanted to show off places “most people had no idea a 78rpm record industry existed, like the Persian Gulf, the Okinawa islands, Zanzibar. It’s a humble attempt to make our history of recorded sound more egalitarian, more holistic.”

It is also an audiophile’s dream, despite being transferred not from master tapes but often via the only known copy of a 78 in existence. The electrical era of the 1920s onwards captured dynamic performances created live in a room (prior acoustic recordings admittedly sound thin), and a good-condition 78 played on a decent system – whether an antique wind-up gramophone or an adapted turntable – loudly explodes out of the speakers like no other medium.

A detail from a catalogue of Swiss recordings. Photograph: Dust-to-Digital

“The 78rpm industry was a massive global enterprise that produced hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of individual recordings,” says Ward, and yet only the tiniest fraction have been reissued. “It’s as if it never existed – an alternate universe in a way.”

For listeners who love to travel via music, An Alternate History is the perfect project for our current confinement: here, it says, is humanity at its most creative and playful. “Many people who are not steeped in this subject can be just as fascinated and moved by this music as I am,” Ward says. “They just need an entry point, an on-ramp of sorts. Some of this music might seem alienating, like it dropped down from another planet, but it’s real music by real people, and it’s been right here all along.”


Grab and Run: Kyrgyzstan's Bride Kidnappings

They call it ala kachuu, or "grab and run." In Kyrgyzstan, as many as 40% of ethnic Kyrgyz women are married after being kidnapped by the men who become their husbands, according to a local NGO. Two-thirds of these bride kidnappings are non-consensual&mdashin some cases, a "kidnapping" is part of a planned elopment&mdashand while the practice has been illegal since 1994, authorities largely look the other way. Typically, a would-be groom gathers a group of young men, and together they drive around looking for a woman he wants to marry. The unsuspecting woman is often literally dragged off the street, bundled into the car and taken straight to the man's house&mdashwhere frequently the family will have already started making preparations for the wedding.

Once the girls are inside the kidnapper's home, female elders play a key role in persuading her to accept the marriage. They try to cover the girl's head with a white scarf, symbolizing that she is ready to wed her kidnapper. After hours of struggle, around 84% of kidnapped women end up agreeing to the nuptials. (The rest manage to get back home.) The kidnapee's parents often also pressure the girl, as once she has entered her kidnapper's home she is considered to be no longer pure, making it shameful for her to return home. In order to avoid disgrace, many women tend to remain with their kidnappers.

At one time, the majority of marriages among Kyrgyz women were arranged by parents. Today, bride kidnapping is frighteningly common, and&mdashalthough some kidnappings do create happy couples&mdashmarriages resulting from such incidents are also thought to cause significantly higher rates of domestic abuse, divorce, and suicide. Photographer Noriko Hayashi spent months visiting villages throughout Kyrgyzstan, and was sometimes able to witness and document the practice.

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