What sorts of musicians and music emerge in the mysterious Greater Caucasus Mountains?
The peaks of this range pierce the horizon from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea, dwarfing those of the Alps. Like the spires of Babel, they signal an explosion of a panoply of languages, peoples, and conflicts. Nestled in these spires on the southern border of Russia rest 7 semi-autonomous ethnic republics. The people in this region have witnessed nearly constant conflict--from war with the tsars ending in 1864, to Soviet suppression for much to the 20th century, to the First Chechen War (1996-1999), and finally the Second Chechen War, which was only proclaimed "ended" in 2009. But through all of this strife, a musical tradition continued to thrive. On poorly tuned pianos and battered violins, students throughout the region play Rachmaninov and Beethoven, as well as their own music. They gather in music schools covered with chipped paint and broken floor boards (if not bullet holes) to practice and to dream of becoming great musicians.
With no money, no connections, and few opportunities, these musicians have little hope.
My name is Hannah Schneider, and last year I launched an initiative to meet these musicians and bring them a flicker of the hope they deserve. I ventured into the Republic of Adygea to gather promotional recordings of these musicians. Most importantly, I recorded all of these musicians to share both their music and their stories with all of you.
Over the next few weeks, prepare to meet a group of exceptional young people who overcome the odds to pursue their love of music.