The Alaev Family and the (Basically Invisible) Rise of Bukharan Groove

Bukharan groove music (also called Bucharian or Bukharian) is one of those cultures that's woefully undocumented, its contributors living in obscurity. The Alaev Family, a Central Asian Jewish group, have been trying to change that by globetrotting and playing spirited gigs all over the planet.

The ensemble, which features three generations of Alaevs, comes from Dushanbe, the capital of the former Soviet republic of Tajikistan. Approximately 20 years ago, the family moved to Israel and soon developed a sonic approach that sandwiches the music of Tajikistan with sounds that might be heard in the Bukharan region of Uzbekistan.

Eighty-year-old front man and master percussionist Allo Alaev -- who performed for 50 years with the Folk Opera Company of Dushanbe -- coaxes his flesh and blood to play uptempo, groove-centric jams by using hand-held doyra drums, Turkish clarinet and violin lines heard in traditional European classical. The eight-member outfit is also heavy on worship-centric, call and response-type vocals and curious time signatures.

While Allo Alaev migrated to Israel in 1991, many Bukharians flocked to American cities in the 1980s, eventually settling in places like Denver and Atlanta, according to a report in the Forest Hill Times. The newspaper also says that some of the best Bukharan musicians in the world -- Ezra Malakov, Avrom Tolmasov, Roshel Rubinov and Muhabbat Shamayeva -- live in Queens, unbeknownst to neighbors.

Guess that means it's up to The Alaev Family, who performed to a sold-out house in Chicago in 2006, to expose American audiences to Bukharan groove. After making its West Coast debut on August 2 at Los Angeles's Skirball Cultural Center, the ensemble will give it a go at Houston's Asia Society on August 4.

According to the Asia Society event flyer, "Don't forget your dancing shoes." We agree. If anything, you might bring a spare pair to replace the originals that might get all worn out.

The Alaev Family is scheduled to perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, August 4, at Asia Society Texas Center, 1370 Southmore Boulevard. Tickets cost $20 for Asia Society members, $25 for nonmembers. More information can be found at the Asia Society Texas Center Web site.

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