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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chechen Music Leaves the Stage

For MTChechen rock star Sultan Makkayev performing at a concert in Grozny in 1992.
Head for the outdoor market in Grozny, and you will most likely hear one song blaring out from the kiosks. "Chechens, Chechens, a beautiful and proud people," sings Sultan Makkayev, one of the republic's best-known musicians.

But you won't hear the song in the Rossiya Concert Hall or other Moscow stages. Chechen musicians have been effectively banned from the capital's stages since armed Chechens seized the Moscow theater in October.

"Our people had the chance to go to concerts, but now there is practically no opportunity," Dzhabrail Gakayev, head of the Chechen Cultural Center in Moscow, said in a recent interview.

Musa Geshayev, the lyricist behind Makkayev's hit song "Moya Chechnya," or "My Chechnya," said there are at least 100,000 Chechens in Moscow, and they used to pack theaters for specially organized concerts with Chechen musicians.

"They [the authorities] are making it so that there will be no culture, no people left," said Geshayev, a former head of the Grozny Philharmonic orchestra.

He said he arranged concerts every month for the past four or five years in Moscow before the "Nord Ost" hostage crisis.

"We have good artists, no worse that those called the stars of Russia," he said.

"They are the most talented people I have ever worked with. They wouldn't be ashamed to play on the best of stages -- and not only in this country."

Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi acknowledged that Chechen music was not welcome for the time being on Moscow stages.

Speaking recently on NTV television, Shvydkoi said steps would be taken to return the music if he received a request from the Chechen culture minister.

Rossiya Concert Hall officials confirmed that Chechen musicians had often held concerts there but said the performances had been stopped at the request of Chechen cultural figures.

Ilya Korn, administrator of the concert hall, said the problem was the behavior of the Chechen audience.

"They don't know how to behave," he said. "When there are a lot of them together, they're brave and give us problems. ... They provoke our staff."

He refused to elaborate.

One Chechen musician said concert hall management should have nothing to complain about. He said a large number of the Chechens in the audience had connections with the Federal Security Service.

The concerts featured a wide variety of Chechen pop, rock, blues and folk music.

Gakayev said there are no songs about Chechen rebels.

"Most of the songs are about love, love for the homeland, the land of your fathers and your ancestors, your mother," he said in an interview.

"There is also a lot of sadness," he said, referring to songs about the deportation of thousands of Chechens to Kazakhstan in World War II.

But what makes Gakayev sad these days is that he can no longer take to the stage in his adopted city.