A special event with a truly Central Asian flavour of music and dance was held in London in December. The event was aimed at providing an informal and enjoyable occasion for students and researchers following Central Asian Studies at London Universities as well as for anyone else with a love and interest of the Central Asian Region. The idea for a special get-together came up spontaneously, after a lively on-line discussion by followers of the popular Facebook group ‘SOAS Vostok Society’ organised by PhD students at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. The Group, with about 280 members, represents a student-led forum where the academic community and general public discuss and share new research and academic events related to the culture, history, economics and politics of Central Asia and the Caucasus. The Group’s members are passionate about this part of the world and happy to share latest news about the Region.

The idea about a Central Asian get-together around a dastarkhan was born during a very lively discussion about London places, where you can taste authentic food from Central Asia and Caucasus. Following an active exchange of information amongst the Group’s members, the choice was made with a small but very hospitable and cosy restaurant called ‘Pasha’ in South-East London. The restaurant can be seen as a small oasis, away from the hectic centre of London, giving you a real feel and touch of Central Asia, thanks to its friendly atmosphere, hospitality, music and, most importantly, food!

The group of about 20 people gathered on 4th December to enjoy famous Central Asian salads, delicious plov and manty, and a conversation about various engagements, both academic and personal, with the Region. The guests were entertained by lively singing performances by the famous ‘London Uyghurs Ensemble’ and its soloist, singer Rahima Mahmut. Sardor Mirzakhojaev, a well-known singer from Uzbekistan, was also there keeping everyone on their feet thanks to his ample dancing music and charming songs. Rakhima Mahmut put his heart into an authentic Uyghur dance. Guests enthusiastically joined the singers, dancing along with the memorable Central Asian music.

The event proved to be a wonderful occasion where people with an interest in Central Asia could meet each other in an informal friendly setting, and share their knowledge and experience on the region. Authentic food and great music were the perfect ‘ingredients’ to make it a really enjoyable and exciting evening. It is very much hoped that this initiative will be continued with other similar events in the future.

Text by Rosa Vercoe, Projects and Operations
Manager at London Centre for Social Studies