Singing the Plate Song in Uzbekistan: Katta Ashula

Singing the Plate Song in Uzbekistan: Katta Ashula

The music of Central Asia reflects the many influences that have molded the region. From very ancient folklore genres and Shashmaqam (the refined court music of the late 16th century), to modern-day traditional music, all evolved around strong kingdoms, clans and khanates that ruled the area for many centuries.

In Uzbekistan, traditional folk songs are known as Ashula. Ashula reflects the diverse influences that shaped the region’s music as well as the inner feelings, hopes, loves and attitudes of the natives. One of the types of Ashula is called Katta Ashula, which literally means big or great song.

A dance performance in Uzbekistan. Photo credit: Peter Guttman

Traditional music and dance have played an important role in Uzbekistan’s history
Photo credit: Peter Guttman

A Cappella Plate SongKatta Ashula is performed by two to five singers in turns without music. The singers use a small plate or tray to regulate the direction of the sound. Hence, it’s also called Likobi Ashula, plate song, or Patnis Ashula, tray song.

The tradition of Katta Ashula is popular in the Fergana Valley, where many languages and cultures come together. Folk singers from Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have mastered this traditional style. It requires special training, a strong voice and the ability to improvise.

Preserving this Traditional SkillKatta Ashula singers are known as Khofiz. They undertake training from the Ustoz (Master). The songs and techniques are passed on from master to student in the methodology called Ustoz–Shogird (Master–Apprentice).

This oral transfer of folklore is still the main method of preserving the music itself and its spiritual values. It’s vital for students to get experience with a true master to absorb all the essential skills of Katta Ashula. After independence, Uzbekistan established special schools in the State Music Conservatoire and art colleges to further safeguard this performance art.

Katta Ashula is performed on special occasions like nikoh tuy (wedding parties), sunnat tuy (circumcision events), Navruz (New Year), and on other holidays. The lyrics of the Katta Ashula are taken from famous ghazals, poems based on an ancient pre-Islamic form of poetry that traditionally speaks of a higher love.

A musical performance in Uzbekistan. Photo credit: Peter Guttman

Women singing traditional folk songs, Ashula, in Uzbekistan
Photo credit: Peter Guttman

UNESCO honors Katta AshulaKatta Ashula, the unique song heritage of Central Asia, was included on the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2009, guaranteeing that this expressive art will not be lost.


Hear Katta Ashula on a Custom, Private Trip with MIR

MIR’s special team of destination specialists can arrange an authentic performance of Katta Ashula, along with an opportunity to chat after the show, during a custom, private trip to Uzbekistan

Contact us about our handcrafted itineraries by phone (800-424-7289) or email today.

MIR has nearly 30 years of travel experience in Central Asia and has an affiliate office in Uzbekistan. We have a roster of contacts that can take you to places that you didn’t even know you wanted to go. Our full service, dedication, commitment to quality, and destination expertise have twice earned us a place on National Geographic Adventure’s list of “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth.”

Top photo: Traditional music is a family affair in Uzbekistan. Photo credit: Richard Fejfar

PUBLISHED: January 13, 2016

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