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Chechnya bans ‘fast and slow’ music

9 April 2024
Culture Minister Musa Dadaev at a meeting with Chechen artist. Photo: Chechen Ministry of Culture

Chechnya’s Ministry of Culture has issued a decree banning all music that is slower than 80 bpm and faster than 116 bpm.

On 3 April, Chechnya’s Ministry of Culture stated that Culture Minister Musa Dadaev decided to introduce these restrictions on Chechen Head Ramzan Kadyrov’s behalf in a meeting with Chechen artists in Grozny.

‘From now on all musical, vocal, and choreographic works must correspond to a tempo of 80 to 116 beats per minute’, stated the Russian republic’s Ministry of Culture, adding that Chechen music must comply with the ‘Chechen mentality’.

No further details were provided regarding how the law would be applied. 

Ben Wheeler, a musicologist and co-founder of Mountain of Tongues, a label dedicated to preserving and promoting music from the Caucasus, told OC Media that Chechnya’s decision to restrict tempos in music was ‘puzzling’ and ‘arbitrary’.

‘I think the general assumption is that this rule is aimed at music perceived by authorities to contain elements of “non-Chechen” music. But from what I can find in the statement, Dadaev even cites the fact that Chechen musical culture was “varied in tempo and methodology” ’.

Wheeler also warned that the new restrictions could affect folk music and religious Zikr, a Sufi form of Islamic worship in which phrases or prayers are repeated accompanied by rhythmic foot stomping, clapping, or breathing.

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‘The canon of Chechen folk music, especially materials recorded during the late Soviet period, features a great variety of virtuosic accordion pieces performed at rapid tempos, far exceeding 116 beats per minute’, Wheeler told OC Media

‘There are plenty more examples beyond that, including religious practices such as the Zikr performed by Chechen Sufis, that represent intangible aspects of Chechen culture that would be in gross violation of this new rule’.

‘I would struggle to even guess what is going through the heads of Chechen authorities, except that they feel a need to more accurately express their desire to censor and limit the expression of Chechen musicians’, he said.

Wheeler also expressed concern about how Western media might dismiss the new restrictions as humorous or rooted in Islamic traditions.

‘There is a long and rich tradition of indigenous sonic expressions of religious faith in Chechnya that this regulation could also potentially limit’, he said. ‘So the reasons for it, and the negative repercussions it will have on musicians and Chechen culture, seem much more complex and insidious than they are being reported on internationally.’

Read in Armenian on CivilNet.
Read in Georgian on On.ge.