6 Obscure – but Vital – Aspects of the Undiscovered Countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania

6 Obscure – but Vital – Aspects of the Undiscovered Countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania

But besides their complicated histories and red-roofed capitals, there are other reasons to travel to the Baltics. Here are two striking elements for each of these yet-to-be-discovered countries that make them so arresting. Read More


Hear the Sounds of the Silk Route: Music of the Karakalpaks (VIDEO)

Hear the Sounds of the Silk Route: Music of the Karakalpaks (VIDEO)

In the remote desert region of western Uzbekistan lies the small city of Nukus. It’s here that you’ll find the famous Savitsky Art Museum, which houses a massive collection of banned Russian avant-garde art. On a recent trip to Uzbekistan, MIR staffers caught some footage of a traditional Karakalpak musical performance while touring the Savitsky Museum. The footage highlights two distinct musical styles and types of performers. Musicians once held a most important role in Karakalpak society, acting as both singers and storytellers. They were an essential part of special occasions and weddings, many of which lasted for days, sometimes weeks. Read More



6 Reasons to Visit Svaneti – Georgia’s Undiscovered and Unrivaled Mountain Region (video)

6 Reasons to Visit Svaneti – Georgia’s Undiscovered and Unrivaled Mountain Region (video)

Svaneti is a ravishing mountain region of Georgia, home of the self-sufficient Svan people, whose traditions and culture have survived for thousands of years, thanks to the region’s remoteness. Tell anyone down in the capital that you’re on your way to Svaneti and they get a far-away look in their eyes and admit they wish they could go with you. As untouched as it has been until now, Svaneti is beginning incrementally to change and modernize. The time to visit is now, before these changes sweep away the rituals and practices perfectly suited to an isolated and challenging environment. Here are 6 reasons Svaneti is an unrivaled favorite – in Georgia, and among discerning travelers... Read More


Singing the Plate Song in Uzbekistan: Katta Ashula

Singing the Plate Song in Uzbekistan: Katta Ashula

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. 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 - which is illustrated in this video. Read More


Travel to Iran: Traditional Persian Music and Drumming (VIDEO)

Travel to Iran: Traditional Persian Music and Drumming (VIDEO)

MIR Tour Manager extraordinaire Martin Klimenta is also an accomplished photographer and videographer. On a recent departure of MIR's Ancient Persia – Modern Iran small group tour, he filmed some footage of traditional Persian music performances in Tehran and Kerman. Enjoy this video of those performances. Read More


Center Stage: Kazan’s Legendary Opera Star, Fyodor Shalyapin (VIDEOS)

Center Stage: Kazan’s Legendary Opera Star, Fyodor Shalyapin (VIDEOS)

A MIR traveler shares a video of a Trans-Siberian highlight: Kazan, Tatarstan, home to Russia' legendary opera star, Fyodor Shalyapin, with a concert from his repertoire. Famous for his portrayal of Boris in Mussorgsky's opera, "Boris Gudonov," Shalyapin also sang folk songs, including a 1902 recording of "Song of the Volga Boatmen" that skyrocketed him to fame, earning a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Read More


Volya: Bringing Belarus to Seattle, through Folk Songs and Traditions

Volya: Bringing Belarus to Seattle, through Folk Songs and Traditions

Volya is a native Belarusian. She was born and raised in the capital city of Minsk. Now, years later and a continent away, Volya is the lead singer in a Belarusian folk group that she organized, VOLYA, based in Seattle, Washington. The singers proudly wear hand-made traditional folk costumes that were donated to Volya by Belarusian villagers. Watch her performance of the winter solstice song, “Kaza,” at the Northwest Folklife Festival in Seattle. Read More


Cultural Diplomacy: Jazzing it up in Iran

Cultural Diplomacy: Jazzing it up in Iran

The saxophonist at Vadhat Concert Hall in Tehran, Iran, took center stage in his vivid blue and white flowered shirt. A jazz musician and composer from New York, Bob Belden, along with his band, Animation, were the first Americans to perform in Iran since the 1979 revolution. 1,200 Iranian jazz fans celebrated the moment along with the Americans by shooting cell-phone photos of each other and cheering. Read More