Ilyas Malayev

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Ilyas Malayev
Grave of Ilyas Mallayev with an homage to his beloved instrument, the tambur, carved into the stone at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Queens, NY, USA
Background information
Birth name Ильямани Маллаев
Born (1936-01-12)January 12, 1936
Mary, Turkmen SSR, Soviet Union
Origin Kattakurgan, Uzbekistan
Died May 2, 2008(2008-05-02) (aged 72)
Flushing, Queens, New York City, New York, USA
Occupation(s) Musician, poet, playwright
Instruments Tar, Tanbur, Violin
Years active 1945–2008

Ilyas Malayev (January 12, 1936 – May 2, 2008) (Russian: Ильяс Малаев, Uzbek: Илёс Маллаев ) was an Uzbekistani musician and poet.

Malayev was born in Mary (then in the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic, now in Turkmenistan) to Efraim and Yelizaveta Malayev, a Bukharian Jewish family and raised in the Uzbek town of Katta-Kurgan near Bukhara. He learned to play the tar and the tanbur (both lute-like instruments), as well as the violin, and immersed himself in the shashmaqam genre. In 1951, he moved to Tashkent, where he performed with various state-sponsored ensembles, and became popular as a variety entertainer, performing comedy routines, his own songs and poetry and Shashmaqom excerpts. Tens of thousands of fans attended his stadium performances. He was later named "Honored Artist of the Uzbek SSR".[1]

In 1994, following the breakup of the Soviet Union, Malayev emigrated to the United States where he settled in Queens, New York City along with thousands of other Bukharian Jews. Although it was a considerable step down from his fame and popularity in Uzbekistan, Malayev emigrated as he was unable to have his poetry published in his homeland, a restriction he suspected was due to either anti-Semitism or the state of the Soviet cultural bureaucracy.[2] He was granted U.S. citizenship on November 15, 2001.[3]

Malayev died on May 2, 2008, aged 72, after suffering from pancreatic cancer.[1]

On May 29, 2011, in Queens, NY, USA, an honorary concert celebrating Ilyas' 75th year in his memory was held where various Bukharian Jewish and Uzbek performers gave tribute to the virtuoso.


  1. ^ a b Grimes, William: Ilyas Malayev, 72, Uzbek Musician and Poet, Dies, The New York Times, May 7, 2008.
  2. ^ Dugger, Celia W.: Uzbeks' Classical Master Reclaims Role in Queens, The New York Times, February 27, 1997.
  3. ^ Brawarsky, Sandee: Central Asian Jews Create 'Queensistan', The New York Times, November 16, 2001.

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