Turkmen leader instructs grandson to compose propaganda songs

ASHGABAT, TURKMENISTAN (AFP) – Turkmenistan’s autocratic leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov instructed his favourite grandson to compose songs reflecting “the rhythm of the country’s development” to mark public holidays, state media said on Monday.

Footage aired on national television showed Berdymukhamedov and his teenage grandson Kerimguly Berdymukhamedov catching up as they biked through otherwise deserted roads in the capital Ashgabat.

Although their conversation was not audible for viewers, a newscaster said that they discussed the school activities and compositions of Kerimguly Berdymukhamedov, who state media positions as musically talented.

Berdymukhamedov suggested the teenager create “festive music in honour of significant dates and other important celebrations held in the country,” the newscaster said.

“In this music there should be a reflection of the rhythm of the country’s development,” the newscaster quoted the president, who has made mass cycling events a core part of national propaganda, even during the global coronavirus pandemic.

Berdymukhamedov, 62, and his grandson – both dressed in chequered shirts – were later shown riding horses, another revered national pastime.

The leader noted Kerimguly Berdymukhamedov’s “decisiveness and zeal” atop the horse, the newscaster said.

“This means that the tremendous veneration of the Turkmen horse and the traditions that are passed down from generation to generation continue today,” the newscaster quoted Berdymukhamedov.

Kerimguly Berdymukhamedov is one of the few members of the presidential family privileged with regular airtime on national television.

Another is Berdymukhamedov’s 38-year-old son Serdar Berdymukhamedov – a minister and lawmaker who is regularly touted as a possible successor in the tightly-controlled republic of six million people.

State newsreels have in the past shown Berdymukhamedov and his grandson Kerimguly composing and performing patriotic songs together, with the younger Berdymukhamedov sometimes singing in English.

Turkmenistan is one of the few countries not to have declared any coronavirus cases and has continued to hold professional football and basketball matches with spectators in attendance.