Remembering Rustam Samarqandi Khojimamedov (1969-2020)


Photo courtesy Brooklyn Arts Council

CTMD was sad to learn that our dear friend, New York-based Central Asian singer Rustam “Samarqandi” Khojimamedov passed away at age 51 in April 2020 of complications due to the COVID-19 coronavirus. We dedicate this page to his memory. 

Rustam “Samarqandi” Khojimamedov (1969-2020) was one of the most accomplished Central Asian vocalists of his generation, renowned for his passionate, melismatic and virtuosic performances of the classical Shashmaqam repertoire. Born in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, upon emigrating to New York, he was an active performer for local community events and was featured in concerts at prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and the Smithsonian Institution. Samarqandi, a nickname meaning “the one from Samarkand,” was featured in a number of programs over the past decade presented by Center for Traditional Music and Dance as a member of Ensemble Shashmaqam. 


Rustam Samarqandi was one of the greatest vocalist I ever saw perform. His performances of classical shashmaqam and folk repertoire were spellbinding, and even if you didn’t grasp the full meaning of what he was singing about his voice was absolutely transcendent. – CTMD Executive Director Pete Rushefsky

Rustam Khojimamedov was one of the foremost singers of Central Asian classical music in the United States, with a beautiful, expressive voice and a tremendous range. He was a leading light of the younger generation at a time when many of the great masters who immigrated to the US had passed away or at the end of their career. He was known for his distinctive style, which incorporated the Persian yodeling technique called tahrir, and his masterful singing on such showpieces as ‘Qurbon Olam’ was a highlight of every concert. He will be sorely missed. Although I did not know him personally very well, I remember Rustam as a generous, affable, kind person who seemed to get along with everyone. I have many fond memories of presenting and attending concerts with Rustam. Some of my favorites are last summer’s concerts at the Smithsonian and an event at the Coney Island branch of the Brooklyn Public Library — very few people came to the library but he still sang his heart out! My best memory, though, is hearing him sing at a dinner at Shumiel Kuyenov’s house with a few other guests, just sitting around the table, our bellies full and our hearts full of joy.  – Evan Rapport, Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology, the New School 

In 2013, we had the pleasure of hosting a concert by Shashmaqam with special guest singer Rustam Samarqandi Khojimamedov in a program of music and dance from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. It took place within the framework of the symposium “Common Grounds: Dialogue between the Jewish and Islamic Worlds through Art”. For me, Samarqandi’s performance was the highlight of the symposium and concert and some of the most beautiful singing I have ever heard. He will be greatly missed.  – Joel Rubin, Associate Professor of Music & Director of Musical Performance, University of Virginia

Samarqandi performing with Ensemble Shashmaqam at CTMD’s Heritage Sunday Festival at Lincoln Center Out of Doors, August 2014:

Sachindara Navinna