What this website calls "the North" is shown on a map, outlining a shaded area with three sub-regions: Turkestan, Kataghan, and Badakhshan. To reach the north from the capital, Kabul, was an arduous journey until the Soviet-built road over the Salang Pass was blasted at over 11,000 feet in 1964, shortly before my arrival. Thereafter, you could drive from Kabul in just a few hours, but once you got there, there was still only one paved road, slowly extending over the ruts and gulleys of the former road during my stay. Towns (discussed below) are distinctive, each surrounded by satellite villages. Large stretches of empty landscape were dotted with huge mounds of unexcavated cities of the past. Pashtun nomads called kuchi crisscross the region with large herds of livestock, in search of pasture and trade.
In the west, Turkestan is mostly steppe, beginning as slopes descending from the mighty Hindu Kush mountain range to the south. Uzbeks and Turkmens are strong, along with the Tajiks and the many smaller groups. Kataghan, a central pivot region, begins where the road from Kabul descends into a well-watered foothill and plains topography that supports agriculture well, given enough rainfall (not always the case). From Kataghan east into Badakhshan, the Uzbek population falls off as the land rises towards a Mountain Tajik heartland, with many small populations of regional and culturally distinct groups, finally rising into the Wakhan panhandle, connecting the Pamirs to the Himalayas, home to the small Kirghiz band under the indomitable Rahman Qul. (The Kirghiz were scattered by the subsequent wars, some resettling to Turkey and others to Pakistani highlands)
The videoclip gives a mobile sense of the environments, augmented by the still photos. You can see how very narrow mountain valleys allow for slivers of agriculture and habitation. These fingers of culture merge into a wide palm of settlement as mountains give way to plains, arid or irrigated. The mountains act as barriers, keeping people apart and often help them to maintain separate identities and ways of life-including music. They also make it hard to invade and occupy, as the Soviet army learned. By contrast, the flatter, more prosperous zones allow for a lively cultural and commercial flow, with a quicker turnover of ideas, goods, and musical styles, but are easier to overrun. Nomads, or kuchi could only be filmed from a distance, due to their fierce dogs; the only times we visited them, I did not have the movie camera handy.