Popular Culture in Turkic Asia and Afghanistan: Performance and Belief abstracts for the third symposium and workshop of the ictm study group on music of the turkic speaking world, I -2 december, 2012, cambridge, uk abstracts abdurahman


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Popular Culture in Turkic Asia and Afghanistan:

Performance and Belief




ABDURAHMAN, Gulnara (National University of Arts, Astana, Kazakhstan)

New images of Kazakh traditional songs: The contemporary state of traditional Kazakh songs

For centuries, a performed song was the most popular and favourite genre of the Kazakh people. It was the bearer of their spirituality and national identity, the foundation of mytho-poetic and musical thinking. In the genre of historical Kazakh song - the ancient ritual, vocal-poetic forms - music performed as a specific "magic tool", an intermediary between man and space, material and spiritual, present and past. The beginning of the process of desanctification of poetic and musical content of the song is associated with a period of professionalization of Kazakh musical culture in the first third of the 19th century. This period marked a new social status for the song as an independent genre intended for aesthetic perception, for "listening." Orally-professional song along with cult-ritual singing took its place in everyday life and culture of the Kazakh people. Awareness of the song as a fully-fledged artistic phenomenon was accompanied by its complexity and individualization, inclusion of compositional logic in the process of creating a literary text. The consequence was the emergence in the 19th century of a large number of high artistic song samples.

During the Soviet period of development of Kazakhstan's society, the traditional Kazakh song underwent a radical transformation. The socio-cultural modernization and computerization of society, accompanied by the persecution of religious sentiments, led to the extinction of authentic forms of cult-ritual song-creation. However, they have not disappeared entirely, but have rather moved to a passive, dormant state. Traditional forms of ritual singing of the Kazakhs (funeral songs and the wedding ceremony, for example) still occasionally appear in appropriate situations. They reflect a new cultural context and, to a large extent, adapt to it.

The process of creating new models in the traditional genres of Kazakh folk and folk-art professional creation (lyrical lullabies, edifying lyrics, songs, dedications and eulogies, etc.) is part of the mass of domestic song-creation. In contemporary musical practice of Kazakhstan, it is represented by amateur copyright song-creation. However, despite a deep genetic relationship between modern Kazakh amateurism and traditional forms of song-making, the poetic and musical language of modern songs in most cases is significantly different. It has changed a particular ethnic picture of the world and its perception, has transformed the principle of musical and poetic thought, and pronounced Eurocentric tendencies in the evolution of musical language.

AGA RAHIM OGLY SALAH, Mahmud (Baku State conservatory, Azerbaijan)

Daf-Qaval in holy books and religious ceremony

The name of Daf or Qaval is mentioned in holy books like the Torah (of Prophet Moses), the Psalms (of Prophet David), the Gospel, the Old Testament, and in Prophet Mohammad’s hadiths. Although Daf has a very old history, nowadays it is used quite regularly in various Sufi brotherhoods. In Zoroastrian ceremonies, Shamanism worship, and Sufi-mystic creed, the Qaval or Daf is mainly used to create a religious atmosphere. It also helps people to remain quiet and appreciate the music. There is also a relationship between the changing rhythm of Qaval or Daf and the heartbeat. As the heart changes pulse in different conditions, the instrument changes rhythm to create different moods.

AKAT, Abdullah (Karadeniz State Conservatory, Turkey)

The Influences on the Crimean Tatars Music in the Process of Change

Crimea is now an autonomous parliamentary republic which is governed by the Constitution of Crimea in accordance with the laws of Ukraine. Crimea, however, has been home to different nations throughout history. Its present cultural richness, therefore, has its roots in history. Crimean Tatars are an important part of this wealth. The Crimean Tatars were forcibly expelled to Central Asia by Joseph Stalin's government after the Second World War. After the fall of the Soviet Union, some Crimean Tatars began to return to the region. Now, Crimean Tatars comprise an ethnic minority in Crimea and make up about 13% of the population. Therefore, Crimean Tatars’ music must be studied in two periods: before and after the exile.

There are many networks in the music of the Crimea, and these networks can continue their existence even in small villages. At the same time, the effect of popular culture on Crimean Tatar music is increasing. The aim of this paper is to explain the variations in the music of Crimean Tatars from one generation to another. Through observation and analysis of their daily practices, it also tries to investigate such factors as people, places, and mass media that cause these changes.

AZEMOUN, Yusuf (Girne American University, Cyprus)

Musical and Religious Aspects of Turkmen Carpets

Turkmen carpets are known to be among the oldest carpets in the world. Therefore they have preserved religious properties from Zoroastrianism, Shamanism and Islam. The colour of the carpet is red (earlier, it was orange). This resembles the cult of light in Zoroastrianism. The main design of Turkmen carpet is called Göl. This initially resembled the star in the sky, or Tengri in old Turkic, the god of Shamans. The design has developed from an eight-winged star. Later it assumed the character of water and was called Göl, meaning a 'lake', thus resembling the cult of water in Shamanism. The beginning and the end of the Turkmen carpet is called "toprak" meaning 'soil'; they are respectively followed and preceded by a design called "alem" meaning 'the world'. This represents the Islamic thought on humans being created from soil and going into the soil at the end of their lives. Three sections of Turkmen carpets represent "lower life", "middle life" and “upper life”. Carpet experts always talk of the musical aspects with no concrete proof. The oldest name of carpet in Turkic is "köwüz" or "köwür" (preserved in Russian as "kovyor") which comes from "kopuz", the oldest Turkic musical instrument. The loom of a carpet looks like a musical instrument and is tuned like one. Also there are many words and expressions which support the relationship between carpets and music, thus making it possible to prove linguistically that a carpet is related to a musical instrument. 

BAILY, John (Goldsmiths College, London, UK)

Return of the Nightingales, the Afghanistan National Institute of Music

In the 1960s Slobin recorded a number of examples of a tune played on the fretless long-necked lute dambura. Since this composition seemed to lack a name, he dubbed it “The Uzbek Rag”, in part because it is associated with dance (Slobin 1969: 214–5; 2003: disc 1, #9). Baily (1988: 92) discusses this type of piece under the name of “Naghmeh Uzbeki” and gives an example played on the Herati dutar by Gada Mohammad, heard on the accompanying audiocassette (Example 12). Gada Mohammad asserted that the tanbur player Bahauddin in Mazar-e Sharif was responsible for developing Naghmeh Uzbeki. Again, the piece was connected with dance. In the last decade or two the Naghmeh Uzbeki type of composition has become one of the most prominent features of contemporary popular music both in the Afghan diaspora and in Afghanistan itself, part of the broader genre of Fast Muzik [sic] played, usually very loud, on keyboards and drumpads for dancing at wedding parties and other celebrations. It has become differentiated into the song melody Dard-e Dandan Daram (“I’ve got toothache”) and a series of variations known as Pardeh Awal, Pardeh Dovum etc. (“First Fret”, “Second Fret” etc). This paper will look at examples of Naghmeh Uzbaki recorded over the last forty years and reach some tentative conclusions about the political significance of this music from northern Afghanistan in the current political situation.

BAIRAMOVA, Alla (The Azerbaijani state Museum of Musical Culture, Azerbaijan)

Traditional Azerbaijani music: some peculiarities of modern interpretation

In Azerbaijan, traditional music and musical instruments are the symbols of national identity and tools for the development of national self-consciousness. Azerbaijani musical traditions and diverse genres developed and have become enriched over the centuries. Traditional and modern types of music are known to be sources of pride and inspiration for the Azerbaijani people. Nevertheless, in a globalized world, one finds two opposite ways of approaching tradition in the music of Azerbaijan, mainly Mugham, Ashigs art, folk songs and dances, and traditional musical instruments. On one hand, we may notice the increase in interest towards traditional music among some experts and authorities through a number of projects and activities. On the other, many traditions are losing their place among ordinary people as some people are no longer concerned about authentic presentation of musical traditions of the past. For instance, the tradition of getting a bride from her parents’ house has long been associated with the strong sound of wind instruments such as zurna and balaban, and percussion like nagara. In the twentieth century the clarinet was introduced to this set of the instruments, sometimes replacing the balaban. Also the tar, which used to be the leading instrument at wedding parties, is nowadays almost replaced by electronic guitar.

BAIZA, Yahia (The Institute of Ismaili Studies, London)

Music, religion and culture: a study of traditional Turkic music in Afghanistan

The traditional concept of music among the Turkic people of Afghanistan is closely connected with damburah (also pronounced as danburah), also known as dotar, a Persian word for “two strings” (do = two and tar = string). The damburah or dotar has a long history in Afghanistan. It has not only been the main musical instrument among the Turkic people of Afghanistan, namely the Hazaras, the Uzbeks and the Turkmens, but also among the northern Tajiks of Afghanistan.

Being located at the crossroads of Asia, music in Afghanistan did influence, and was influenced by, other cultural traditions in the region, from Central to South Asia. In modern times, music in Afghanistan has been specifically influenced by Indian and Western musical concepts, styles and instruments. The impact of foreign influences on music in Afghanistan has primarily been noticed in urban music, particularly in the capital city and major provincial capitals. This influence can particularly be seen in the structure and composition of modern music composed in these urban areas. This paper argues that, despite the fact that Turkic music has been influenced by popular culture, the damburah or dotar has maintained its traditional features and continues to represent the identity of Turkic music in Afghanistan. An important aspect of this has been the reverence and the spiritual connection between music and religion expressed through the damburah. Thus the paper also examines whether this traditional reverence, and the spiritual connection between the damburah and religion, has been maintained, or has been influenced by, modern music in Afghanistan.

BAYLAV, Cahit (Godlsmith College, London, UK)

Life and Works of Ottoman Turkish Composer Buhurizade Mustafa Itri Efendi (1640-1712)

This year, on the 300th anniversary of his death, the great composer of the traditional Ottoman Turkish music Buhurizade Mustafa Itri Efendi is being commemorated with concerts and conferences within and outside Turkey. Commonly known as Itri, he is regarded as the most important composer of his time. He composed many religious and non-religious works of various forms, in various makams. In this paper, after briefly summarising his life, I shall present the extent of his compositions and give more detailed information about some of his works, with recorded examples. This genre of music has been suppressed - along with many other Ottoman practices - at certain periods during the republican era in Turkey. In the aftermath of the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in WW1, the new Turkish Republic was being rebuilt adopting Western values and way of life, renouncing a cultural legacy going back several centuries. Traditional Ottoman art music perfected by composers such as Itri took its share of neglect in the process. However, this precious cultural legacy has lived on despite the pressures of westernisation and globalisation on local cultures as well as official obstacles and negligence lasting several decades.

CSAKI, Éva (Peter Pazmany Catholic University, Hungary)

The role of music performance of Bektashis rituals in Thrace

Bektashis are a heterodox Islam minority living mainly in the western parts of present-day Turkey. They are mostly recognized for the mystic ways they used in order to preserve pre-Islamic traditions like Shamanism combined with ideas of Christianity, Buddhism, and Judaism.

Music has a particular role in their secret gatherings where they whole-heartedly sing the poems of such Sufi poets as Yunus Emre, Ahmed Yesevi, Pir Sultan Abdal, Shah Ismail and others. In their gatherings, they glorify their greatest saint Ali and teach his ideas to followers. The communities that we visited on our fieldwork lacked the active participation of younger generations. Therefore, it seems that the tradition is dying out. However, similar practices among Alevi people keep us expectant of continuation of such practices. Between 1999 and 2003, together with János Sipos, we carried out extended field work among them. Our comprehensive book on their psalms and folksongs came out in Budapest in 2009.
DE ZORZI, Giovanni (University ‘Ca’ Foscari’ of Venice, Italy)

Jâhri zikr Used as Therapy for Teenagers in Nowadays Kazakhstan

The paper’s focus is on a very ancient practice, the jâhri (‘loud, vocal’) zikr, as it was adapted in 2003 Almaty, nowadays Kazakhstan, in order to cure teenagers and youngsters from different addictions. Zikr (Arabic dhikr), literally meaning ‘remembrance’, is a widespread practice among Muslims all over the world. However it is more a Sufi practice always present as the core of every Sufi Tariqa (path, way, brotherhood). In the Central Asian area, the main methods for the Zikr are jâhri (vocal, loud, manifest) and khâfi (silent, secret, hidden). Both of these methods have their virtues exposed in ancient treatises and both are traditionally linked to particular linguistic groups. The first one is considered peculiar to Turkic-speaking and nomadic peoples, the second to Persian-speaking and urbanized, sedentary peoples. During my field research in Central Asia, I noticed that this ritual was mostly, but not exclusively, practised by respected members of society, middle-aged or older, called oq saqol (white beards). Worthy of note is the musical and poetical elements of such zikr rituals: over the ostinato of the zakîrs performing elaborate rhythmical zikr-s, experts named hâfiz sing poems of mystical argument composed by well-known Middle Age Turkic language poets. As stated above, in Almaty the situation was radically different and the ambience was composed almost exclusively by teenagers. If the environment was different, one of the ancient therapeutic, curative, functions of jâhri zikr was simply taken to new life. This situation, and its implications, documented by personal audiovisual recordings in the field, will be the theme of my paper.

DUPAIGNE, Bernard (SNRS, Paris, France)

Popular music and religion in Northern Afghanistan in the 1966- 1976 period

Music has been present in every occasion of life in Afghanistan, both pre-war and today. In northern Afghanistan, one could hear the sound of drums announcing the break of fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. Tea-houses were the place of night-long singing by professional and amateur musicians coming from nearby villages. A significant number of Uzbek musicians could be seen in Mazar-i Sharif, Tash-Qorghan, Aqcha, and Andkhoy. Turkmen amateurs would play the nay near Aqcha or would sing secular or old religious stories. Shamanist rituals were even found around old Uzbek centres, like Tash- Qorghan and Sar-i Pol. The shaman would use a drum, mixing Islamic formulas with older utterings.

FIRKAVICIUTE, Karina (Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre, Lithuania)

Popular Music in Lithuanian Karaim Society – A Different Case

The paper addresses the issue of popular music among Karaim minorities, a Turkic nation in Lithuania. Karaim minorities have lived in Lithuania since the 14th century. Popular music is not approved of by religious laws that are quite powerful as part of the nation’s identity.

Until the late 19th and early 20th century the Karaim community in Lithuania had no kind of ‘popular music’. The demands of the younger generation, however, changed musical culture and led to the emergence of ‘popular music’. Its production was mostly based on borrowing popular motifs and songs from the local, mainly Slavonic, environment. At the time, this music became a very powerful tool for national self-expression and identity representation amongst others who had also begun to perceive themselves as nations rather than just religions. Later, at the end of the 20th century, history was repeated. The Lithuanian state regained its independence and all its ethnic groups and minorities actively participated in the processes of nation building, using basically the same musical ‘tools’ as 100 years ago.

However, the beginning of the 21st century calls for totally new, more authentic musical expressions. How and why do these relate to popular music? What solution could be the right one for the 21st century Turkic nation in Lithuania, consisting of 250 people?

GULLYEV, Shakhym (Kysyl Orda, Turkmenistan-Kazakhstan)

Turkmen Traditional Music at Home and Abroad

The historical motherland of contemporary Turkmens is considered to be the area of Turkmenistan where Turkmens form the majority of the population. However, the same number of Turkmens today live in different countries abroad (in Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Russia) for various reasons. To study questions of Turkmen national identity, traditional culture, and music, I visited many regions of Turkmenistan and Karakalpakistan, and Stavropol in Russia. Though I had no chance to visit Iran, Afghanistan or Tajikistan I have made some observations through listening their radio programmes and website links. My paper, based on audio and video material, will focus on such aspects of Turkmen music as traditional forms of performance and its modern transformations.

HADISI, Hossein (University of Cambridge)

Ballet Zahhak, the Dragon King, Its Compositional Methods and the Art of Naqqali

Travelling musicians, known as Ashiks, tell interwoven stories of love and epic heroes such as Kūr Oghlū as they improvise on and sing along with the Saz. This tradition of re-enacting stories, known as the art of Naqqāli, combines elements from folk music, theatre, dance and literature, and has roots in the local political history and the culture of the region. The subjects of Naqqāli are epics based on actual events and the mythological desires of a nation, embodied in an improvised theatrical performance. The Naqqāl, usually a travelling musician, typically gathers people around by standing on a podium, in the middle of the bazaar or a tea-house, for instance, and attracts his audience by reciting poetry from the familiar ancient texts. He and his side act(s) re-enact stories that are well known to the audience, but add their own twists to their rendition. The performers take many different roles, differentiated by intonation, theatrical gestures and stage positioning as well as various props. During each performance, usually one story is recited, which is centred around one character, such as a king or a hero. Just like improvisation in the music of the region, Naqqāli is an instantaneous response in the course of performance to the space, the audience, and the performance itself. Studying the improvisational methods used in the tradition shows the common structures and the mindsets behind them. Unlike in music, with Naqqāli the course of the story and the text dictate the direction of the performance.

In writing the ballet Zahhāk, I have looked at the basic modal structures and improvisational models of Turkish, Persian and Arabic traditional music and have married them with the traditional dances that are conventionally associated with the epics and accompany Naqqāli. In doing so, as a composer, I place myself at a deliberate historical (and even geographical) distance from the literature and its conventions and reconstruct a rhetoric that results from a reading of the epic of Zahhāk, from Ferdowsi’s masterpiece the Shāhnāma, that can be thought to be a logical contemporary continuation of the extinct tradition of Naqqāli.

There is also a strong connection between the context of this ballet and the opera Özsoy by Ahmet Adnan Saygun, also drawn from the book of Shāhnāma. Özsoy (Fereydoon) has two sons that are separated after birth by the devil and live in two different lands (Iran and Turkey), until they later discover they are twins. In the story of Zahhak, Özsoy is the hero who overthrows Zahhak and his childhood and youth is in focus. The end of the ballet Zahhak marks the beginning of Özsoy's kingdom, whose two sons symbolise the brotherhood between Turks and Persians.

HOWARD, Keith (London, UK) & MALTSEV, Misha (London, UK)

Siberia at the Centre of the World: Music, Dance and Ritual in Sakha-Yakutia

This film, filmed and scripted by Misha Maltsev and Keith Howard, explores the cultural revival of music, dance and ritual in Sakha-Yakutia, the northernmost outpost of the Turkic-speaking people. It places Sakha-Yakutian voices at the centre, to uncover the respect and pride that people have for their beliefs and culture; how they regard their land; and how the maintenance of their traditions fits into broader themes of global ecological and environmental degradation. Focused around the 2006 Ysyakh festival, an ancient summer solstice and New Year festival that has undergone considerable transition since the Soviet era, the film contrasts memories and survivals, traditions and re-enactments. It asks how a small nation of 400,000 people has been able to preserve olonkho, one of the most significant oral epics in the world that UNESCO in 2005 recognised as a ‘Masterpiece in the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Mankind’; how the khomus (jew’s harp) has taken on national iconicity; and how particular styles of singing and dancing have been maintained. It quickly becomes apparent that shamanism, although now practised by very few, has, unlike in Siberia further south, resisted the influence of western New Age groups, but retains great power, while many Sakha work as healers, still using the khomus and sung algys (blessings).

IMAMUTDINOVA, Zilya (State Arts Study Institute, Moscow, Russia)

The Transformation of Muslim Religious Musical Genres at the Beginning of the 21st Century: Maulid in the Culture of the Ural-Volga Tatars and Bashkirs

Religious musical genres are quite important in the popular culture of Muslims. Most of the changes in the forms and styles of religious music, however, take place outside the mosques. Two factors have been essential in shaping this culture. Firstly, during Soviet times there were severe prohibitions on religious musical forms, and secondly the new religious musical forms were greatly influenced by modern European (Russian) popular culture. My research examines the changes in the genre of Maulid, which historically developed in various Muslim cultures to celebrate the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. I shall present recordings which illustrate various forms of the functioning of the genre in the culture of Russia’s contemporary Muslim Turks (Tatars and Bashkirs). I shall highlight the variability of attitudes to Maulid, which also influenced general stylistics and regional expansion of this genre in the Islamic world.

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