Sunday, April 25, 2010

Notes on Bashkir Music

Like the Tatars, the Bashkirs distinguish between ‘long-songs’ (uzun küi), marked by free rhythm, highly melismatic melody, fragmented text and extremely extended final syllables, and ‘short-songs’ (kiska küi), syllabic songs in fairly quick tempo with more or less even note values. A story is basic to the long-song, with singers taking on the mood of the characters being depicted. Within the category of short-songs, a newer variety called takmak was developed in the 19th century, apparently connected with the rise of the accordion as an accompanying instrument and related to the Russian chastushka.
Other basic types of song include the kubair, or epic recitation, which was evidently dying out in the 19th century, the senliau (bride’s lament) and teliak (greeting of the bride by the groom’s kin), which are examples of wedding songs, and the newer bait, a topical song, for example a 19th-century tune on the subject of the introduction of tea-drinking among the Bashkirs. One highly distinctive genre not practised by other Volga-Ural peoples is the uzlyau, a method of guttural singing whereby the performer first produces a deep chest tone and then simultaneously projects of high-pitched melody line based on the upper partials of the fundamental, creating two-part music by a single singer. This technique, quite rare even in the 19th century, is paralleled among the Altai Turks, Tuvans and Mongols.

As with the neighbouring Kazakhs and Kirghiz, Bashkir instrumental music traditionally contained strong elements of story. Thus, players of the kurai (long end-blown flute, usually with four finger-holes) are able with their music to project a plot to listeners. Kurai players seem to be accorded the importance associated with lutenists among the Kazakhs and Kirghiz. They participate in contests of skill and receive high praise as wandering minstrels. The kurai player can perform in a manner analogous to that of the uzlyau song by maintaining a strong, steady, fundamental hum under a lively flute tune. Such a style can be found among widely separated players of open end-blown flutes, such as the Baluchi (in Iran and Afghanistan), the Altai Urianghais, Tuvans and Kazakhs (West Mongolia), and certain east Europeans, for instance Romanians, Slovaks and Serbs.

The era of modern Bashkir music began in 1919 with the establishment of the professional theatre and opening of the first music school. The first Bashkir opera was M. Val'eyev’s Khakmar, produced in 1940.


The opening concert of the festival
Potemkin Palace.
Traditional Bashkir music.
Nazira Gabbasova - voice.
RInat Kamalov - kurai.

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