Boysun – historical and ethnocultural area

Issue #1 • 3179

The decision of UNESCO to include Boysun district of Surkhandarya region, Uzbekistan in the register of “Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” became an important stimulus to promotion of traditional culture all over Central Asia and elaboration of long – term strategy of its preservation and further development.

The efforts to reveal integral character of available variety of cultural genres and forms, to specify components, hierarchy, evolution and interaction of poetic and musical folklore, folk entertainments and art crafts have drew attention of the scientific circles of Uzbekistan and foreign countries to this unique area. The tendency to recognition of traditional culture of Boysun not just as a historical and cultural relict but equally as the important spiritual value of modern culture has come into being. Strategic location of Boysun on ancient caravan trade routes and, at the same time, farness from modern urban centers, what allowed keeping of unique traditions of folk culture, put forward a scientific task of complex research of this area as the integral historical and ethnocultural phenomenon.

Inhabitants of Boysun highly respect folk traditions and customs, songs and dances, crafts, rituals and historical style of national costume, which have been kept almost primeval. Just that rich heritage became a basis of, already traditional, the Open Folklore Festival “Boysun bahori” (2002, 2003) and International Scientific Conference on problems of preservation of folk culture hold within the program of the Festival.

Another important stage in all – round study and propagation of the Boysun cultural phenomenon became the Boysun scientific expedition (summer/autumn 2003) with participation of Fine Arts Scientific Research Institute, Foundation for promotion of culture and art “Boysun” and SMI – group through the agency of UNESCO Office in Uzbekistan and National Commission of UNESCO in Uzbekistan. Collecting and recording of audio, video and photo materials in over 40 kishlaks have given rich and interesting information on history of the region, ethnogeny, customs and rites, religious ideas, public folk entertainments and games, musical folklore, art crafts and architecture, folk oral poetry and its masters. Upon the results of field works of the expedition, in January 2004, at Fine Arts SRI was held a scientific conference, where were demonstrated pieces of folk applied arts, musical instruments and works of the artists from Uzbekistan and Russia.

Boysun rites and ritual music
Ritual music of Boysun, representing one of cultural values of the past and modern time, forms an interesting and important page in its art “biography”. Study of this phenomenon allows penetration into the deepest strata of folk art mentality and gives the opportunity to reveal essential features of musical and spiritual life of the people.

Musical folklore of Boysun has been forming for centuries. Various social and psychological features had absorbed elements of musical culture of the Uzbek and Tadjik peoples and reflected different functions concerning family life, economic activity, beliefs and natural phenomena. Majority of vocal and instrumental genres are connected with folk rites, customs, ceremonies, rituals and traditions. The rites combine everything that was accumulated in the culture of the people. They reflect a historical life of definite social-economic formation and, in some extent, form the spiritual world of the nation. The rite is not just a pageant, music, dances and folk games, or a field day. This is the history and culture of the nation in its being with rich traditions, where an important role belongs to social – psychological factors, religious rituals and holidays, standards of human relations and folklore (magic spells, keens, sayings, songs and melodies). Reflecting important social links between generations and their world vision, the rite is being preserved as the ethnocultural tradition. That is why ritual – theoric complex form a significant sector of modern Boysun ethnic culture.

A core of ritual ceremonies of the Boysun people has been formed by century – old and original ritual complexes: the first one is connected with the Uzbeks from the Kungrad, Qatagan and the other clans, in which economy cattle – breeding always dominated; the second one – with the Uzbeks and Tadjiks with economic orientation to agriculture. Availability of common ritual complexes in the cultures of farmers and nomadic cattle breeders gives evidence for their deep affinity as social phenomena. At the same time, it should be noted that the culture of down country inhabitants differs from the hillfolk’s culture. Even inside the same kishlak, especially highland, can be observed brightly expressed dialectic differences connected with the culture and language of the Uzbeks and Tadjiks, immemorially inhabiting the territory of Boysun district.

Rites of the Boysun ethnocultural area differ from the rites of the other regions of Uzbekistan. That concerns both the sequence of ritual actions and a list of its participants as well as a style of ritual music playing.

Rites as a part of spiritual heritage of the Uzbek people on its centuries – old way of being and development were absorbing and accumulating ethnic ideals of good, beauty, knowledge of the nature and person. Ethic and aesthetic standards of folk life found reflection in the rites. Creating them, the people realized themselves as artists and creators of spiritual values. Hence a majority of rites are so colourful and contain elements of entertainment, theatre, musical and choreographic art. By means of rites, a person can receive the folk art: songs, dances, games, music, etc. Here a person had the opportunity to realize better his best abilities.

Folk rites that were revealed in kishlaks and mahallas of Boysun include the traditional calendar ones (“Navruz”, “Boichechak”, “Iyl boshi”, “The first furrow”, “Lola – tulips gathering”), family and social (“Beshik – tui”, “Ugil il Sunnat tui”, “Muchal tui”, “Nikokh tui”, burial and memorial – “Guyanda”, “Sadr”), connected with human life way – from the birth till the death. Each field of family ritual practice formed its own circle of folk songs and traditional instrumental melodies – from simple to more complicated vocal and instrumental cycles. Original are cultic rites, which majority is connected with shamanism and Islamic cults (healing rites – “jahr”, “kushnos”, “alas”, etc.).

Rites and ritual music of Boysun are represented by wedding celebration – tui, accompanied by music, songs, dances, performances and games (kopkara, kurash, pieda ulok, kavzo, dogish, etc.). Evidence for that – songs and instrumental melodies and rhythms, absorbing music of different epochs and styles, various by character, content and playing style, and, what is especially important, having stable genre and stylistic logic.

The most stability, in aspect of preservation of traditions in the wedding ceremony “Nikokh tui”, can be revealed in the rites “kampir uldi” (death of an old woman), “kelinni sotib olish” (purchase of a bride), “kelinni tanlash” (to find a bride: a groom should find his bride among similar girls in identical dresses with veiled faces), “kelin salom” (bride’s bow), “kelin tazimi” (bride’s farewell with her father) as well as pageant-dignifying songs – “Er-er”, greeting-dedicating songs – “Kelin salom” or “Hazor ali”, celebration – “Al muborak”, pageant – ritual – “Kelin wa kuev kutlovi”, which are still preserved in a program of wedding ceremony and even performed by women in Boysun (mahalla Kuktepa and Ark usti, kishlaks of Tuda, Rabat, Nazari and others.

Especially festive and large in Boysun is the rite of circumcision – “Ugil, or Sunnat tui”, including a line of rites (mashalat oshi, utin oshi, tui oshi, non pishdi), performances and games (kopkora – goat – battle; kurash or olish – wrestling; eshak ulok, pieda ulok – goat – battle riding on donkeys and run; folk games – “eshik mindi” (to mount the donkey), “kulok chuzdi” (to give a tug at ears) and others. For example, in kishlak of Yakkatol we have observed the rite “non pishdi” (cooking of holiday water-biscuits) that involved all the kishlak’s women and their relatives. The women beat the dough and formed water – biscuits, which baked in two tandyrs (at that, it should be cooked over 2000 water – biscuits), then they were cleaned from ash – one man was doing this operation. Finished water-biscuits were put in specially prepared place. In addition, special meals were cooked for guests and participants of the rite.

Two days before main celebrations, another rite is held within “Ugik tui”. This is “kavzo” within the ceremony of “utish oshi” – pilau, where is solved a matter of procurement of firewood for wedding as the pilau is usually cooked by turn in three huge boilers. When firewood suppliers return from mountains, they are met by guys and children, and one man put on “kavzo” – clothes made of archi’s bark (hence the title of the rite “kavzo” – archi’s bark). All procession, dancing and crying out in rhythms of doira, is moving to the house where expects the celebration. Donkeys loaded with firewood follow after dancing people. During some time, they continue to dance in the courtyard, and then “kovzachi” are given the gifts and all participants are invited to the table to have dinner. This rite is still executed in kishlaks of Alachapan and Yakkatol. In kishlak of Dehibolo we were lucky to take video of the rite “kavzo”.

Especial action within the rite of circumcision is arrangement of performances – games of goat – battle – “kopkara” (observed in Derbend kishlak) and kurash – wrestling (in kishlaks of Sangchil and Duoba) where each winner gets gifts – prizes from the hosts of the celebration, absolute winner receives especially valuable prize – ulok (big ram or goat, or a big carpet). Riders and wrestlers come here from all districts and regions (for the quests from afar are prepared places for sleeping in neighboring houses, and the hosts of celebration provide food products for them). From early morning, ringing sounds of surnai, rhythms of doul (drum) and doira inform the quests and inhabitants of kishlak about starting of the celebrations. In Tuda kishlak we recorded surnai’s melodies “Boysuncha”, “Tuiena”, “Kungirotcha”, “Shodiena” and others, performed by Buri Djumaev. The Khudoikulov brothers – Abduraim, Zair and Batyr, which serve the wedding ceremonies in Boysun and neighboring kishlaks, performed traditional instrumental melodies “Lolacha”, “Duchava”, “Mavrigi” and others which we recorded too. They demonstrated variety of playing methods, wideness of breath and expressiveness of melos.

Burial and memorial vocal compositions “Yigi”, “Guyanda” (original laments) are still in wide practice in Boysun. Usually, they are performed solo by women, sometimes by a group without instrumental accompaniment in lyric – sorrowful and dramatically deep manner. “Guyanda” (sometimes it is called “Alamli kushik” – literally, the song of sorrow) performed in recitative deep manner of sorrowful singing, which we have recorded in Kuktepa mahalla of Boysun at Sharbon Shoimonova, born in 1927, presents a definite form of singing. “Guyanda” is more often performed within the burial rite, where speaking about these or those events of life a singer expresses his mood, feelings and relation to the event.

Until recent time, “guyanda” has been in a program of burial rite – mystery “Sadr” in solo – group performance, accompanied by gestures reminding a dance, which reproducing a ritual situation created necessary ritual – emotional atmosphere. In spite of declining years, Sharbon Shoimonova still participates in this rite. After washing of the dead, the relatives and friends gather around his burial palanquin, weep and mourn. Sh. Shoimonova as a leading guyanda – weeper is singing, and the rest – are keening, moving and dancing anticlockwise, repeating the words “oblo khu” according to the definite rhythmic formula. As informed the oldest inhabitant of Boysun, Holika Rakhmonova, born in 1912 (Kuktepa mahalla), “sadr” has been lately performed within the rite of “tazyah” at the burial ceremony of an adult girl or guy, during which was arranged a symbolic wedding and were performed the wedding songs (into the other world they should go as realized woman or man), and just after was performed this burial keen.

Chiefly, just in Boysun, on a day of the burial ceremony, the Uzbeks-Katagans (clan of toqchi) cook special ritual meal – “kora osh” (black meal) reminding shurpa, for which the bones of offering animal are never broken (kishlak of Kizil navr). Sometimes, on a day of the burial, all visitors are given money, and in the past coins were thrown on the top of burial palanquin (Machai kishlak).

In some kishlaks of Boysun, the rite of “rainmaking” is still preserved, during which they perform the ritual song “Sus hotin” (woman giving the water), which is going back to heathen, Zoroastrian customs. In the drought and at the early summer, kishlak’s patriarchs give an order to execute the rite. For that, the people make a doll reminding a scarecrow. The participants (men and women) with this doll visit all houses of kishlak singing the song “Sus hotin”, which melody is formed on two intonations: call – “sus hotin” and request – “emgir egsin” (flow down the rain). The hosts having heard their singing come out and water the doll; then they give food and sweets to the participants. The rite is finalized by collective feast, and the doll with kind wishes is thrown into the well or the river (Avlod kishlak). In kishlaks of Yakkatol and Kurganchi, for this rite the women use the hollowed pumpkin, inside which is installed a special unit from the cane (an original instrument giving a definite sound). Rotating this unit, they receive the sound accompanying the song “Sus hotin”. The process is finalized by watering and presents giving.

In kishlaks of Yakkatol, Alachalan, Pulkhokim, Kofrun and others they perform labour songs related to the rites of the first furrow (till now the local farmers apply wooden plough for land cultivation and tillage) and harvest gathering as well as magic and visiting songs “E rabbiman” (during the month of ramazan) and “Mirkhaidar” (in the rite of rainmaking).

Performance of cultic ritual songs “Jahr”, going back to shamanism and Sufi “dhikr” (lit. – God’s name invoking) is typical of Boysun area, particularly of Avlod, Sariosie, Machai, Kulganchi kishlaks and Boysun itself. In this case “jahr” (cry or loud) presents a healing rite, where the divine word, verses of Ahmad Yassavi in a form of recitative are combined with singing of some phrases and use of various attributes of shaman – bahshi (whip, dagger, hot ladle, doira). The action is aimed to healing of the insane, when the performer by means of word, melody and rhythm, force of his verses “jahrchi” intoruces into the patient’s mind the idea of recovering. Action, ritual, attributes, structure of melos accompanied by kobuz – in Kurganchi, by dombra – in Machai and doira – in Boysun as well as original plastic pulsation give evidence for ancient ties with shamanism, and, in its own turn, the use of religious texts and subordination to Islamic regulations – for ties with Sufism. For example, performance of “jahr” by Ismat – Sufi from kishlak of Sariosie, by Feruza and Sanobar Ramazanovs from Boysun, by Rovshan Abdullaev and Muhiddin Rasulov from Avlod kishlak. To the group of healing rites must be related the rite of fire or lightning curing applied to sick children – “Alas”; fixed in Avlod kishlak, curing of children by means of magic words – “Kushnos”, observed in kishlaks of Yakkatol, Sariosie, Avlodi, Machai, Kurgancha and in Boysun.

Shamanic singing is the most ancient form of religious-art culture basing on several permanently alternating strains. Their sequence, as a rule, leads to formation of intonation links of question – reply structure, which being performed in quick tempo promotes especial dynamics of shaman’s action (kamlanie).

The rites and ritual music of Boysun, as the ritual practice in a whole, are closely connected with calendar, family customs and beliefs. In a course of wide practice, they worked out various types of singing and recitative, which found reflection in art of performance and terms of genres. The characteristic parameters of ritual music as well as general features of traditional musical culture of the Uzbek people can be fully realized and opened just in dynamics of social and cultural functioning.

Author: Rustam Abdullaev

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