From the times immemorial, birth of a child in an Uzbek family has been a special and important event. The rites bound to a traditional holiday ‘beshik tui’ and lullabies bearing some magic sense have accompanied it. In the songs, the people expressed not only their hopes for the child’s happy future, but they were also introducing their national and spiritual traditions to the growing generation.
In the ancient Zoroastrian religion that was most common between the second and the first millennia B.C., among the multitude of gods the most worshipped was Anahit, the inheritress of the human race. Terracotta statues of Goddess Anahit had their local specificities in Koi-Krylgan Kala, Bukhara and Samarkand. In Samarkand Anahit turned up to be young, in Bukhara she was more mature.
In 1941, the Samarkand archaeological expedition of the Jubilee Committee named after A. Navoi found the first terracotta Anahits under the vault floor of the shaft near Bibi-Hanum Mausoleum. Hellenism and local traditions interlace in Anahita’s portrayals, namely, the female figures display similar postures with the similar attributes in the hands – a tulip, a pomegranate fruit (symbol of fertility) and a newly born child at their feet.
The ancient Zoroastrian book ‘Avesta’ (7th century B.C.) contains plentiful hymns – motets of goddess Anahit, the legend says the birth of a child depended on her. We find mentioning of the lullaby songs named ‘Balu-balu’ in Mahmud Kashgari’s treatise ‘Devonu Lugat Turkyi’ and in the works of A.Navoi ‘Farhad and Shirin’ and Ibn Sino ‘On the Art of Poetry”.
People believe that kindness, peace and humanity will be prospering, and beautiful people, great warriors, rulers, poets and wise men will be born in the country where lullaby songs are heard. Ibn Sino wrote, “To raise a worthy man, it is necessary to adhere to two things from childhood: first – to slightly rock a child; second – necessarily sing lullaby songs for him before sleep”. Lullabies live among the people; they possess huge moral and aesthetic capacity.
‘Alla’ lullaby tradition has been preserved thanks to a versatile talented singer, remarkable performer of folk songs and classical makoms, the People’s Actress of Uzbekistan Habiba Akhunova. Her repertoire included both roles from the plays by the Uzbek authors – Nurkhon (‘Nurkhon’), Zulfia (‘Vatan Ishљi”), Karomat (‘Toshbolta Oshiљ’), Oiparcha (‘Nodira’), and by the foreigners – Ophelia (‘Hamlet’), Desdemona (‘Othello’), Amalia (‘Robbers’ by Schiller) and many others. H. Akhunova was an ideal performer of lullabies. As for now, very few performers can compare with her in the heartfulness of the vocal performance of ‘alla’, sincerity, personification and complete harmony with the image of the musical song. The singer’s voice with its timbre of incomparable warmth and beauty, with its speech volume in all registers, seems to have been created for lullabies. Its melodiousness, impeccable purity of intonations, phrasing, richness of dynamism, unanimity of beauty and authenticity.
To honor deep respect to the folk singer, the sixth Republican ‘Alla’ Contest of Lullaby Songs has been held in Namangan. Amateur collectives from 12 regions of the Republic participated in it. Original performance of the lullabies is worth mentioning as every singer presented local traditions of ‘Beshik tui’. ‘Alla’ Contest demonstrated how rich and diverse are folk traditions and customs.
Folk-ethnographic collective from the Khorezm region (art director Kodyrberghen Ceidjonov) used such attributes like bread – symbol of prosperity, hairbrush made of poplar wood – to let the child grow slender and beautiful, stone as it gives strength of mind and character and soil transferring its fertility to the child. For instance, when performing lullabies, T. Yusupova applied old rhythms – usuli – reproducible by clinking of two pialas (teacups).
‘Beshik tui’ scene was finished with vigorous Khorezmean dances displaying various animals. Dancing finale (‘ufar’), that has become traditional, can be met in Khoresmean makoms existing in that locality.
‘Uzbek Oim’ collective from Jondorsky district of Bukhara region (art director Aslan Juraev) were excellent at performing their lullabies. Thus, Roziya Khamraeva sang lullaby ‘Alla’ that tells us about the old times when feelings of kindness, charity, philanthropy and justice woke up in the soul of a brutal and militant ruler after hearing a lullaby for the first time. The brutal ruler, suffering from mean vices, turned into a wise ruler who refused to continue the bloody war he had begun before and issued the order stating that since then beshiks would be made for children instead of military armors, shields and swords, and lullaby songs would be sounding for them. ‘Uzbek Oim’ collective lives and acts in compliance with the ‘laws of beauty’: gives charity concerts in boarding schools, charity houses and schools, renders material support to orphans, indigent families, disabled people and pensioners.
Folk-ethnographic collective ‘Sado” from Kitab district of Kashkadarya region (art director Khanumkhon Khasanova) was also original and interesting. Lullabies performed by this collective express traditional humanistic ideas of the Uzbek people concerned with peace and order in the country on which depend both the happiness of an individual and welfare of the whole community. Lullabies condemn war and violence, and praise freedom and independence. The song performed by Kh.Khasanova called to the gods asking to send people neither gold, nor wealth, but peace and order in the country for the sake of the future life that are valued much higher than any comforts.
Idea of peace and order is inseparably linked with the independence of the Motherland and freedom of the Uzbek people, and, thus, is heard in modern lullabies. Every mother wishes her child to live in a peaceful and prospering country.
Many lullabies performed by Shokhida Abdunazarova from ‘Zilola’ amateur collective from Altyaryksky district of the Fergana Valley (art director Rasuljon Narimanov) contain the idea of magic medicinal effect. ‘Zilola’ showed a scene where a bedridden child was healing by hearing the sounds of his mother’s lullaby song. Al-Farabi in his treatise ‘Kitab Al Musika, Al-Kabir’ and Ibn Sino in his treatise ‘’Al-urjuza fi-t-tibb’ wrote about medicinal properties of the motets.
‘Alla’ contest has demonstrated deep ideological and aesthetical value of the lullaby songs and unique forms of their performance. ‘Umid’ group from Jarkurgan town of Syrdarya region (art director Farida Khasanova) presented male performance of lullaby songs. The people know them under the name of ‘Khaia’; they exist only in this locality. Murad Khalizrov managed to display the beauty and warm-heartedness of the ancient songs.
Lullaby songs do not only praise peace, Mother and Motherland, they teach to respect elder members of the family. Combined with the national customs and traditions, they serve the source of spirituality of the Uzbek people. In many respects, ‘Alla’ Contest promotes it by contributing to the preservation of the national traditions of the Uzbek people.