Ritual songs of Surkhan

Issue #1 • 1537

Rite of “Kelin salom”

A ritual is a definite symbolical action which is carried out by a person, family and community. It is connected with major events of the life and human activity such, as birth, wedding, funeral, commemoration, planting or harvesting and others. Rituals have been developing for centuries.

Folklore as alive and developing phenomenon has huge opportunities to transfer traditional experience. An important condition of its preservation is formation and development of different genres and genre system in general. Some traditional genres still live, the others have been lost and the third are being transformed and serve a basis for development of the new. This picture becomes complicated due to their permanent interaction and interference. Vocal folklore and, in particular, ritual songs are among traditional genres still living. Each historical epoch enriched them with new poetic and musical features, reflecting changes running in the society.

The problem of regional musical traditions is one of the first in today’s folklore study. A folk song must be studied in the area where it was born, has sounded for long and become an integral part of local culture. At the same time, studying of the most ancient national rituals, customs and cults is equally interesting. Uzbek folk song, having long history behind, lives today, keeping primordial traditions of performance, style and musical-poetic principles. In spite of Uzbekistan musical folklore contains a number of local variants, it keeps some general cultural basis. Folklore of Surkhan was forming during several centuries. It forms a specific branch of national art, at the same time keeping major features of Uzbek culture in general. Musical folklore, in particular, ritual songs reflect features of social and geographical conditions, their close connection with ancient cults, beliefs and religions (totemism, animism, shamanism and Islam).

Rite of “Kelin salom”

In the past, Surkhandarya region of Uzbekistan was a part of ancient Bactria, Kushan Empire and medieval Tokharistan successively. Ancient songs, legends, fairy tales and dastansh&vt fixed its history. Folklore of Surkhan is as pure as its spring water, allaying thirst of the people during centuries. Specifity of the region and its ethnic structure influenced formation of the genre system of vocal and instrumental folklore. The art of the people living in mountains differs from the art of the valley. In particular, differences concern rituals and customs in such mountain kishlaks, as Hufor, Nilu, Honjiza, Debodom, Ushar, Pojur, Sina, Kuyavsu, Chagam, Shar-shar, Togchiyan, Boysunobod, Derbend, Boysun, Panjob and Sairob, where ancient wedding rituals, calendar ceremonies and shamanistic actions are still in practice. Traditional folk songs reveal two layers, which are much differed in content, poetic and musical form as well as in style of performance. These are ancient ritual songs connected with the archaic ceremonies and traditions and comparatively new folk songs. Ancient vocal traditions still live in many areas of Surkhan. Ceremonies of the first getting into cradle (beshik toi), circumcision (sunnat toi) and wedding (nikoh) have not lost their archaic semantic function. They bear traces of ancient ceremony of initiation. The same relates to some calendar and labour rituals as well as to songs accompanying rituals of rain, snow or wind making.

Sumalyak cooking on Navruz

Surkhan ritual and ceremonies were connected with cosmogony ideas and beliefs, which are traced in rituals and ritual songs of “Sust-hotin” (rain making), “Choi momo” or “Mirhaidar” (to stop the wind). They keep the rudiments of worship to patronesses of rain and water – Sust, or Suv Hotin and the wind – the old woman Holl and Haidar. We know that ancient people associated patrons of water, snow, wind, lightning and other natural phenomena with female personages (according to sacred Zoroastrian book “Avesta”). Some family and ritual ceremonies show worship to definite deities, saints and wizards. The ancient people resisted to forces of the nature and fought against them for the sake of family well-being and good crop. Ancient culture of shamanism and later Sufism integrally entered some healing and cultic rituals, including, “Jahr” (exile of disease), “Kushnos” (healing by means of magic word), “Alas” or “Chakmok” (healing by lightning and fire). All that is traced in ritual chanting, list of participants and attributes of ritual action. Archaic elements are characteristic to some ritual songs, for example, “Boichechak”, “Yo ramazon”, “Yorguchok”, “Urmak”, “Kush haidash” and others. They are performed on definite days and accompany working at milling or wool processing. Functionally, these songs can be specified as good-wishing or charming songs (songs -spells), which are closely connected with ancient mythical, heathen and animistic cults as well as with rudiments of totemism and shamanism. They make an ancient layer of Surkhan folklore.

Songs of Surkhandarya can be classified into some groups, namely, seasonal and calendar, family (wedding and funeral-memorial songs) and cultic songs. Each of the groups has own genres, which, in their own turn, have a specific circle of themes, melos, rhythm and musical dialect. They have fixed relation of a person to work (agricultural, cattle breeding and craft songs), to historical events, calendar ceremonies, family celebrations, love and fidelity. Genres of ritual songs vary from such songs as “Boichechak” and “Yo ramazon” up to “Sust hotin”, “Yor-yor” and “Dursi-dursi”, in which logics of word, music and musical dialects are closely connected with the local language.

Ritual songs of “Yozi”, “Kush haidash” or “Sust hotin” are being performed differently in different districts or kishlaks. For example, the ritual and song of “Sust hotin” (rain making) have some variants of stage crew and name – Sust hotin, Chala hotin, Talabi buron (yomgir talab), Suz or Suv hotin and others. In Surkhandarya the ritual ceremony was carried out in spring days since well-being of people depended on farming and cattle breeding and so directly to climate, i.e. rainfall in spring months. In fact, the drought could seriously deprive dehkanin (farmer) of expected crop and cattle breeder of forages crop. The ancestors made a big doll, got a dress of old woman on it and visited houses of kishlak, addressing to deities of rain with the song of “Sust hotin”. The hosts, having heard singing, kindly received visitors, watered the doll and gave donations. The ceremony was finished by collective dinner in account of gathered donations, and the doll was thrown into the river, accompanied with addressing to the deity of rain. In Denau, Sariasiya and Sherabad women participated in the ceremony. In Boysun, the women visited all houses of kishlak without doll, just singing the ritual song. The hosts watered them and gave donations.

In Shurchin district, the ceremony was performed by men, one of which took female costume on. He was a personage who was watered. In Boysun district, the performers use musical instrument of “kavok soz” from pumpkin and cane. The instrument produces a sound of “call” accompanying the song of “Sust hotin”, which melody bases on two intonations – call to the goddess and request to give water for irrigation. According to scientist B. Sarymsakov, “the doll dressed as an old woman lifted by hands highly is a symbol of woman who sacrificed for the sake of well-being of her family or tribe”, i.e. the symbol which had passed through thorns of history and time. Water, which the hosts sprinkled over participants or doll, “symbolizes their dream – pouring rain for which sake they sacrificed”.

Musical folklore of Surkhan contains a lot of songs connected with calendar and labour rituals. Here, hand mills, distaffs, water mills and forge bellows are still in use, what determined performance of such songs as “Oblo baraka”, “Urokchilar kushigi” (song of shearers), “Hup maida” (thrashing), “Yozi”, “Don septi” (sowing), “Kush haidash” (bull harnessing) and others.

Considering functions, performing features and subject, calendar songs could be divided into: songs, which are connected with public ceremonies and holidays – Navruz, Darvishona, Mehrgan (“Navruz”, “Sumalak”, “Lolajon”, “Boichechak”, “Sust hotin”, “Hei lola”, “Terna keldi”, “Holinchak”, “Yil boshi”, “Hamal”, “Navruznoma”, etc.); songs, which are devoted to seasons and labour processes -spring, summer, autumn, the first furrow, sawing, harvesting (“Shohmoyilar”, “Zuhra holla” and songs of dehka – “Dursi-dursi”, “Shohi naqshband” and others).

songs, which are connected with oriental calendar – “Yo ramazon” or “Yo rabinam”. The majority of these songs are in repertoire of folklore and ethnographic ensembles of Surkhandaryi, namely, “Boysun” from Boysun, “Chorkars” from Denau, “Chankovuz” from Shurchi, “Okar bullock” from Altinsai and others. Musical folklore of Surkhan is rich in genres of ritual music not studied yet. We think that recording of ritual songs and their scientific studying is equally important for revival of traditions, rituals and songs, but also for further development of musical culture of the region and Uzbek culture in general.

Muzaffar Naimov

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