On the Issue of Tarona Studies

Issue #3-4 • 1027

Throughout the centuries creative resources of Uzbek maqom developed, grew richer and to a certain extent changed their form. Despite some major research available, contemporary maqom studies still have many musical and performance pieces that have not been adequately looked into. In our view, tarona, as an element of vocal maqom, can be placed among their number.

It is known that it was tarona that played an important role in the origination and evolution of major maqom cycles. Moreover, placed between the main parts, they are relatively simple in form, small in size and are akin to folklore songs, yet at the same time are the product of creative work of many bastakor generations. This article attempts at covering the issues of the origin of tarona, their role in maqom cycle and their musical characteristics proper. In this context, naturally, we will also consider dictionary meanings of the term tarona, as well as relationship between word and music.

To begin with, let us turn to a valuable source that contains information about tarona. It is a unique literary work created in the 11th century, titled “Kabusname”. The 36th chapter of the treatise reveals that tarona were known as early as more than one thousand years ago and satisfied spiritual needs of our ancestors (1, 121-b).

Regarding this type of songs and, specifically, the early stage in their evolution, a well-known Uzbek musicologist A. Khakimova wrote: “…There is no chance that tarona could evolve in the environment of prevailing tradition of solo musical performance – neither as genre, nor as artistic/aesthetic phenomenon. They evolved in the environment of a different cultural/ideological system – the system where collective vocal performance played an important social role, had tremendous ideological and psychological meaning and crucial ritual functions” (2, p. 53).

Khakimova argues that tarona were performed as religious motets during the period of Zoroastrianism. In his study on the relationship between musical art and Sufi teaching a prominent Tajik scholar A. Nizamov arrives to a different conclusion: “…In the manuscripts of Sufi scholars tarona were interpreted rather imprecisely, as ways and laws to attain the truth; refrains and melodic figures like yalla-lo and sadkayu dost that occur in tarona, prove that these songs evolved as Sufi music” (3, p. 221). Attributing tarona to purely Sufi music, Nizamov also suggests that certain tarona taken from Sufic “sama” were included into maqoms without any modifications (3, p. 224). It should be recognized that both standpoints demonstrating the diverging views of the authors have been presented as hypotheses.

Vocal sections constitute a substantial part in the maqom cycle. Uzbek and Tajik-Persian poetry occupy a major place in these sections. Thus, music and poetry, the word and the tune, interacting and influencing one another, constitute a creative layer that has intrinsic integrity. Originally, classic specimens were used as maqom lyrics. Specifically, in the early collection of verses, bayaz on shashmaqom, compiled in the 19th century, Persian-Tajik folk verses were used in tarona, and only in isolated cases they uses verses written by classical poets. Besides, according to some sources, for tarona authors often used unaltered verses. This peculiarity was once noted by a prominent maqom scholar I. Rajabov.

The word tarona translates from Persian as “song”, “melody” or “tune”. At the same time, in the aruz poetic system tarona is the name of a rubai metre. The great poet Alisher Navoi, when mentioning rubai metre in aruz, emphasized that these were composed in “akhrab” and “akhram” bahr (4, 5-b

Zakhiriddin Mohammad Babur is his work “Mukhtasar” dedicated to aruz-related topics, describes the tarona form within the rubai metre: “You should know”, he stresses, “that rubai consist of two beit which are called tarona. Its meter in bahr is khazaj. This verse metre was particularly appealing, and masters often employed it. This element belongs to the poetry of non-Arab nations” (5, 55-b). S. Ganieva, a well-known contemporary literary critic, adds to this characteristic: “It should be noted that these features of rubai genre are typical of a period when aruz prevailed in poetry. Whereas content was disclosed in a compact and laconic form and philosophic generalizations, being deep, fit into four-line verses, poems, to a certain extent, acquired the features of rubai. Therefore, one should be mindful of the fact that rubai evolved on the basis of folk four-line verses” (4, 5-b).

Most poetic pieces belonging to the rubai genre were rhymed based on the a-a-b-a principle, i.e. lines 1, 2 and 4 were “paired”. In the rubayats of some poets all four verses were rhymed based on the a-a-a-a principle. This type of rubai was called tarona.

Whereas in music the term tarona is used in a broad sense, meaning “song”, “melody” or “tune”, in poetry it was interpreted as “clarity” or “harmony” (4, 4-b). This means that four-line rubai which stood out by their clarity and somewhat “melodious” exposition received a popular name tarona. As mentioned earlier, tarona has originally meant folk or popular song. In similar cases the name could also be used to refer to the specimens of poetic genre. Besides, “the term survived until our days as a generalized notion that denotes a specific genre included into maqom cycle as a certain element in its vocal section” (6, 8-b).

Finding support in available sources, we can observe how tarona changed in form, genre and content throughout centuries. Let us focus on tarona and some other related musical forms. As an example, let us turn to a treatise by the unknown author of the 15th century titled “The Forms of Musical Pieces” (7, pp. 3-9) and an essay written by an eminent 17th century scholar and musician Dervish Ali Changi (8, p. 210).

In treatises created in the 15th century, on the matters of genre their authors were guided by comments of a then famous scholar Khoja Abd-al Kadyr Maragi who lived in the times of Amir Temur. During that period, tarona, along with genres kavl, savt and amal, were part of a four-section cycle called navba. Based on documentary evidence, tarona was the third section of the cycle performed with the text of poetic rubai in Arabic and Persian languages, while rhythmics were always based on “sakil ul-avval”, “sakil us-soniy” or “kush ramal”.

In tarona parts called mukaddima (tarika) and bozguy (tashiya) were mandatory, whereas the use of melisma was optional. Meanwhile, it is important that forms described in this manuscript are also mentioned in the treatise by Dervish Ali created two centuries later. Yet the positioning of selected sections varies: part I of navba that was considered to be kavl, is written in a way similar to basit. Basit, in its turn, being a formally complete piece, was based on the rhythms of “sakil ul-avval”, “sakil us-soniy” and “sakil ur-ramal”. According to Darvesh Ali, kavl was different from the form kor only in the use of a different usul. In the kor structure there was neither an instrumental prelude, miyonkhona (this section did not exist in kavl either), nor bozguy, yet the piece could not be imagined without an instrumental opening known as zayl. This is one of the important factors that distinguished this form from others.

Among the tunes, naksh are oriented towards minor forms and were linked to rubai and beit. In this connection, Darvesh Ali noted another kind of naksh – “sunbuli”. According to Maragi, this piece is akin to “matla ul-amal” and uses the miyonkhona and bozguy sections. In other words, the content of one ghazal was conveyed freely and then it was possible to move to another ghazal. Indeed, the description of the characteristics of ancient genres in the manuscript of the unknown 15th century author does not fully comply with what is said in the treatise of Darvesh Ali Changi. For instance, there are differences in the principles of form structuring.

Certain contradictions are natural, for the authors lived in different time, and one can assume that in the process of historical evolution the musical forms could have changed substantially and acquired different features. For example, in the unknown author’s manuscript the kavl structure is similar to the “basit” form; whereas in Changi’s description kavl is more akin to kor.

Let us note that with time and changing environment the professional music of oral tradition acquired different characteristics. That is why the nature of some musical forms, including tarona-like forms, is presently understudied. In their turn, ancient forms included in the maqom cycle, despite having external and internal features similar to tarona, can also possess characteristics which are not inherent in tarona.

The number and positioning of tarona inside maqoms kept changing and reached us in several options. For example, a collection and a manuscript compiled in early 19th century titled “Bukhara Musical Treatise” that was rewritten by an unknown author in 1936, unlike contemporary shashmaqom editions, evidences a wide use of amal and suvora forms.

It then becomes evident that on the basis of available documents it is possible to restore the structure of tarona and their positioning. The principle of studying tarona relative to usul could have been derived from comparison to data given in the book by Fitrat titled “The History of Uzbek Classical Music”.

Literary sources confirm that a certain section that followed the main shube was called tarona; the 2nd, 3rd and 4th tarona were called amal or amalot. Parts with these names were positioned only after sarakhbor. Practically in all maqoms (except Rost maqom) suvora that was very common among tarona, as well as suvorai digarash usually appeared as the first tarona after the main shube.

From the 19th century bayoz and the unknown author’s manuscript dating late 19th – early 20th century it has become known that besides vocal tarona, maqoms also comprised amal and suvora.

Among maqom tarona one can find a form that has a uniquely complex time: 13/4. It should be recognized that in the available musical notation this doira rhythm is presented as alternating simple times: 2/4+3/4, which does not at all reconcile with the nature of its stressed and unstressed bits. This usul, according to Fitrat’s description, matches the “suvoriy” formula. As known, most of maqom section names are usul-oriented; this situation can be also observed in tarona. If, according to the unknown 19th century author, suvora occupied the position of the first tarona in a group, then one can conclude that in the shashmaqom structure that survived until our days it is the first tarona following shuba.

“Suvora survived in maqom as a section thematically linked to the “action factor”, or, putting it differently, this section being always positioned after a measured, heavyweight shuba, activates its melody-content aspect with the help pf suvora” (3, p. 229).

In this case we talk about both publications of music: “Uzbek Khalk Muzikasi” [Uzbek Folk Music], Volume V, and the Tashkent edition of Shashmaqom. In the Moscow edition of Shashmaqom such tarona were called “savora”. At the same time, in terms of their positioning, they are identical to musical notations of V. Uspenskiy and Y. Rajabi. In Khorezm maqoms the situation apparently is somewhat different: the suvora vocal sections occupy their fixed place in the structure. When compared to the Shashmaqom cycle one can also find common features here. For example, in Rost and Navo maqoms suvora appears as the second tarona of the main shube, and in all the remaining ones – as the first one.

One can argue that starting from the 20th century the positioning of suvora in Shashmaqom began to change, although tarona that were first noted by V. Uspenskiy in 1920s are similar to subsequent editions in terms of their rhythmic pattern. Besides, in the first edition one does not find genre names such as amal ans suvora, which are immediately related to tarona.

In conclusion we shall note that throughout the 20th century the usul forms of Shashmaqom tarona acquired somewhat different appearance compared to the one they had towards late 19th century. Also, a number of derivative sections that formerly had their own genre name, merged with tarona. As I. Rajabov put it, they all are now referred to as common-type tarona. It has to be reminded that amal and suvora forms used to have relatively independent meaning, as their genre characteristics were reflected in the aforementioned sources.

Summarizing the above, it can be noted that owing to tarona the most ancient layers of maqom survived until our days, which in a logical alternation of different specimens have found a qualitatively new streamlined tradition. That is why musical and poetic origin and structure-style patterns of the tarona cyclic nature have enriched the classical forms of maqomat, having become their integral component.


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Shakhnoza Aykhojaeva

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