The History of One Children’s Song (On the Continuity of Musical Tradition)

Issue #3 • 1215

Photo by A. Shepelin

In traditional folklore of many nations the image of a springtime rain is closely associated with notions about purification and renewal of nature. It was the subject of special greeting hail-songs often performed by children. One Uzbek children’s hail-song, chaqiriq, calling the rain has survived; it is titled “Yomghir Yoghaloq” (“The Rain is Falling”) and has several performance versions. Here is the most renowned of them:

The rain is falling
Like from goat’s udder
The rich-man’s son
Has a belly like a balloon

The bouncing rhythm and playful, colourful metaphors of the song vividly transmit the picture of frisky children, chanting under the splashes of springtime rain, warm as fresh milk.

This hail-song acquired a second life in the Sabir Babaev’s song of the same title, with lyrics by Kuddus Muhammadi, created in early 1950s. The authors had been able to keep the optimistic mood and rhythm of the folklore specimen, failing, however, to offer metaphors as powerful:

The rain is falling -
The grasses will bloom.
Now the seeds
Will grow ears.

The composer managed to intensify the game origin through careful choice of polyphonic means (sound-imitation for the drumming sound of rain drops; clear key with authentic type of chord associations; transparent harmonies; major key, etc.). Simple and clear verses of the song, the melody that is easy to remember, appealing and clear text, and frequent radio rotation facilitated its quick entering into children’s repertoire and staying there. The good proof of how solidly this piece entered into children’s musical life was the inclusion of the song into the program of stage performance called “Musical Teahouse” in 1987, more than thirty years on.

In Part IV of the program the song figured under the title “Yashasin dala”, next to the arrangements of authentic folklore specimens. Domestic composers seldom practice secondary folklorisation of a piece with a known author, and this example shows that the author “hit the spot” in the range of children’s needs and interests. It is also apparent that the song’s longevity was secured by a good balance of traditional and “European” means of musical and image expression found by S. Babaev.

Another version of interpreting ancient children’s hail-song that appeared early in a new century is the song “Quvnoq yomghir” (“Merry Rain”) by a well-known children’s composer Avaz Mansurov. It has a very apt lyrics base (poet Anvar Obijon) saturated with folklore motifs, onomatopoeic elements and musical images. The rain likened to an infant that wet “the great wide world” plays the strings of reed, dutar of grain ears, roof-drums and the changa of springtime leaves. Energetic, explosive refrain, naqarot that consists of two pentasyllables (the hail-song formula) is positioned next to narrative octosyllabic strophes, creating a peculiar play of verse rhythms.

Based on imagery and structure of the poem, Mansurov enriches them with devices taken from the musical heritage and composing practice. Similar to what Fergana yalla did, the composer places introduction before refrain, thus giving them different types of figurativeness. Sprightly refrain contrasts with lyrically pacifying chants that are akin to lullabies, alla (because the rain in the song is a baby – chaqaloq). This contrast is a derivative “legitimized” by tradition, for the initial “hailing” intonation of the refrain – an ascending fourth extended to the sixth that is sung around – matches the lyrical type of themes developed in the Uzbek school of composition (for instance, the same intonation forms basis for the leitmotif of love and happiness in a musical drama “Momo yer” by Ik. Akbarov, as well as for the opening phrase in Hoja Darga arioso from the opera “The Tricks of Maysara” by S. Yudakov).

At the same time the song is filled with features of contemporary popular performance style: the techniques of jazz swing in the accompaniment go well with sharp rhythms in the vocal line; saturated chords and colourful harmonies emphasize the expressiveness of the melody, and effective performer’s presentation turns the song into a striking concert number. Will it have a life as long as its predecessor? Only the time will tell. For us it was important to note that the threads of springtime rain, the symbol of renewal and childhood, have stretched from the depth of centuries to the present day, connecting epochs and playing with new colours.

We have accustomed to consider tradition the great musical heritage of our forefathers. Yet now is the time to contemplate the art of the previous generation of Uzbekistan’s composers as a new tradition that evolved during the 20th century. Their lot was the challenges of creating a musical language that would naturally combine the specificities of Uzbek monodia and European polyphony. Telling the history of one children’s song, we tried to demonstrate continuity and development of both (essentially one) traditions in the art of contemporary domestic composers.

Zulfia Muradova

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