Traditional music in the art culture context of Uzbekistan

Rustambek Abdullaev

Intensive social and cultural development of Uzbekistan during the years of independence is one of characteristic features in the country’s life, where brisk dialogue of traditions in various spheres of art, including music is also extremely intensive. We can talk about a peculiar Renaissance of Uzbek music, about its active and diverse functioning in our era, about obvious updating of its stylistic and expressive opportunities. Revolutionary changes of Uzbekistan for the past 25 years have caused a significant change in destiny of Uzbek art culture.
Traditional musical culture of Uzbek people is one of the brightest representations of culture and mentality of a population in the history of mankind. The peculiar lifestyle associated with nomadic movement and sedentary living generated deeply unique traditional culture which origins go back to ancient days, at least three millennia that to a considerable extend also related to the formation and development of Uzbek statehood and Uzbek nation. The art heritage of the Uzbek people, which is rich with variety types and genres, has centuries-old traditions. In this huge heritage which is, as a matter of fact, historical memory of the people, its thousand-year spiritual experience, an important place is taken by the music differing in the pronounced national originality, depth of figurative and emotional contents, peculiar reflection of outlook, various aspects of everyday life, thoughts and aspirations of the Uzbek people.
The concept of modern musical culture of Uzbekistan is no longer identified with only composers’ works, as the traditional music still continues to function full-blooded. Furthermore, in the period of independence traditional national art endures the period of bright revival. At the same time dramatically enhanced prestige of the traditional national forms of music-making has in many respects changed the general situation in musical life of not only our republic, but in general also in entire Central Asian region, and placed accents in a new historically more true way where the traditional monadic genres are not only a heritage, but also the present.
A key feature of artistic culture of modern Uzbekistan is diversity of the manifestations of “art of sounds”, simultaneous existence of music of different cultural and historical eras, national creative schools, styles and directions (taking into account that Uzbekistan is a multinational republic) satisfying the artistic needs of various social strata of the society. Dynamics of musical culture is based on the development of national traditions in synthesis with traditions of world culture. The active perception of different national influences, creation of new musical types, genres and forms, in essence the system of arts, corresponding to new social experience of the people became the leading line of development of the Uzbek culture. Modern Uzbek music developed on the basis of national age-old musical-performing and creative traditions and has developed its own musical language using at the same time also achievements of the European and Oriental musical cultures.
In conditions of independent development of Uzbekistan the search for new principles of national identity, ways of comprehension of traditional and innovative musical and artistic concepts is actualized in musical culture of the country. This is, in particular, the State Program “Mankind masterpieces” of UNESCO International musical festivals, etc., that promotes formation of new methodological outlooks of understanding of musical practice, development of explanatory models of its development. Such approach has also wider scientific value because some typological features of development reflect the general law of transformations of traditional societies and their musical culture at the turn of the XX-XXI centuries, and Uzbek traditional music, which has come from the depth of centuries, is preserved and still exists, is a part of our modern phonosphere.
Lifestyle of the Uzbeks left a specific mark on formation and functioning of the main components of any musical civilization – traditional musical folklore and oral-professional music. They, being divided in settled civilizations by the spatial and spiritual reality, developed in a single continuum in traditional culture of the people and existed in the forms obvious for those who lived in the culture, but was not always clear for the external observer. Genre systems of musical folklore and oral-professional creativity of Uzbeks do not go beyond the generating it single field of culture. Bases of their formation is the objective reality, economic activity and life cycle with age stratification of the society (children, youth, adults, old men) whose attitude is reflected by the corresponding folklore genres (lullabies, labor, ceremonial, lyrical songs; not applied song genres – terma, komush, lapar, ulan, yalla, ashula, as well as traditional instrumental music) and oral-professional music (such genres as ashula, suvora, naksh, katta ashula, dastans and makoms). Carriers of the folklore traditions and oral-professional music, such as yallachi, sozanda, termachi, guyanda, halfa, honanda, koshukcha, bakhshi, hafiz, makomchi, ashulachi, etc., combined in their creativity various functions (esthetic, magic, communicative, socializing, etc.). The main genres of their creativity are ashula – a lyrical song, katta ashula – sublime song with a unique singing style, dastans – epic legends with their local nature of interpretation, makoms – highly developed vocal-instrumental works and cycles, , mavrigs – original song cycle, cholgu kuy – instrumental pieces of program and non-program purposes.
The Uzbek traditional music is an advanced system of national monody with centuries-old developed and crystallized musical and linguistic means, forms, genres and techniques. It is characterized by such art advantages as steady logic of melody-intonation expansion, acute sense of culmination (audzha), rhythmic ingenuity, harmony of big composite constructions, relief of emotional states, philosophy and sublimity of musical-poetic content, intonation expressiveness, beauty of melodies and variety of performing styles (vocal, epic, makom, instrumental). High level of traditional music, formation and preservation of complicated genres and forms became possible due to creativity of many generations of remarkable musicians, singers, storytellers and bastakors. Among them there are many artistically gifted persons, who, as a rule, perfectly could play on several musical instruments, compose and perform their own works, were versed in the issues of musical science and created scientific treatises. History has preserved names of many of them. They are: Abdulkadyr Maragi – a bastakor, musician, singer, poet and scholar during the reign of Amir Timur; Feruz (Muhammad Rakhimkhon Soni) – a poet, musician, bastakor, the governor of the Khiva Khanate, who did a lot to preserve and promote makom art in Khorezm; Khodja Abdulaziz Abdurasulov – a musician, singer, bastakor, ustoz; Ota Dzhalol Nasyrov – a musician, singer, bastakor, makomdon (sage of “Shashmaqom”), promoter of makom art in the early XX century; Yunus Radzhabi – a musician, singer, bastakor, ethnographer, organizer, ustoz, scholar, one of the famous propagandists of the Uzbek traditional music, in particular the Uzbek makom art.
If the problem of existence of traditional music till last decade of the XX century was in preservation of the repertoire, then now an important condition of its development and life support is preservation of its audience, experts and connoisseurs, schools of skill, that is its national “sphere of existence” and coexistence with other forms of culture.
One of the Uzbek traditional music features is unification of three large layers: the actual folklore music, or folk musical art, oral-professional music and creativity of bastakors. They are characterized by mass character, oral tradition of creativity, performance and development, as well as traditional character (the best samples are preserved and transferred as a tradition). The collective creation of the people is the musical folklore differing in versatility of subject and variety of applied and not applied genres – from simple children’s musical counting-out rhymes, instrumental tunes of karnay, gazhir, nay or chang-kobuz and ceremonial songs to developed in the melody and form ashula, yalla, lapar and instrumental pieces (a kind of “ancestors” of musical heritage).
A separate and peculiar layer of folk art is a musical life of women in which its own centuries-old traditions have formed: from lullabies – “alla” and wedding – “yor-yor” to epic legends – “dastans”. In Bukhara it is an original art of female-sozanda, whose repertoires mainly consisted of “mavrig” song cycle; in Khorezm – an art of halfa, where poetry, music, dance and singing are harmoniously combined, beginning from wedding and ceremonial songs to romantic dastans (respectively they were subdivided into halfa of “shoira”, “dostonchi”, “sozanda”, “rakkosa”, “kitobi”, “yodogi-honanda”); in the Fergana Valley – art of yallachi, original performers of wedding and household songs, as well as genres of “yalla” and “lapar” with the own accompaniment on a doira; in Karakalpakstan – art of baksy, bright performers of terma and dastans accompanied by a dutar and traditional three-stringed gidzhak. Women were carriers of a peculiar culture in the past (more closed, only in female circles – ichkarida) and at the present (more mass, at broad audience). They expressed thoughts and aspirations of women, preserving musical traditions. The ensemble halfa consisting of female singers is very interesting in this plan. They accompanied their singing with playing on “kul soz” (Russian diatonic harmonica which had got accustomed in Khorezm in the middle of the 19th century and became a “manual Khorezm instrument”) and doira, as well as dancing.
An important component of modern spiritual culture of Uzbekistan is the oral-professional music differing in complexity and perfection of the form, development of melody and richness of performing styles. Creators of this music that emerged in the Middle Ages are bright representatives of the Uzbek people who passed traditional mastery school of oral technique of training “ustoz-shogird” (master-disciple) – a sozanda, honanda, katta ashulachi, bakhshi-shoir, makomist (with all local versions and musical dialects). Genres of vocal (from ashula singing forms to makom cycles) and instrumental (from melodies to cycles) music of oral-professional creativity have a developed structure differing in the specifics, difficult means of expression and performing methods. This music is available only to high qualified singers and musicians, who have a creative gift of improvisation. Nowadays oral-professional music is preserved and exists in new historical conditions in such genres as mumtoz ashula and yalla, suvora and katta ashul, folk epos – dastans and makom arts.
The most important feature of Uzbek oral-professional music is stability and sustainability of the main types of creative activity throughout a long historical period of time. Such development of forms of playing music was primarily due to stable character of the socio-economic relations, stability of life and the major social structures. Constancy of the socio-cultural organization contributed to elaboration and long preservation of complex, but smoothly functioning mechanism of vital activity of song, makom and epic traditions, which provided constantly resuming process of transfer and inheritance of traditional types of carriers, existing forms, genre system, mastering of knowledge and performing skills. Thanks to operation of this mechanism artistic environment formed outstanding creative persons who, passing oral school of performing arts, kept further development of local musical traditions and not only in the sphere of life, but also in the sphere of modern music education. It is connected with activity of both professional makom ensembles of Tashkent, Bukhara and Urgench and amateur makom ensembles, 12 of which were awarded the title of “national ensemble”.
One of the main directions of the International musical festival “Shark Taronalari” in Samarkand (1997-2015) was a competition of traditional performance. Competitions of katta ashula performers (1984 – 2013), folk storytellers – bakhshi-shoirs and akyns of both republican (1977 – 2014), and international (1999 – 2003) value contribute to preservation and promoting of musical traditions not only in Uzbekistan, but also abroad.
Skill of bastakors is a peculiar institution of “conscious creativity” where oral professionalism predetermines creative activity and great performing skills. In the Uzbek art culture the bastakor (creator of oral tradition) became popular only if he had the own works marked with vivid bright personality. Based on primordial traditions, Uzbek bastakors have created such style systems in which not only melodic-rhythmic sides of musical language, but also composite thinking are individualized. At all traditional character of creative styles and forms of self-expression this layer of music possesses amazing art flexibility, and the creators themselves possess subtle feeling of intonational dictionary of the epoch and artistic culture of the time, as well as correct understanding and recognition of their own functions at a certain stage of development of musical culture. Traditions of such known bastakors of the XX century as Yunus Radzhabi, Tokhtasyn Dzhalilov, Fakhriddin Sadykov, Ganidzhan Tashmatov, Kamildzhan Dzhabbarov, Fattakhkhon Mamadaliyev are continued nowadays by Abdukhashim Ismailov, Ulmas Rasulov, Akhmadzhon Dadayev, Musazhon Nurmatov, etc.
For many centuries singing creativity takes an important and lasting place in the republic. Songs are sang in a family circle, on radio and television, on national holidays and ceremonies, at numerous concerts, festivals, shows, competitions, permanently gathering at the same time large audience.
A song as a barometer reflects the slightest social changes within the culture, being in permanent movement. The song culture of Uzbek people is rich for the regional styles, performing variety and holds in itself, like any other national tradition, temporary layers of thousand-year creativity. Amateur performers, folklore and family ensembles are keepers, strict judges and promoters of the traditional and modern song.
The variety of types of the carriers of the Uzbek song tradition functioning at the junction of the XX-XXI centuries can be traced on the example of artistic activity of folklore and ethnographic ensembles which was formed in the late 70-ies – early 80-ies of the last century. They are the main carriers of folklore traditions on the places marked by free manifestation of the creative initiative of the people of the older and middle generations, which are stimulated by not external necessity, but by the internal requirement.
Cultural and artistic processes of the early 1990-ies in many respects defined a number of socio-political and economic factors. Independence contributed to revival and development of spiritual culture of the nation. At the same time growth of national consciousness has caused interest of the people in their own history and the rich art heritage. It is an indication that destinies of heritage and culture are inseparable. In fully functioning culture the oral component is its irreplaceable part.
Now a traditional culture is associated with the concept of intangible cultural heritage including monuments of musical and poetic, entertainment and dancing arts, traditional craft, national ceremonies and holidays, national games. Uzbekistan is actively involved in “Mankind masterpieces” and “Protection of intangible cultural heritage” UNESCO programs.
The concept “intangible cultural heritage of humanity” has been defined by UNESCO as a set of processes, knowledge, skills and creative activity of either of its development and preservation of the cultural and creative diversity in the world community (UNESCO Convention “On protection of intangible cultural heritage”, 2003).
For a number of years of implementation of programs on preservation of intangible cultural heritage which are regulated by such laws and legal acts as the Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On protection of cultural heritage and its use” (2009); The State Program “On protection, safety, promotion of intangible cultural heritage and their use during 2010 – 2020″ (2010); our republic carried out international and national projects aimed at reflecting all richness and variety of traditional culture of Uzbekistan, providing of continuity of historical and cultural processes, promotion of dialogue between cultures of neighboring countries. Nowadays “The Cultural Space of Boysun District” (2001, 2008), “Shashmaqom Music” (2003, 2008), “Katta ashula” (2009), “Navruz” (2009) presented in seven countries, “Askiya –art of sharp wit” (2014) are included in the UNESCO Representative List of “Intangible cultural heritage of humanity”. Such new nomination files as “Plov (pilaf): culture and traditions”, “Navruz” (with participation of 12 states) and “Dorbozlik – art of rope-walkers” are submitted for 2016-2017. The program of preservation of katta ashula was awarded the Diploma and Gold medal of UNESCO ACCU (Japan, 2009). These events are an important stimulus in support of forms and genres of traditional culture in the whole Central Asian region and elaboration of long-term state strategy in the sphere of its preservation and further development. It was confirmed by carrying out of several national and international scientific expeditions to Boysun district (2003 – 2004) and “Shashmaqom” (2005 – 2006); The Open Folklore Festival “Boysun Bakhori” and the international scientific conferences (2002 – 2006), opening of the Center of Folk Art and Museum in Boysun (2005); master classes of famous masters and international conferences on problems of makom art within the International Musical Festival “Sharq Taronalari” in Samarkand (2005, 2007); regional and international seminars on “Inventory of intangible cultural heritage” in Tashkent, Samarkand and Fergana (2012 – 2013), publication of books, collections, audio- video disks Boysun and Shashmaqom with the support of UNESCO. ICHCAP of UNESCO (Republic of Korea) supported to carry out scientific expeditions to all areas of Uzbekistan and Republic of Karakalpakistan (2012 – 2013), to publish the book “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Uzbekistan” (2009 and 2014), to prepare audio-video disks “Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Fergana Valley” (2013), to carry out the International Conference on problems of folk epos in Tashkent (2014), etc.
Preservation of traditional culture means to provide it with the possibility of further free and natural development. And then no changes of socio-historical conditions will be able to destroy its natural, fundamental form – the form of oral art always showing amazing resilience and ability to adaptation development.
Viability of the Uzbek traditional music as one of the components of the modern phonosphere and spiritual culture is proved by the practice of the existence. Sensitively catching changes in surrounding musical reality, absorbing creative innovations of the time, the Uzbek traditional music finds musical expression means answering to national taste of the audience. Even taking into account that the dialectics of development and modern lifestyles assume the appeal to new cultural values, traditional music remains the carrier that contributes to the purposes of enrichment and identity of our musical language and in general – national musical thinking, attaching the original forms to the universal spiritual wealth.

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