Musical Portraits of Cities. Tashkent

Issue #3 • 2005

Medieval manuscripts give a notion about musical culture of different cities, give the names of musicians, composers and singers. In the Middle Ages cities of Movarounnahr and Khorasan had many similar features, and at the same time each of them was unique and reserved its own individual character – from a form of collars in male or female dresses up to a style of shawl wearing, traditional holiday meals and ritual burial ceremonies. A delicate ear for music till now, a century of global communication, can catch differences in sounding of speaking in Bukhara and Samarkand, Tashkent and cities of the Fergana valley. Language culture of these cities is double-tongued – speaking in Uzbek and Tadjik. Usually all cities have own melody of speaking.

It is easier to tell about musical cultures of those cities, which from time to time were capitals. In Movarounnahr and Khorasan this role belonged alternately to Samarkand, Bukhara and Herat. Then they concentrated poetic, musical and art resources, which on a way to the capital “were feeding” from different folk sources. So enriched the culture of capitals found its reflection in the written sources of this or that epoch. Therefore, restoration of entire picture of musical life of capitals and ordinary cities of Movarounnahr and Khorasan from fragments has high importance. A good pointing in the fixing of the artists’ names is given by nisba – an element of a full name pointing out a place of birth of a musician. However, it should be considered that not always nisba was chosen in accordance with this factor; often it could be a name of the city where a musician obtained his success. So, speaking about the medieval musical culture of some city, we are using historical materials about musical culture of the past in general considering the history of this city.

Tashkent geographically had a good location on a cross of historically important for Central Asia routes. Let’s remind remarkable facts of the earlier period, which can help to feel, “to hear” and “to see” the originality of this city. The Chinese sources give the facts that in the 8th century musical traditions of Central Asian cities, Northern India and Eastern Turkistan (the scholars mentioned Bukhara, Samarkand, Tashkent, Kashgar, Khodjo, Kuchu and others) “under official patronage allied with Chinese musical tradition”. Musical circles of the Tan empire knew dancers, girls and boys, from Tashkent. Their dances were the performances and consisted of “plastic” and “energetic” pieces.

“Western galloping dance”, usually performed by the boys from Tashkent, was described by the poet Lee Duan, and the poet Lu Yan-shi devoted his verses to the impression he had got from this dance; the verse was translated into Japanese and later into French. The dance “chacha” was called after the name of the place where it occurred. It was performed by the young girls in transparent robes decorated with multi coloured embroidery with silver belts, in caps with small gold bells and in red brocade shoes. The girls appeared before the audience arising from two artificial lotuses.

Tashkent as the homeland of famous dancers was mentioned not only in the connection with art and performances but in the episodes concerning the minerals mined there – such strong impression about them existed in the society.

Official Chinese chronicles reserved the names of musicians taken from different countries and cities including Tashkent (Chach). The homeland of these musicians can be specified by their Chinese names formed from the names of lands where they arrived from. The English diplomat E. Shepher in the book “Golf Peaches of Samarkand.” we cited wrote about that expressively and with rich illustrative material. In the Middle Ages Tashkent, according to R.G. Mukminova, was “a regional administrative, economic and trade center, a transit station for goods transported from different cities, regions and countries. It was thickly settled city with prevailing of trade and craft population”.

In “The Treatise about Music” the Central Asian scholar of the 16th – 17th cc. Khafiz Darvish Ali Changi mentioned the names of the famous in Movarounnahr musicians whose art, scientific and social activity was connected with Tashkent. The idea to write this treatise belonged to Amir Fatkh Toshkandi. The singer Khamza Toshkandi studied at the outstanding Herat singer Khafiz Akhi carried to Bukhara by Ubaidulla-khan after capture of Herat. Khamza Toshkandi became one of the favourite students of the Herat master who personally for him composed the play “Zarbulfatkh” (“Rythms of Victory”). Ubaidulla-khan conquered Herat in 1529. So, this story described in the medieval manuscript happened at the early 30s of the 16th c. In Tashkent Khafiz Akhi was appointed mekhtar – a head of court musicians at Darvish Akhmad-khan.

We have more detailed information about the musician Mirza Arab Kungrati Kobuzi: “He was a wonder of the epoch in the field of arts and sciences. He was an example for everybody. He always was the first. When he was young he refused to be nuker and devoted himself to sciences including music, so highly rising the banner of science and simultaneously studying to play kobuz. Mirza Arab lived in Tashkent vilayet at the time of Abdul-Kuddus sultan. He was a teacher and contemporaries pointed out his talent to express a great idea in short phrases. He became such teacher, – stressed Darvesh Ali Changi, – that the wise men of Yunon kept silence before his fine mind and bethinked deeply. Artists and composers of that epoch were among his followers and fans. He left this world in his middle age”.

Mirza Arab Kungrati was well educated in many fields – mathematician, musician and teacher. He was a founder of the art center that allied Tashkent musicians and artists. We have many evidences from that epoch for the combining of music and the other creative or scientific interests. Lawyers, astronomers, artists, calligraphers, doctors, craftsmen including tailors, bakers and weavers had come into the history of medieval music as composers, musicians and authors of scientific treatises. This was typical of the culture of all big cities of Movarounnahr. Tashkent was among the developed intellectual centers of the region.

There is also a description of the musical and poetry parties written by the Herat writer Zainaddin Vasifi who lived in Tashkent. His tomb in the memorial of Sheih Khovandi Takhur was destroyed at the middle of the 20th century. The parties Vasifi described were in 1522 nearby Tashkent, in “Kasaba Farket”. Kasaba – “a big settlement”. Farket may be modern Parkent. Those far nights enjoyed many melodies in the beautiful garden of Farket. They were compositions of Nishopur, Isfakhon, Zobul and Nikhovand. There sounded the compositions in a form of kavl, amal, savt – favourite vocal lyrics of the 16th century. Musicians, singers (mutrib) and dastan performers (dostonsaroi) took part in those concerts. Among them was some Shah-Khusein to whose name Vasifi added honorary title “mavlono” pointing on a professional musician: “He, by a canon of love and organon of moments cleared hearts in wine of sad revelations”. In this episode the author along with many other musical instruments listed chang and ud.

Two different instruments played in Central Asia had the same name – “chang”: oriental harp that didn’t come to our days and modern chang described by N.S. Lykoshin: “Chang has come into use shortly before and was adapted from some traveling Dunganin who was in riot in old Tashkent”. Medieval Movarounnahr and Khorasan heard such musical instruments as nai, ud, chang, tanbur, gidjak, dutar, rubab, konun, doira and nagora.

Female, male and child dances in Tashkent were various by their purpose and genre: lyric, aggressive and farcical. The dances imitating different everyday procedures, usma painting of brows, washing at arik, embroidery making and others have been reserved till now. The dances were obligatory in the program of family, makhallya and national holidays on the city squares.

The musical ensemble was at the court. The Tashkent ruler Muzaffariddin Sultan Mukhammad-khan (1525 – 1538), according to Vasifi, on Monday and Friday nights required the best scientists, poets, singers and musician (in the original text: fuzalo, shuaro, akhli soz va arbobi navoz) to delight madjlis (meeting) at the court with their arts.

On the folk holidays on the city squares were performances of equilibrists, puppet theatres and sport competitions with music accompaniment. The awards were given in mosques. Khafiz “by pleasant voice and the beautiful melody” announced the names of winners as Vasifi wrote about the Herat period. This procedure was typical of the region in a whole including Tashkent.

The period from the second half of the 17th to the 19th cc. in the musical culture of Central Asia had been forming “Shashmakom” – six cycles of compositions based on the definite frets – makomas. Each of them, buzurg, rost, navo, dugoh, segoh and irok, consists of different number of instrumental, vocal and choreographic pieces. Light and sad melodies, big and small opuses, slow and quick rhythms of shashmakom are sounding accompanying all events in the life. Texts of shashmakom pieces – lyric, philosophic and didactic were taken from the works of classic poets and folk unknown poets. In the manuscripts these cycles are called “Bukhara shashmakom”. But shashmakom sounding both in Bukhara and all over the region had been enriched by thoughts and souls of the outstanding musicians of each town. The Tashkent musical culture adapted so-called Fergano-Tashkent variant of monumental cycle, what is indirectly proved by numerous bayazes – text playbooks formed in Tashkent and the Fergana valley in the 18th – 19th cc.

Already in the 16th century about ten forms of musical pieces had been known. They were: peshrav, savt, amal, naksh, developed savtul-naksh, savtul-amal, kor, kavl, rekhta and ghazal (along with ghazals in literature). The texts were performed in Farsi-Tadjik, Turkic-Uzbek, Arab and Urdu. In practice were the combinations of Tadjik and Uzbek texts that were called “shiru-shakar” (“milk-sugar”). The language Rekhta was called Hindi (Indian). Rythmed set of poetic lines in Arab, Turkic and Farsi was called “murakkabami”. In Tashkent prevailed Old Uzbek language.

In development of each state the trade and diplomatic contacts play a significant role. In the Middle Ages the Central Asian region had contacts with India, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, the Moscow State, the Novgorod Principality and China. The historians know the tens of scientists and artists migrating from city to city due to their own will or escaping Sunni-Shiah conflicts and looking for peaceful place for the work. In 1604 the historian of culture Mutribi wrote up names of two Tashkent poets: Tirkash and Somini leaving for India.

Growth of orthodox Islam could not destroy music as the art, however debates around the rightness of secular songs and dances took place in the 16th c. and later. But eternal and unexhausted destination of music as accumulator of human soul was always the integrating factor in any place including Tashkent.

This determined its main theme – a theme of love, sometimes unanswered affection, sometimes romantic and high. The Sufi doctrine was expressed in such realistic and lyric words that sometimes the question arises: May be addressing the God as the aim of Love was caused by the real personal passion, and within the striving to the God and total divine unity is hidden a realistic drama of a person dreaming about a person.

Author: Dilbar Rashidova

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