Saturday, July 31, 2010

Oral Poetry of Karakalpakstan

The pre-eminent form of oral poetry in Karakalpakstan as in most Central Asia is the daston or epic tale. Shorter orally composed poems, often improvised in the course of performance called terma are also popular.

Both the daston and terma are composed in the common genre of Turkic folk poetry known as barmok, which in its canonical form is organized into quatrains, the lines of which contain an identical number of syllables, most commonly 7, 11 or 15.

Both the daston and terma are performed by male bards whom are called Zhirau in Karakalpak. The term also refers to traditional healers who use music as an aid in contacting the spirit world. At some point in the past, the two activities seem to have been linked both socially and psychologically in the work of the same individual; the recitation of musically heightened poetry was understood to have a magical and potentially therapeutic effect on listeners.

The vocal styles of the Karakalpak zhirau feature a guttural, raspy timbre which in contrast to the normal speaking and singing voice, thus creating an artistic and magical distance between everyday experience and the heroic world in which the epics take place.

This special, laryngeally tensed voice is called ichki avoz or ‘inner voice’, in contrast to tashkari avoz, ‘outer voice’. The poet traditionally accompanies himself by strumming on the fretless, two-string Dömbra.

In Karakalpakstan the use of the dömbra has now largely displaced an older style of accompaniment performed on the kobuz, a two-string fiddle with horsehair strings that links the Karakalpaks to the old nomadic Turko-Mongol cultural realm.

In neighbouring Khorezm, there are two styles of epic performance. The Irani style, which shows many affinities to the Khurasani and Turkmen styles of daston performance, where the bakhshi (uzbek term for zhirau) accompanies himself on a dutār and the Shirvani style, where the bakhshi plays the Tār and is accompanied by a violin and doira.

This Shirvani instrumental trio exemplifies the kinship (consanguinity) of the Khorezm bakhshi to the bards of the Western Oghuz Turks (Azerbaijani, Turkmen, Turkish), whom are know as ashuk or ashik.

A number of heroes of the Khorezm daston are called ashik, which suggests that in earlier times this title was used to designate the performer of daston. In the Shirvani style, the narrative alternates between sections of prose recitation in emotionally-heightened speech and melodies drawn from an inventory of 72 noma (melodic forms). The portion of the epic in song comprises a musical form in the pattern of a typical Khorezmian art song in which the texture (tessitura) of the melodic line ascends in successive pairs of stanzas (strophes) to the a musical, and symbolically, a metaphysical culmination (known as the awj), then descends to a well-prepared melodic configuration or series of chords marking the end of a phrase, section, or piece of music (know as cadence).

Throat Singing

This oral poetry of Karakalpakstan and Khorezm enters the realm of throat singing
Another name for throat singing is overtone singing or chanting, or just harmonic singing, is a type of singing in which the singer manipulates the resonances (or formants) created as air travels from the lungs, past the vocal folds, and out the lips to produce a melody.

The partials (fundamental and overtones) of a sound wave made by the human voice can be selectively amplified by changing the shape of the resonant cavities of the mouth, larynx and pharynx. This resonant tuning allows the singer to create apparently more than one pitch at the same time (the fundamental and a selected overtone), while in effect still generating a single fundamental frequency with his/her vocal folds.