MUSIC AND BOOK REVIEW - MUSIC OF THE KARAKALPAKS - FREDERIC LEOTAR



Karakalpakistan – La Voix des Ancêtres (CD et DVD)

Frédéric Léotar et K. Qurbanov, Buda records, 2009

Karakalpakistan - La Voix des Ancêtres (CD et DVD)Constitué d’enregistrements de terrain réalisés en 2007, ce CD vise à présenter une culture musicale d’Asie centrale extrêmement riche et encore méconnue aujourd’hui. Situé en Ouzbékistan, au carrefour entre les cultures kazakhe et tukmène, la région autonome du Karakalpakstan possède un patrimoine musical comprenant plus d’une centaine d’épopées et bon nombre de mélodies instrumentales (dutar, kobuz…). À côté de l’art des bardes (baksy, jyrau, qyssakhan), les musiques populaires sont encore relativement présentes dans le quotidien des Karakalpaks, comme le montre aussi ce CD.

Un DVD bonus donne à voir l’importance et le sens des berceuses à travers l’exécution qu’en donne une mère pour son enfant. L’importance des textes des chants a conduit à tous les regrouper sur un fichier pdf où ils figurent en langue vernaculaire mais aussi traduits en français et en anglais.

Frédéric Léotar an ethnomusicologist trained at the Universite de Montreal whose research interests focus on the musical repertories of nomads and agro-pastoralists in Central Asia and the Altai Region of South Siberia. He has inventoried the intangible heritage of Karakalpakstan for UNESCO, helped digitise local musical archives, and produced an authoritative CD-DVD of traditional Karakalpak music.

He writes about the Karakalpak musical traditions in particular the the great oral epic "Dastan" which embodies one of the essential aspects of Karakalpak identity, combining both poetry and prose in oral composition and performance.

Karakalpak Bards traditionally played a key role in the society and todat modern bards have continued to transmitted their history and pass down thru' the generations knowledge and wisdom and moral guidance (intertwined with myths and imaginary elements) through the Epic which they  perform at weddings but also at concerts, contests, and festivals. Often to the accompanment of the "duwtar" a long-necked two-stringed lute.

This CD of Karakalpak music is dedicated to the epic genre (called dastan, a Persian word) of the bardic tradition, a tradition that has greatly influenced all other forms of Karakalpak music. Léotar identifies three maintypes of bardic styles in that culture: the jiraw, the baqsi, and the qyssakhan.  The bards known as Baqsıs developed a specialty in lyric epics, singing to the accompaniment of the duwtar and other instruments.

Alongside epics, contemporary baqsıs perform melodies from poems by well-known poets such as Maktumkuli, Berdak, Ajiniyaz, and Yusupov. Others known as jıraw “singer.” sing heroic epics, which feature tales about the courage and bravery of a hero in his fight against tyranny and injustice. Usually sung in a guttural voice rich in overtones to the accompanment of the "qobuz". Among the main heroic epics performed by Karakalpak jıraws are Edige, Qoblan, Sharyar, Qırq qız, and Alpamıs to cite just a few.

In addition to the epic repertories performed by bards, Karakalpaks also sang a wide variety of songs in the course of their everyday lives mixing together worldly lyrics with references to Allah and to spirits both good (pir) and bad (jawız ruwx) such as in the lullabies (ha’yyiw) that a mother sings to an infant revealling a deep bond between music, human activity, and spirits. This long-held tradition of singing on a daily basis to lull infants to sleep is still very much kept alive today (ED: as with my own son and his mother and gandmother).

Sources: To find out more I would strongly recommend that you visit the well illustrated Chapter 17 Music of the Karakalpaks from Music of Central Asia : An Introduction go to  Music of the Karakalalpaks

Other Sources slso see UNESCO Archieves - Karakalpak Music and Asian Music - Karakalpakstan