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2022  N3-4(204-205)
One can learn a lot of a highly talented artist from his works because they are his real spiritual biography, his life. This perfectly applies to the People’s Artist of Turkmenistan, laureate of the Magtymguly State Prize, composer Rejep Rejepov (1944–2021).
This was particularly evident at the concert “Dedication to Rejep Rejepov” held last spring at the Turkmen National Conservatory named after Maya Kuliyeva. His colleagues, students, friends and relatives gathered to listen to the cinema film music created by the composer.
Along with popular songs and melodies for Turkmen cinema films, the concert program featured the previously unknown compositions that make up a huge musical material that was not used for any cinema film. The composer’s widow entrusted the priceless treasure to the chief conductor and artistic director of the State Symphony Orchestra of Turkmenistan, Rasul Klychev, a student of Rejep Rejepov, who skillfully presented this heritage, opening the door to the invaluable artistic pantry of the harmony of feelings and thoughts of his teacher and senior friend. The language of Rejepov’s works, unique in its beauty and melodic expressiveness, brought the audience back to the wonderful years of the unprecedented rise of the Turkmen musical art and cinematography. This music shaped the very image of the composer and musician, whose life was entirely devoted to art.
Rejep Rejepov chose this path in his early childhood, having pursuaded his parents that he needed musical education. The future composer was born in 1944 in a family of hereditary carpet craftsmen in the city of Kizil-Arvat (now Serdar). These region has been famous for wonderful Turkmen carpets since ancient times. Father – Juma and mother – Annatach met before the Great Patriotic War. Juma was demobilized from the frontline because of heavy injuries. Returning to his native land, he turned into a professional designer of carpet patterns and became famous in this business. His magnificent carpet portraits are especially famous.
His eldest son, showing a great aptitude for visual arts, nevertheless gravitated towards music. Many things influenced the boy’s independent decision to become a musician, such as the art atmosphere that reigned in the house and classical music compositions he heard in the early childhood. The family lived modestly, but news articles about the composer often mentioned a gramophone in the house – a real luxury for that time. It was probably the composer himself who shared this fact with reporters, as he became addicted to collecting vinyl records from the young age and got a wonderful audio record library, which is carefully kept by his sister, art critic Ajap Bayrieva.
A record with the overture to opera “Carmen” by Georges Bizet on one side and “Saber Dance” by Aram Khachaturian on the other was the first and for a long time the only record in the house, Rejepov recalled. Marvelous music drew different fantasies in his imagination.
Noticing how skillfully his son plays a home-made pipe, picking up melodies by ear, his father was the first to appreciate his talent and took his son to the Republican Musical Boarding School (RMBS) in Ashgabat. It was 1956. Soon the whole family moved to the capital. The parents worked at the carpet artel and later at the carpet factory, next to which they lived for many years.
Students of the RMBS not only studied but also lived in a boarding school and spent their summer holidays in the town of Firyuza near Ashgabat. So, Rejep was a very independent person already in childhood. At the same time, his connection with his mother was especially strong. She distinguished him from other children as her assistant, as a hope, and she was proud of him. And he idolized his mother until the end of her long life, remaining thoughtful of her and praising her in many song dedications.
At the boarding school, Rejep studied at the department of wind instruments, trumpet class, having mastered a difficult music instrument. His teacher, talented and well-known musician Durdy Nuryev, having noticed the boy’s craving for composing music, gave him a useful piece of advice. By referral of the RMBS, Rejep was admitted to the Turkmen State Musical College named after Danatar Ovezov (now the Turkmen State Special Musical School named after D. Ovezov at the Turkmen National Conservatory). At the college, he was mentored by the founder of the national composer school, conductor, teacher, People’s Artist of the USSR and Turkmenistan, Professor Ashir Kuliev.
Studying at the trumpet class, Rejep successfully masters the piano and even composed several piano pieces. At the same time, he began playing in the orchestra of the Opera and Ballet Theater named after Magtymguly, where he not only honed his talent as a musician but also got a real introduction into the profession. Famous Turkmen vocalists Maya Kulieva, Annagul Annakulieva, Khodja Annaev, conductor Khydyr Allanurov, composer Nury Mukhatov were an example for him of selfless service to art. Years later, Rejepov recalled how in addition to his work he spent hours at the rehearsals of opera performances that he knew by heart.
After graduating with honors from the music school, the aspiring composer went to study at the Moscow Conservatory named after P.I. Tchaikovsky, the composition class. For the 60–70s of the last century, this was a very traditional path for talented Turkmen youth. Many outstanding representatives of the Turkmen musical art were given a start in life at the Moscow Conservatory, the main musical “talent-factory”.
Moscow was a place where remarkable creative unions emerged, friendly relations were born, which for many years shaped the fate of generations of the sixties of the past century. Fate generously rewarded Rejep Rejepov by giving him the opportunity to meet brilliant compatriots, become friends with them and learn from them. It was in Moscow that he met Nury Khalmamedov, who, by the time of Rejep Redjepov’s admission to the conservatory, was in the final year of his study in composing.
While composing music for the cinema film “Competition”, Nury Khalmamedov invited student Rejepov to attend recording of his melodies for this film, and he was literally astonished by this music and fell in love with it.
His first acquaintance with film music also happened in Moscow. The famous film director, Bulat Mansurov, heard Rejep Rejepov’s romance based on the poems by Magtymguly that impressed him very much. He found a fourth-year student at the conservatory. “We will definitely work together,” Bulat Mansurov promised and kept his word.
Indeed, Rejep Rejepov composed music for two films by Bulat Mansurov – “Thirst-quench” based on the novel by Yuri Trifonov and “Slave” based on the story by Andrei Platonov. It was “Thirst-quench” through which he debuted as an author of film music in 1966.
Having got in such artistic environment, Rejepov largely made up his mind on his composing destiny, and his musical talent contributed to the development of those character features that distinguished him as a person with a lively mind, who is refined, cultured, deeply tactful and sensitive.
Rejep’s every coming home to Ashgabat was a real festive occasion for the whole family, sister Ajap recalls. The house was full of Moscow gifts, and most importantly extraordinary guests, musicians and composers, singers and poets, directors and actors. “Nury Khalmamedov, Kurbannazar Ezizov, Aman Agadzhikov, Chary Nurymov, Rejep Allayarov, Bulat Mansurov visited us ... Young, beautiful, talented, full of creative plans. Music and songs sounded in the house.”
Rejep Rejepov broke into the musical life of Turkmenistan in the 70s of the last century which was the time of surge of composer talents on Turkmen artistic venues. He communicated with his famous contemporaries, made friends, collaborated with colleagues and until the end of his days kept their bright images in his memory, recalled with pleasure the memorable meetings that fate had bestowed on him. Rejep Rejepov considered Nury Khalmamedov his teacher and spiritual mentor. Rejep Rejepov dedicated a quintet-poem for string quartet and piano to the memory of Nury Khalmamedov.
Rejepov composed music for 59 cinema films, including those that became part of the golden fund of Turkmen cinema, such as “Man Overboard”, “Song of Running Water”, “Daughter-in-Law”, “When a Woman Saddles a Horse”, “Whiteout”, “Learn How to Say No”, “Abduction of a Horse”, “Jamal Tree”, “Morning Riders”, “People of My Village”.
Rejepov would start composing music only after deeply penetrating into the plot and dramaturgy of the film. And this was regardless of whether it was a film episode, a documentary or music that accompanied the entire film. The composer lived it, filled it with rich content. He had the talent for masterfully creating the emotional overtones even in a short piece of music.
A significant part of the scores remained in the composer’s archive. They fully reveal the cinematic musical talent of Rejep Rejepov, his natural instinct for understanding and penetration into the specifics and mechanisms of the film genre. Bulat Mansurov, Khalmamed Kakabaev and other famous film directors of Turkmenistan and abroad, with whom the composer worked, highly appreciated these qualities of his talent that also became apparent in his ability to speak aphoristically in music.
The composer was always attracted to music associated with the theater play that most vividly and convexly presented specific images and events, thus influencing the emotions of listeners. And opera provided such opportunities. Rejepov is the author of two operas – “Gerogly” and “Tales of the Karakum Wind”, each of which has its own story. Both Danatar Ovezov and Nury Khalmamedov worked on the opera based on heroic epic “Gerogly” but did not have time to accomplish their plans. And Rejep Rejepov promised himself to realize the dream of these composers that were so dear to him. In 1999, opera “Gerogly” was staged at the Opera and Ballet Theater named after Magtymguly (nowadays the National Music and Drama Theater named after Magtymguly).
Rejepov also used to recall how he came up with the idea of creating opera “Yartygulak” for children. “Before going to bed, I would let my children listen to the record with the fairy tale “Ali Baba and 40 Thieves” staged by Veniamin Smekhov, and one day I got an idea. What if we make the same staged version of the Turkmen fairy tale “Yartygulak.” We needed a libretto, and I turned to actor Smekhov. He hesitated, but having got deeper into the material, he created a wonderful libretto of the Turkmen fairy tale in Russian.” The composer himself also enthusiastically worked on the music, but they did not have time to stage the opera. This idea is now being nurtured by his student, Rasul Klychev.
Rejepov’s artistic world was truly multifaceted, multi-genre, polysemantic, filled with deep confidential content, subtle humor and open to everything truly talented. It is no coincidence that the range of the composer’s musical tastes was very wide. He liked old marches, gavottes, heartfelt lyrical romances and jazz, Latin American melodies and music of the Beatles.
At the same time, Rejepov derived inspiration from the inexhaustible wealth of Turkmen folklore, the art traditions of his native people. He made extensive use of folk music instruments, primarily the dutar, in his symphonic works. Many of the composer’s songs became very popular among people, and the author was very proud of this, considering it the highest appreciation of his work.
At the end of November 2020, less than two months before the death of outstanding composer Rejep Dzhumayevich Rejepov, there was organized a concert dedicated to his 75th birthday. That evening, the musical compositions of the hero of the day were performed at the conservatory by the State Symphony Orchestra of Turkmenistan, the State Choir, the conservatory choir, as well as the best vocalists. The concert program included all three parts of the Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra that became part of the golden fund of the world music composers. Two orchestral works – Children’s Suite and Suite in the Old Style – were performed for the first time. At the end of the concert, the celebrant went on stage, thanked the organizers of the concert and those who came to share this joyful event with him, and he shared his plans for the future... Unfortunately, few of his plans came true.
The compositions by the outstanding Turkmen composer – symphonies, operas, choral works, songs and romances – are now performed by famous vocalists, ensembles and orchestras. The musical dramaturgy of his works is studied in detail at the Department of Theoretical Music at the Turkmen National Conservatory, where Rejep Rejepov taught for many years. Nowadays, hundreds of beginner musicians enjoy his rich musical heritage.
Undoubtedly, a talented person comes to this world to tell about something very important in order to leave it in the treasury of values that support the harmony of the Universe. Rejep Dzhumaevich Rejepov was also entrusted with this sacred mission. His music lives on, telling about its creator much more than what we knew about him.


©Turkmenistan Analytic magazine, 2005