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2022  N9-10(210-211)
The results of the final round of the art contest “Calsana, bagsy!” (Play, Bakhshi) were summed up in Ashgabat in the first month of autumn. This is the first such contest that was held in the country as part of the competition “T"urkmenin Altyn asyry” (Golden Age of Turkmens) under the auspices of the President of Turkmenistan.
A new art contest was established in January 2022 with the view of studying and widely promoting the national cultural heritage, as well as in celebration of inclusion of dutar making craftsmanship and traditional music performing art combined with singing in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The recognition of the universal value of dutar and the musical and singing art associated with it is regarded by the people of Turkmenistan as evidence of the enduring significance of folk art, its peacemaking role. The contest “Calsana, Bagsy!” was held in this spirit. It was organized by the Ministry of Culture of Turkmenistan.
The contest was held in several stages in districts, regional centers and Ashgabat. According to the terms of the art contest, the participants included dutar players and singer-musicians aged 18 to 35 in line with one of the goals of this contest, that is to identify new talents that can continue and develop the traditions of the ancient folk art, promote patriotic and aesthetic education of young people.
The new contest of talented young dutar players and singers accompanying themselves on this musical instrument aroused great interest and attracted many gifted representatives of the younger generation, including professional artists, members of popular folklore and ethnographic ensembles, teachers and students of the Turkmen National Conservatory named after Maya Kulieva, the Turkmen State Special Music School named after Danatar Ovezov, teachers of special art schools, as well as amateur performers.
The jury of the contest comprising professionals in the instrumental genre faced a difficult task to select best of the best. They assessed the vocal skills of the participants and originality of their performance, which is important in the art of bakhshi. As lovers of this art rightly point out, in the hands of a virtuoso player, dutar knows how to laugh and cry, tell the history of the people and its traditions through melodies, enrapturing the audience and forcing them to listen to bakhshi incessantly.
The creative energy of the art of bakhshi musicians, who created schools and educated successors, was noted in the welcoming address of President Serdar Berdimuhamedov to the participants of the contest “Calsana, bagsy!”. The President expressed confidence that Turkmenistan will continue taking significant measures for improvement of the music and song art that gained immense popularity in the world thanks to amazing and enchanting melodies and the traditions of the national school of bakhshi.
12 dutar musicians and the same number of bakhshi from Ashgabat and regions of Turkmenistan qualified to the finals of the art contest that was held at the Palace of Mukams of the State Cultural Center in Ashgabat.
The finalists included four girls who, continuing the traditions of predecessors, confirmed with their skill the truth of the legends about the outstanding abilities of Turkmen women in singing and playing the dutar. As is known, Turkmen women often outdo famous male bakhshi by brilliantly performing the most complex pieces of folk music.
The modern generation of folk artists preserves and develops the traditions of Turkmen music, looking up to its creators and custodians, the legendary Turkmen bakhshi. And this was superbly demonstrated by the participants of the finals of the contest.
The finals of the art contest not only summed up its results but also became a colorful festive event marking the upcoming Independence Day of Turkmenistan, a magnificent performance in which the musical specifics of the country’s regions blended.
The festive flavor of the art contest was emphasized by the national decoration of the stage, the symbolic details of which included ancient musical instruments, jugs, jewelry and famous Turkmen carpets. This “interior” was complemented with modern audio and video technologies that also reflected the idea of this event – to demonstrate the inextricable link between times and generations.
The idea of continuity was also seen in the literary and musical composition that opened the final round concert dedicated to the main musical instrument of the Turkmens and unsurpassed performers whose names people still keep in memory and compose legends and songs about them. Instrumental musicians performed in the first part of the finals. To ensure the utmost objectivity the jury heard two performers from Ashgabat and the regions and chose the best of them. It was followed by a bakhshi contest according to the same principle.
The program of performances included folk songs and music, many of which make up the golden fund of the national musical culture. The silver sounds of the dutar sounded loudly and inspirationally under the arches of the Palace of Mukams. The audience of this spectacular musical contest included numerous connoisseurs and lovers of folk art.
The names of 12 winners – six musicians and the same number of bakhshi – were announced in a solemn atmosphere. All participants of the finals were presented with memorable gifts.


©Turkmenistan Analytic magazine, 2005