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2023  N1-2(214-215)
Music occupies a special place in the spiritual heritage of the Turkmens and various peoples of the world. According to a popular view, it is music that acts as a universal, the only world language that does not require translation, emphasizing its colossal creative and unifying power.
In the depths of centuries, at the earliest stage of development of human society, the harmony of sounds was born, drawn by man from the surrounding natural world. And this largely explains the similarity of folk musical instruments, methods of sound production and, in general, folk music of all countries and continents. And the more one gets to know it, the more one becomes convinced of this.
The diversity of the surrounding world along with creative thinking allowed the Turkmens to create 72 musical instruments that were widely popular at different times. Some of them have survived to this day, others gradually fell out of use. A special place among them belongs to the dutar – a symbol of the national musical culture. To this day, people remember the names of outstanding performers of national songs and melodies, whose skills continue to live and are passed on thanks to the school of mentoring.
In Turkmenistan, the traditional musical culture is treated as a great heritage, a repository of historical memory, cultural identity. It is recognized as an integral part of the spiritual life of society and its further progress. Just like national clothes, folk traditions and customs, the ethnomusical culture of the Turkmens are a living phenomenon carried through the centuries and preserved almost in its original form. Over the centuries, the Turkmens have developed two traditional types of musical art that continue to be active today. The first of them is actually musical folklore (lullabies, labor, ritual and religious songs). The second is the classical art of the oral tradition formed by the work of professional singers (bakhshi) and instrumental musicians.
Folklore melodies occupy an important place in the spiritual heritage of the Turkmen people, not only as monuments, an artistic phenomenon of the past, but also as principal actors of the present time, retaining their importance in the national musical culture. It is noteworthy that the system of education of young musicians at the country’s professional musical educational institutions combine both modern and centuries-old national system of oral transmission of knowledge and development of creative skills from mentor to student.
There is now a growing understanding in society of the fact that ethnoculture is one of the main humanitarian resources for development of society that make it possible to ensure connection of generations, past and present, contributing to the establishment of mutual understanding between people, the universal human values, the principles of consent and tolerance. Conveying the memory of the cultural past in its original form and introducing it to the whole world is one of the priority tasks of the cultural policy and diplomacy of Turkmenistan.
Hence the desire to nominate an increasing number of cultural values of the Turkmen people to the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, which already includes a sample of ancient legends – epic “Gerogly” (2015), the art of singing and dancing Kushtdepdi (2017), the dutar making craftsmanship and traditional music performing art combined with singing (2022).
In this regard, the effect of the international festival “National song and musical art in the heritage of the peoples of the world” held in Ashgabat at the end of last year is very indicative. The art forum brought together original performers – folk singers and musicians, ethnographic groups and ensembles of national instruments, as well as scientists and specialists, including musicologists, art critics, culturologists, university teachers, cultural figures from Azerbaijan, Turkey, Tatarstan (Russia), Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Iran. Numerous representatives of the national musical and song art of the host country, Turkmenistan, also took part in the festival.
The festival participants were able to demonstrate all the richness of the musical national traditions of the fraternal peoples during the concerts dedicated to the opening and conclusion of the forum at the cinema and concert halls and theaters of Ashgabat. Concert programs included unique samples of original folk-musical and singing traditions of the peoples of the countries participating in the festival. The artists fascinated the public with originality, brightness of the presentation of the material, virtuosic use of ancient instruments and original manner of performing folk songs.
For example, the folklore-ethnographic group “Ethno-Osh” brilliantly presented their rich repertoire in Ashgabat. This group preserves an invaluable heritage that reflects the folk culture, worldview, lifestyle, history and aesthetic ideas of the Kyrgyz people. The ensemble performed ancient Kyrgyz songs, legends, melodies on traditional national instruments.
At the same time, the festival program provided the audience with the opportunity to enjoy the mastery of the performers in modern musical forms. The combination of authenticity with modern musical genres is a very popular performing technique in many countries of the world. These combinations often become part of ethno-tourism and are viewed as one of the brands of a particular national culture.
In this regard, the performance by the Alpar group from the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan of the Russian Federation was indicative. The instrumental group originally uses various reconstructed folk instruments, forgotten genres of Tatar music that are filled with modern meaning by Alpar. The musicians demonstrated both original ethnographic melodies and their own stylized music based on the words of Tatar poets of the Middle Ages, as well as Tatar spiritual music.Artists of the Kazakh ensemble “Akmeshit” performed on dombra with a special tonality and rhythm.
Turkish folk melodies and dances were presented to the audience by the artists of the musical and choreographic group of this country. Uzbek maqoms were presented by musicians from the Bukhara school of maqom art. Ensembles of folk instruments from Turkey, Uzbekistan, Iran, Azerbaijan, as well as from the Kyzylorda Regional Philharmonic Society (Kazakhstan), the State Philharmonic Society of Tajikistan named after A. Juraev, and the Khorezm Music and Drama Theater (Uzbekistan) were warmly received by the audience.
Preservation of true, authentic forms of intangible cultural heritage and its conveyance was brilliantly demonstrated to the guests by the hosts of the festival – Turkmen folk musicians from different regions of the country that, as is known, feature original artistic and performing traditions.
The common origins of folk art and, most importantly, its peace-making, creative basis were clearly traced in the polyphonic performances of musicians from different countries.
The practical side of the forum included meetings of colleagues, master classes at a special music boarding school of the Turkmen National Conservatory named after Maya Kuliyeva. Musicians from Tatarstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Iran and Turkey visited teachers and students of the department of national musical art. The meeting was also attended by students and teachers of Turkmen specialized artistic higher education establishments.
During these unique interactions, the musicians enthusiastically exchanged the secrets of mastery and received a powerful charge of creative energy. The meeting participants admitted that such live contacts are very important, as they help to have a new look at the traditions and comprehend the unity of roots of folk art.
This was also discussed at a scientific conference held as part of the international festival that brought together prominent scientists and specialists, heads of groups and special schools of folk music from Iran, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tatarstan (RF).
The significance of this event was emphasized by the participation of leaders and representatives of state structures and international organizations. From the Turkmen side, the conference was attended by the Deputy Prime Minister in charge of culture, the Minister of Culture, heads of specialized institutions, educational institutions and cultural centers.
The foreign participants included Secretary General of the International Organization of Turkic Culture (TURKSOY) Sultan Raev; Minister of Culture of the Republic of Tajikistan Zulfiya Davlatzoda; Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation Olga Lyubimova (via video link).
In their reports, speakers touched upon the originality and richness of the musical traditions of different peoples, their preservation and bringing them to the next generations and improvement of the skills of performers.
They not only spoke about the music and instruments traditional for their peoples but also accompanied their reports with demonstration of their capacities. The participants of the conference were unanimous in their opinion about the need to establish permanent creative contacts between musicians and musical figures, including at the level of the educational system, artistic – concert performing and composing, as well as research. As was noted, music contributes to the promotion of the spiritual and moral values of the nation and society. It is musical and linguistic communication that is a way to hear each other, identify mechanisms for establishment of good neighborly contacts between the peoples of the world.
The three-day Ashgabat festival was full of bright performances and joy from meetings with folk art. It concluded with a concert of Turkmen masters of art. Artistic groups, popular folk musicians and singers engaged the guests in a real celebration of friendship and brotherhood, the program of which included the works of various genres, ancient and modern melodies and songs, accompanied by performances of choreographic ensembles. Turkmen vocalists also brilliantly performed Azerbaijani, Turkish, Iranian, Tatar, Uzbek, Kyrgyz, Kazakh and Tajik melodies and songs from the musical treasures of the countries participating in the festival.
By tradition, the ancient original Turkmen dance Kushtdepdi, recognized as a value of a universal scale, was the crown of the concert program. The concert finished with singing the Song of Friendship that brought together all the participants of the festival on the stage, demonstrating the inexhaustibility of the world of folk art, continuity of the artistic traditions of different peoples and deep roots of their community.


©Turkmenistan Analytic magazine, 2005