THROUGH LIFE WITH ACCORDION
The name of the People’s Artist of Turkmenistan, composer, musician and singer Myami Charyev was widely known both in Turkmenistan and abroad in the 60–90s of the last century. He stood at the origins of modern Turkmen pop music. He was a real star. Myami Charyev headed the Turkmen State Philharmonic named after Mylly Tachmyradov for more than ten years, contributing to popularization of the national musical art.
Similarly, the accordion became popular in Turkmenistan thanks to Myami Chariyev. It was he who introduced this instrument into the Turkmen musical culture, and he did it in a truly loud and original manner. He played the accordion masterfully, performing both national songs and songs of other nations, as well as his own compositions. One can say that Myami Charyev will be remembered in the history of the Turkmen instrumental art as the first and unsurpassed accordionist. People called him “accordionly aidymchy”, “accordionly bakhshi” (singer with the accordion). One can say that he taught the accordion to sound in Turkmen. It was for the first time that in the 60s of the 20th century the works by Turkmen bakhshi (singer-musicians) were also played in a modern way, using the accordion. So, it was thanks to the young composer and vocalist that the elements of folk melodies organically blended with the European harmony.
His performances were so much popular that many boys, including future famous Turkmen musicians and composers, began to actively learn to play the accordion.
Despite such an impressive artistic path, it was not easy to collect information about Myami Chariyev and find the associates and friends of the shining Turkmen pop star of the past. This is normal. Contemporaries pass away, and there are not so many people that can share their memories. Yet, the art legacy remains. Myami Charyev’s songs are still performed today by many famous vocalists.
It was gradually, using the pieces of information coming from memories of members of the large and friendly Charyev family, that we managed to create a portrait of the composer, vocalist, father of the family, a kind and open person. His wife, Dunyagozel-edje, was of great help. Like many years ago, she lives in a small Ashgabat apartment, which the family got when they moved from the city of Mary to the Turkmen capital in the late 1980s. Dunyagozel and Myami met and married in July of 1959.
Myami was rarely home. He toured constantly. And his wife was no less hard working. She worked for 27 years at the Mary garment factory “Pobeda”. She was an activist, a front-rank worker, a participant in several party congresses of Turkmenistan. She visited foreign countries and repeatedly visited Moscow. Dunyagozel-edje carefully preserves the memory of the past and the family photo album, describing every detail of the events on the photos, as if it happened just yesterday.
Myami was born on January 12, 1940, in the family of a shepherd in Bayramaly district of Mary. There were no musically gifted people in the family. His childhood fell on the war and post-war years, when parents were more concerned about how to feed their children. The boy’s singing talent developed when he studied at a rural school, and it did not go unnoticed.
His natural gift allowed him to easily memorize melodies and songs and then reproduce them. In addition to school singing lessons, the boy attended the village club, where he first saw a piano and an accordion. From a young age, he began not only to play these instruments but also compose his own songs. The young man especially liked the works by the classics of Turkmen poetry – Magtymguly Fraghi, Kemine – that easily went with music.
According to family legends, Myami was 16 years old when Danatar Ovezov noticed him. An outstanding composer and teacher led a commission that looked for young talents in different regions of the country. An audition for amateur artistic groups was held at the Bayramaly music school. Myami Charyev’s talent was immediately noticed, and the young man was admitted to the conducting and choral department of the Ashgabat Music School (now the Turkmen State Special Music School named after Danatar Ovezov at the Turkmen National Conservatory named after Maya Kuliyeva), where he studied from 1956 to 1960.
In Ashgabat, Myami Charyev began his career at secondary school No. 20, where he taught singing and led the choir from which many gifted artists and vocalists graduated in the following years. After graduating from the specialized school, Myami began working at the House of Folk Art in Mary.
The lyric tenor who masterfully accompanies himself on the accordion was noticed by the leadership of the cultural sphere and numerous fans, including in the artistic community. Suffice it to say that the famous Turkmen poet Kara Seytliyev, admiring the singer’s talent and devotion to art, dedicated a poem to Myami Charyev, in which he compared him with the hero of the ancient Turkmen epic “Nedjep Oglan”, who healed the souls of people with his musical talent.
In the 1960s, as part of the propaganda teams, Myami Charyev visited the most remote corners of Turkmenistan. At this time, he actively composed his own pop songs. He was especially successful in Russian humorous rhymes and original Turkmen ones, as they reflected the character of the performer, his sparkling humor and good nature. The artist’s wife recalls with a smile how he cheerfully performed Indian hits. Over time, a significant part of his compositions comprised songs for children.
In alliance with young talented artists, Myami Charyev created the musical group “Murgab Ovazlary” (Murgab voices) at the State Drama Theater named after Kemine in Mary region. The ensemble included musicians, singers, illusionists and theater artists. One of the parts of the group’s concerts was always dedicated to national music, the second to modern pop music, which was new and aroused great interest among listeners. The ensemble resounded throughout the region. The artists toured the Mary region, and then all the neighboring ones, and performed at the camps of shepherds and oil workers in the desert. Pop songs were also a real discovery for the villagers.
The artist’s popularity was so great that his performances to the accompaniment of the accordion were treated as a genuine and long-awaited holiday. Collective farm leaders competed for having Myami at their farms for the Harvest Festival. Fans invited the artist to weddings and other celebrations. Myami loved his audience. He sometimes performed in field camps, where a small area would be cleared of clover or cotton to serve as a stage.
“My husband spent a lot of time on tours or business trips as the leader of groups of Turkmen cultural figures who traveled abroad to participate in art events or exchange experiences,” the artist’s wife recalls. He visited Poland, Mali, Algeria, India, Yemen, Holland, performed in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia... And when he came back, it was a holiday for the whole family, especially for children – two daughters and three sons.
Mami loved composing and performing songs for children, which would quickly become popular among people. He composed songs about Motherland, work, love and beauty of the nature of the native land that were full of deep meaning and emotions. Particularly popular were the songs “Mary Waltz”, “We Need Peace”, “At the Festive Dastarkhan of My Land”, “Colorful Flowers”, “Lights of Ashgabat”. The song “We Need Peace” is performed annually on Victory Day by the choir and brass band of the Mary Special Music School named after Yelaman Khummaev.
The artist’s 20 songs, performed to the accompaniment of a Russian ensemble of folk instruments, were recorded at the Melodiya studio in Moscow in 1979. Four hundred copies of the gramophone record “Myami Charyev Sings His Songs” were released, one of which is carefully kept in the Charyev family.
In the 1970s, the Mary Regional Philharmonic was established, and Myami Charyev was appointed its head and artistic director. He worked in this position for 12 years. In parallel with this work and numerous tours, the artist studied distantly at the conducting and choral department of the Moscow State Institute of Culture in 1970–1974.
In 1987, a branch of the All-Union Musical Society was opened in Turkmenistan, and Myami Charyev was appointed its deputy director. And two years later, he became the head of the Turkmen State Philharmonic named after Mylly Tachmyradov in Ashgabat and worked in this position until the official closure of the Philharmonic. In 1993, Myami Chariyev was awarded the title of People’s Artist of Turkmenistan. His many years of work in the field of culture were rewarded with the medal “For Love of the Fatherland,” certificates of honor and insignia.
Dunyagozel-edje speaks fondly of Myami’s many friends, teachers and colleagues who visited their hospitable house in Mary, their large courtyard, where real art meetings and impromptu concerts tool place under the shade of grape arbors and on carpeted trestle beds. The visitors included director of the Ashgabat music school Allanazar Rejepov, who had a fatherly attitude towards Myami Charyev, as well as masters of musical art Danatar Ovezov and Chary Nurymov, poets Kara Seytliyev, Chary Kurbanklychev, Ata Abdyrakhmanov, Tagan Sokhbetov, Ata Tyazebaev, artists Aman Kulmamedov and Margarita Farajova who stayed overnight in his house. Polad Bulbul-ogly, Irina Allegrova and other popular artists who visited Turkmenistan with concerts through the Philharmonic also visited the Charyevs’ house.
Myami Charyev passed away in July 2005, leaving behind fond memories and the great song legacy. The professional careers of the artist’s children are also connected with art. Today, the Charyev family consists of his 11 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. Myami Chariyev’s works are played today on national television and radio and on various pop stages across the country.