Social change VS. music of Tajikistan. Part I: The Son of the Tomb
I was going down the stairs at one of the subways of the central part Dushanbe city. I was going in the stream of people not paying attention to what is going on around me. Suddenly there came something that has stopped me. I heard a faint sound of dutor and throaty voice, singing a poetical song. It was a gurgulihon.
With the present text I would like to open a series of articles investigating and discussing the influence of the social, economic and political tendencies upon culture and cultural industries of Tajikistan in general and upon music and traditional music culture in particular. In collaboration with experts, musicians, musicologists, and managers I will try to understand what is the direction the music and traditional music of Tajikistan moves to. I will also try to investigate the links of music culture with society, economy, and politics. The role of the music in Tajik culture will be revealed and its destiny will be discussed.
I start the series of articles with the text under the title “The Son of the Tomb” that tells about a unique music genre and its representative whom I accidently met.
I was going down the stairs at one of the subways of the central part Dushanbe city. I was going in the stream of people not paying attention to what is going on around me. Suddenly there came something that has stopped me. I heard a faint sound of dutor (or dumbra – a traditional two strings music instrument) and throaty voice, singing a poetical song. It was a gurgulihon \ guruglihon ( epos gurguli\gurugli singer) – a 70 year old looking man , sitting on the stairs, singing and playing dutor .
People around were in harry and almost have not paid any attention to the begging alms old man. The old man was performing a song about the “son of the tomb”, a hero of Tajik folk-epos, named Avaz. Avaz was born from the womb of a dead mother in the grave and made it to get out of this grave. Epos “Gurguli” is describing adventures of heroes, telling about struggle between good and evil, about social justice, society, and family. Music has always been a tool for passing of knowledge, social experience and the gurguli is vivid example of this passing.
But it was not the music or the performance style that actually stopped me. I was stopped by the fact that came to my mind. And the fact is that, as most of the local ethnomusicologist inform, there are only 3 gurguli performers left in the country. The one on the subway stairs Islomidin by name is the 4th performer we know now.
All those masters who perform gurguli in Tajikistan are older than 60 years. Their knowledge and skills in general are not passed to the younger generation because there are very few people interested in the genre. Performing gurguli will not bring them any good financial income. This music genre lacks state support while the state has “set the priorities” in the music that it is ready to support. Among the music genres that are supported we can find falak (folk vocal and instrumental music) and Shashmakom (folk professional classical music genre). Everything that is out of these genres finds little support of the state.
Indigenous music genres of Tajikistan are losing their relevance and social importance in the conditions of poverty, massive outflow the younger generation as labor migrants, focus on more profitable areas of activity. Indigenous music genres of Tajikistan are dying out though there some genres that are still alive playing their role in the social communication, rives and every day live of the people of Tajikistan. I will tell about those music genres in my following articles.
The gurgulihon went on singing. Passersby were giving him some change. Very few people would think that in several years there will be nobody whom they would give money to. Most probably the music genre gurguli will disappear from the cultural map of Tajikistan.
I asked the master-singer for the permission to shoot him and asked for the reason why he is playing here begging alms. He said that performing at the wedding does not bring him enough income. I left some money for master-singer, a bottle of water and thanked him for being friendly to me.