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The history of Turkmen music is closely linked with the narration of heroic epics. The ritual recitation of epics, also known as dastan, fhe Persian term, was the foundation and main means of transmission of the Turkmen cultural heritage in the broad sense for several centuries.
In the oral tradition of the Turkic-speaking peoples, the narration of epics of various kinds (their names differing according to the ethnic group - olonkho among the Yakuts, kal chorchdk among the Altaic people, for example) appeared at a time when their tribal organization of society was disappearing. For this reason many Turkic daxtan are, in fact, collective productions which, for the generations to come, conveyed behavioural patterns, elements of real life, customs and beliefs of shamanism, the cult of the Heavens and the Earth and of a multitude of guardian spirits and host spirits.
The structural pattern of a popular Turkmen dastan consists of prosaic narrative interspersed with numerous songs in verse form, usually monologues or dialogues, which recount stories marked by strong emotional content or tension The repertory of songs, originally a collection of ancient ritual and folk songs, was enriched over the years by the creative works of renowned poets and by the odginat contributions of the dasfan performers, the bakahi.
Northern and southern daxtan recitations differ, moreover, from the standpoint of their repertories : whereas more recent productions, mainly of a religious kind, are common in Yolatan, in Tashaur numerous narratives are recited, the most popular being the celebrated Kbroglu tale, the eartiest Turkic heroic epic that has survived.
The main character in the Korogly epic is a legendary hero - evolving with the passage of time - who defends his clan or tdbe against all dangem. The histodeal backctoth of the epic reflects the themes of popular insurrections and aggressive or defensive wars at the end of the sixteenth and the beginning of the seventeenth centuries. But the bakhxhi used to bdng their stodes up to date and this accounts for the descdption of later events in the songs, especially the struggle of Turkic tribes against the expansion of foreign powers along their frontiers, such as the Khiva Khanate, the Onoman Empire, Arab feudal lords and others.
But the hero of the epic himself has preserved many traits of pre-Muslim figures (the batyr) revealed in the weapon he carries He is clad in armour of an unusual kind. He carries a magic sword and a bow that he alone can xtdng He is accompanied by Kyr At the winged horse, who understands human speech and without whose help Kbroglu's famous exploits would never have come to pass. Koroglu is also under the protection of the ubiquitous eren, mysterious beings of ancient lineage, and of all kinds of shamanist spirits whose actions are in keeping with those of the Prophet, his son-in-law All, who is the patron of knights, and other Muslim saints.
Kbroglu's exploits are strongly reminiscent of the story of a legendary hero and also reflect the life of a great shaman Kbroglu's birth is accompanied by extraordinary events. His youth is spent away from home, on the steppes, where, guided by an experienced master of horsemanship, he becomes an accomplished knight and rider. In love with a virgin he has seen in a dream, Kbroglu embarks upon a long voyage, his road (Yol), which finally leads him to the ideal of his dream in an enchanted land.
The Turkmen version of the Kbroglu tale consists of 13 chapters called (shaha means branch or twig):
1. Koroglynyng dorejshi(Koroglu's birth)
No bakhshi, present or past, has known the
entire text of the Koroglu epic Their repertory contained one, two or, at most,
three or four shaha. One brilliant esception was Palvan-bakhshi (1890-1939)
trom Tashauz who performed all the shaha escept the final one. The
performance of this final shaha has always been strctly banned and is to this
day death, symbolized by black, is a sign ot impurity and is associated with
the spidts of the underworld with which no bakhahi may enter into contact.
The ninth chapter of the Koroglu epic, whose subject is Turkmen reverses, is
hardly ever peformed in
The most complete version is very probably
the one that Palvan-bakhshi noted in 1937. It was published, with a Russian
translation, in 1983 (BA. Karryev, ed. koroglu, Nauka,
Most ot the songs included in this disc are pertormed by the "collectors", the bakhshi-tirmechi. They do not recite the dastan, but, in performances which may last for a number of hours, they sing pieces from the difterent dastan and classical Turkmen poems.
The songs are ledicated by Roman numerals in the order in which they occur in the epic The details are set out ss follows.
1. original title