The Bag of an Imagined Circassian Minstrel

Amjad Jaimoukha

 

I will attempt to recreate the repertoire of an idealized Circassian minstrel (джэгуакIэ, jegwak'we)  to shed light on this most intriguing of craftsmen and personages in Circassian folklore and to contribute, albeit slightly, to the revival of a lost tradition. This will be an ongoing project, as the compass of the topic is too wide for one person to comprehend in a short period of time. With the penning down of the oral lore of these artists, which has been going on since the 19th century, it is possible to have access to a considerable amount of materials associated with their esoteric craft. Unfortunately, we have just lost one of the greatest minstrels of the 20th century, namely Ziramikw Qardenghwsch' (КъардэнгъущI Зырамыку; [1918-2008]), who died in December 2008, just shy of his 91st birthday. His work in the collection and dissemination of Circassian folklore is unparalleled. Although I have never met the great bard, I have heard anecdotal accounts of his complaints that he never received sufficient support from the concerned cultural institutions to take his endeavours to their logical conclusion. However, his publications (detailed below) bear testimony to his versatility and dexterity. For a tribute to the prime minstrel, visit <http://jaimoukha.synthasite.com/ziramikw-qardenghwsch’.php>.

The archetypal song bard of the second half of the 20th century is undoubtedly Vladimir Bereghwn (Бэрэгъун Владимир) (1939-1998), Honoured Cultural Worker of the Russian Federation and People’s Artist of the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic, whose powerful operatic voice was best suited for ancient anthems. He documented and recorded a number of Pantheonic chants, including ‘Mezgwasche’ («МЭЗГУАЩЭ»; ‘Forest-Lady’). His wide Nart repertoire included an emotive rendering of ‘Nartizch Wered’ («НАРТЫЖЬ УЭРЭД»; ‘Song of the Ancient Narts’), which causes tingling sensations in the back of one’s head, ‘Ashemez yi Pshinalhe’ («АШЭМЭЗ И ПШЫНАЛЪЭ»; ‘Ashemez’s Melody’), ‘Bedinoqwe yi Pshinalhe’ («БЭДЫНОКЪУЭ И ПШЫНАЛЪЭ»; ‘Bedinoqwe’s Melody’), ‘Sosriqwe Maf’e Qeih’ («СОСРЫКЪУЭ МАФIЭ КЪЕХЬ»; ‘Sosriqwe Fetches Fire’), and many others. His heroic/historical repertory included ‘Senjeley yi Wered’ («СЭНДЖЭЛЕЙ И УЭРЭД»; ‘The Song of Prince Sanjalay’), in which he evokes the heroism of the medieval prince-warrior. His version of the (Plains Shapsugh) comic wedding song ‘Siy Paq!’* (‘My Pug-Nosed One!’) is one of the high points of Circassian music.

Therefore, without ever having met a minstrel (and from a distance of a thousand miles from Circassia and many decades away from the heyday of Circassian minstrelsy), I hope that my attempt here would be considered credible and useful. My endeavour will also entail the learning of the craft of the idealized character that I create (minus the innate talent and flare, social skills and graces, and musical and other know-how).

The repertoire of our stylized bard would be comprised of the following:

The resources at my disposal:

* Asterisked songs are available on the CD that accompanies the book Circassian Culture and Folklore.

  Books that Qardenghwsch' authored and co-authored:

Qardenghwsch’ (Kardangushev), Z. (compiler), Qeberdey Ts’ixwbe Weredxer [Kabardian Folk Songs], 1955.

Weredilhe [Collection of Songs], 1962. [100 modern Kabardian songs]

Adige Weredizchxer [Ancient Circassian Songs], Nalchik: Elbrus Book Press, 1969. [34 songs; words in Kabardian; sheet music of each song; commentary at end of book]

Adige ’Weri’watexer I [Circassian Tales, Vol. 1], Kabardino-Balkarian Science and Research Institute, Nalchik, 1963.

Adige ’Weri’watexer II [Circassian Tales, Vol. 2], Kabardino-Balkarian Science and Research Institute, Nalchik: Elbrus Book Press, 1969 (1970).

Adige Weredizchxer [Ancient Circassian Songs], Nalchik: Elbrus Book Press, 1979. [61 songs; words in Kabardian; no sheet music; stories of the songs at end of the book]

Adige Psalhezchxer [Circassian Proverbs], Nalchik: Elbrus Book Press, 1982. [Available, in one form or another, on the Web]

Adige X’wex’wxer [Circassian Toasts], Nalchik: Elbrus Book Press, 1985; reprinted: 1994. Online. Available HTTP: <http://www.circassianworld.com/Xuexuexer.html> (accessed 15 February 2008). [Introduction by Zawir Nalo]

Bereghwn (Baragunov), V. H. and Qardenghwsch’ (Kardangushev), Z. P’. (compilers), Adige Weredxemre Pshinalhexemre, Yape Txilh. Narodnie pesni i instrumentalnie naigrishi adigov, tom 1 [Circassian Songs and Instrumental Folk-Tunes, Vol. 1], Moscow: All-Union Book Publishing House ‘Soviet Composer’, 1980. Online. Available HTTP: <http://www.circassianlibrary.org/library.php?lang=en&mn=4&sbmn=1> (accessed 11 September 2007). [Edited by E. V. Gippius. This, and the other volumes in the series, are seminal works on Circassian musical lore. Some of the collected songs and chants are very ancient indeed]

Adige Weredxemre Pshinalhexemre, Yet’wane Txilh. Narodnie pesni i instrumentalnie naigrishi adigov, tom 2 [Circassian Songs and Instrumental Folk-Tunes, Vol. 2], Moscow: All-Union Book Publishing House ‘Soviet Composer’, 1981.

Adige Weredxemre Pshinalhexemre, Yeschane Txilh. Narodnie pesni i instrumentalnie naigrishi adigov, tom 3 [Circassian Songs and Instrumental Folk-Tunes, Vol. 3, Parts 1 and 2], Moscow: All-Union Book Publishing House ‘Soviet Composer’, 1986, 1990.

Alieva, A. I., Gadagatl (Hedeghel’e), A. M. and Kardangushev (Qardenghwsch’), Z. P., Narti: Adigski geroiski èpos [The Narts: A Circassian Heroic Epos], Èpos Narodov SSSR [Epos of the Peoples of the USSR], Moscow, 1974. [In Circassian and Russian]

Ghwch’emix’w, A. and Qardenghwsch’, Z. P. (eds), Adige Psalhezchxer (yapa txilh) [Circassian Proverbs, Vol. 1], Kabardino-Balkarian Science and Research Institute, Nalchik: The Kabardino-Balkarian Publishing House, 1965. [Introduction by Askerbiy Shorten]

Ghwch’emix’w, A. M. and Qardenghwsch’, Z. P. (compilers), Adige Psalhezchxer [Circassian Proverbs], Nalchik, 1968.

Schojen, H. and Qardenghwsch’, Z., Adige Xabzew Schi’axer [Erstwhile Circassian Customs and Traditions], Nalchik, 1995.

 

The Circassian Minstrels


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