Circassian Music & Musicology

 

 

Amjad Jaimoukha

:

 

[For audio recordings of the songs in this section, please write to me at <Jaimoukha@gmail.com> and I will send you the files by e-mail]

 

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The Bzhedugh (Western Circassian) song Our hired haymaker is blind in one eye, which was sung either before mowing, or after breaking for lunch, is in the repertoire of the Adigean State Folk Song Ensemble (Yislhamiy):

 

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The Mower Song:

Our hired haymaker is blind in one eye

 

1. Our hired haymaker is blind in one eye!

Chorus: Woy, yey, yey, woy, yey, yey!

Yereda, wo woro, wo, schade![1]

 

2. (Riyrash)[2] pray tell, (wo,) blessed mower!

Chorus: Yey, yey, yey, yey, wo!

Woriyrashe gwsheba, (wo,) blessed mower![3]

 

 

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My Pug-Nosed One!

 

Chorus: Areda, areda,

Areda, rade, arada.

 

Arade my Paq,

The pug-nosed one dances so well,

My Paq is wearing wooden sabots,

She whose fingers make the needle whistle,

Whose hands and feet are in good measure,

My Paq is a lass in full plenitude,

Arade my Paq.

 

Chorus: Areda, areda,

Areda, rade, arada.

 

Arade my Paq,

The pug-nosed one dances very nicely,

My Paq is short-elbowed,

When my Paq sews with the needle,

My Paq is enamoured of sewing,

My Paq is a skilful seamstress,

Arade my Paq.

 

Chorus: Areda, areda,

Areda, rade, arada.

 

Arade my Paq,

The pug-nosed one dances so well,

My Paq heats the tip of the needle,

My Paq does needlework with gold,

The hair on my Paqs temples are curled,

A faithful companion is my Paq,

Arade my Paq.

 

Chorus: Areda, areda,

Areda, rade, arada.

 

Arade my Paq,

The pug-nosed one dances very nicely,

When my Paq joins the wij dancers,

The dancers become animated,

And when my Paq leaves the dance,

The dancers break into threes and fours,

Arade my Paq.

 

Chorus: Areda, areda.

 

 

 

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Smallpox Song:

Swift White Horse

 

The swift white horse,

Tears along fleeter than the deer.

 

The brave ones are squeezing its thighs,[6]

Itself in gilded silk.

 

Itself in gilded silk,

They pasture it at the edge of the heavens.

 

They put it to pasture at the edge of the heavens,

Where the Masters horse pasture lies.

 

The Masters horse pasture is,

By Allah, a lush meadow.

 

By Allah, a lush meadow,

Where splendid oak-trees grow.

 

Fine oak grows there,

As well as more clover than anywhere else.

 

More clover grows there than anywhere else,

His ethereal abode is roofed with gold.

 

His roof is covered with gold,

The roofing on it three blades of grass.

 

The roofing on top is of three blades of grass,

Three of his bovines are perennial milch-cows.

 

Three of his cows are permanent milkers,

His cow-house is a magnificent palace.

 

His cow-house a resplendent palace,

Where silver ingots are cast.

 

Silver bullion is founded there,

Where there is but one entrance.

 

It has but one door,

The bottom of its spring shingle.

 

The bed of its spring is of pebbles,

The welling water is mead.

 

The welling water is honey-sweet,

Our souls are guests in thy realm.[7]

 

Our souls are thy guests,

The auspicious guest is coming to us.

 

The propitious guest is coming to us,

Issuing forth from three beads.

 

He hails from three beads,

The three beads issuing forth disjointed brightness.

 

The three beads issuing their light in disconcert,

They ripen separately.

 

The three beads ripen separately,

Their ripening is such a joy.

 

Their ripening is a great joy,

A delightful bliss for the one with disease.

 

A delightful bliss for the ill,

May his disease ease up!

 

May his illness be mitigated,

May thee get better, may thee recover!

 

May thee get well, may thee recover,

May God predestine it for thee to heal!

 

May God will it for thee to recover,

What God ordains is so much better!

 

Gods will cannot be surpassed,

God is so swift in his beneficence.

 

God is swift in his beneficence,

God is lavish in his mercy.

 

God is so lavish in his beneficence and mercy,

That our village shall remain an object of envy!

 

 

 


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Two rain songs are presented. In the first chant, We are escorting Hantsegwashe, the supplication is addressed to the (native Circassian) Goddess of Rain (Hantsegwashe, in Western Circassian), whilst in the second, We Yeleme, siy schewe naschwxwe! (Oh Elijah, my grey-eyed laddie!), Saint Elijah (Yele) personified as a grey-eyed youth is invoked. The latter chant accompanied ritual dancing in the annual rain ceremonies of the Shapsugh held in April supplicating the Deity of Rain for summer rain.

 

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Song to Hantsegwashe, the Goddess of Rain:

We are escorting Hantsegwashe

 

1. We are escorting Hantsegwashe

It is raining!

 

2. It is thundering in Nixetx[8]

It is raining!

 

3. May it rain in Lighwetx![9]

It is raining!

 

4. Schewenazchw[10] they are giving him whey for a drink!

 

 

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Song to Saint Elijah, invoking rain:

Oh Elijah, my grey-eyed laddie!

 

1. Oh Elijah, my grey-eyed laddie!

Chorus: Oh Elijah Elias!

 

2. They are giving the grey-eyed lad whey for a drink!

Chorus: Oh Elijah Elias!

 

3. It is thundering in Ghwyitx![11]

Chorus: Oh Elijah Elias!

 

4. Will it to rain in Lighwetx!

Chorus: Oh Elijah Elias!

 

5. Oh Elijah, my grey-eyed laddie!

Chorus: Oh Elijah Elias!

 

6.     They are giving the grey-eyed lad whey for a drink!

Chorus: Oh Elijah Elias!

 

 

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Haymaking Song:

Meadow of good fortune

 

(Woreide, woy,) meadow of good fortune

Chorus: Woreidew!

(Woroy,) we are setting to our task!

Chorus: Wororayde!

 

(Woreide, woy,) the auspicious chief mower

Chorus: Woreidew!

(Worew,) is our leader!

Chorus: Wororodow!

 

(Woreide, woy,) long windrows

Chorus: Woreidew!

(Worow,) are our odium!

Chorus: Wororodow!

 

(Woreide, woy,) the round-handled bowls

Chorus: Worow wow!

(Wow row,) are our joy!

Chorus: Wororodow!

 

 

I I , I, I I I I . I I . I I I I . I , I , I I .

 

Circassian aristocracy donned masks on their hunting expeditions, apparently to confound the prey, and together with the esoteric cant (schakwebze=language of the chase), render the objects of the hunt unaware of the true purpose of the chevy. In the following song, (multi-antlered, with branching antlers = deer) affords an example of a word used in the (secretive) language of the chase.

 

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Song of the Hunt:

The Song of Lord Mezithe

 

1. Lord Mezithe, (wo wor,) is his name, (yiji, wara woyde,)

(we,) his moustache, (wa,) is ginger red

Chorus: Wo!

Red wine, (wa, wo,) cheery and fine, (yiji, wara woyde,)

(we,) is kept to maturity for him

Chorus: Wo!

 

2. The white wether, (wo, wo,) fattened and many- horned, (wara woyde,)

(wa,) is the offering to him, (wa wariy,) delectable and right

Chorus: Wo!

(We,) whose daughter-in-law, (wa-a, wo,) beloved and dutiful, (yiji, wara woyde,)

(we,) kneels before him

Chorus: Wo!

 

3. We sent to him, (yiji, wara woyde,)

(we,) the white-sleeved maid

Chorus: Wo!

Custodian of victuals, (ar, we,) blessed protector of people, (yiji, wara woyde,)

(we,) masterly and dexterous

Chorus: Wo!

 

4. The great deers, (wa,) antler tips, (wara woyde,)

(we,) are his toy sabres

Chorus: Wo!

The fat fallow-deers, (wo, wo, wor,) skin of head, (wara woyde,)

(we,) is the material, (wo-we,) for his wineskin

Chorus: Wo!

 

5. The mighty elephants, (wo-a, wo,) hulking bone, (wara woyde,)

(we,) is his, (wo-we-wo,) cudgel

Chorus: Wo!

(We,) whose golden-red topknot, (yiji, wara woyde,)

(we,) stands on end, our great leader,

From the wool of deer is the head of thy bedstead

Chorus: Wo!

 

 

 

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Song of the Hunt:

The Song of St. George

 

1. My song, my song, (wewiywew, wareidiy, wo,) is the harbinger of fortune, bringer of good luck!

Chorus: Wo, wow, wow riyrariy!

(Wereida weiy, rawe-yeiy,) the thickets by the Psishxwe River, (yiji, we,)

Are grey, (wow, wo,) are grey, (rawe-yeiy)

Chorus: Wo, wo!

Our hardened grey hounds, (wer,) are dragging here, (wew,) their food, their food!

Chorus: Wo, wo!

 

2. My song, my chant, (wewiywew, warediy, we,) augurs well!

Chorus: Wo, wow, wow riyrariy!

(Wereida wiy, rawe-yay,) in the deep burrows, (we,) dwells, (we,) our,

(wo-wa,) our common prey, (rewe-yeiy)

Chorus: Wo, wo!

If we set off to Ezaxwe,[14] there, (te, ar,) about our failures, (wo-wo,)

Might we forget, might we forget!

Chorus: Wo, wo!

 

3. My song, my chant, (wewiywe, warediy, wo,) is the omen of good fortune!

Chorus: Wo, wow, wow riyrariy!

(Wereda wiy, rawe-yay,) St. George, (zhiy, we,) his Supreme God,

(wow, wo,) is in his company, (rewe-yay)

Chorus: Wo, wo!

Herself, (we,) always with the soft-snouts,[15] (yiji,) the white-faced [beauty], (wow, wo,)

Is his bag, his booty!

Chorus: Wo, wo!

 

4. My song, my chant, (wewiywew, warediy, we,) is propitious!

Chorus: Wo, wow, wow riyrariy!

(Wereda wiy, rawe-yay,) if foxes we are to hunt, (wer,) on lean steeds,

(wer,) lets set off, (rawe-yeiy)

Chorus: Wo, wo!

If deer we are after, (wer,) on stout mounts, (wo,) lets depart, lets depart!

Chorus: Wo, wo!

 

5. My song, my chant, (wewiywew, warediy, we,) is auspicious!

Chorus: Wo, wow, wow riyrariy!

All day long, (rawe-yay,) at our Amewiqwe,[16] staffs,

(wo, wowqe, wowqe, we,) are bent, [stretching hide] (rawe-yeiy)

Chorus: Wo, wo!

The dried off hide that they bring, (ar,) is packed full, (wo-wo,) in layers in bullock carts,

In layers in bullock carts!

Chorus: Wo, wo!

 

6. My song, my chant, (wewiywew, warediy, we,) omens well!

Chorus: Wo, wow, wow riyrariy!

(Wareda wiy, rawe-yay,) at our ancient Ariq the great deer,[17]

(wawqe, wo,) are grazing, (rawe-yeiy)

Chorus: Wo, wo!

The fattened deer, (yiji, ar,) with knees, (wo-wo,) are with black knees, (rawe-yeiy)!

Chorus: Wo, wo!

 

7. My song, my chant, (wewiywew, warediy, we,) bodes well!

Chorus: Wo, wow, wow riyrariy!

(Wereda wiy, rawe-yay,) our great black muskets, (wer,) together we,

(wo-wo,) we fire simultaneously, (rawe-yeiy)

Chorus: Wo, wo!

If he looks into the eyes of whatever breed of prey, (wo, wowqe, wow, we,)

It cannot flee, it just cannot break free!

Chorus: Wo, wo!

 

8. My song, my chant, (wewiywew, warediy, we,) is the omen of good luck!

Chorus: Wo, wow, wow riyrariy!

(Wareda wiy, rawe-yey,) Old Bedzele,[18] with dark and gloomy snakes,

(Wow, wo,) is swarming and teeming, (rawe-yeiy)

Chorus: Wo, wo!

He who rescues the captive white-sleeved damsel, by leading her by the hand through the

Crevice between the two massive rocks, is St. George, is St. George!

Chorus: Wo, wo!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The theme of St. George rescuing the damsel in distress is common to the medieval legends of the Circassians, Georgians, English, Ossetians, and other peoples. St. George is considered to be the patron saint of both the Georgians and English (and the Circassians before the advent of Islam). It is known that there had been active interactions between the Circassian and Georgian civilizations throughout the ages. St. Elijah, as bringer of rain, was also similarly venerated by both the Circassians and Georgians. The common heritage of the Circassians and Georgians merits further investigation.

 

 

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[1] Schade appears to have no semantic significance.

 

[2] Riyrash seems not to have a semantic significance.

 

[3] Gwsheba has no semantic sense in the given context.

 

[4] This is a Bzhedugh hymn. The sheet music of is included in Appendix 6. The hymn is in the repertory of the Adigean State Folk Song Ensemble Yislhamiy. It is included in the accompanying CD.

 

[5] I is white horse in Adigean. In Kabardian, I is (name of) grey horse. Some colour designations in Circassian seem to be context-dependent. For example, I in Kabardian means both green and (electric) blue. In Adigean, I designates green, sky-blue, and grey. (also ) in Kabardian designates red, vermilion, crimson, scarlet, and cherry-red, whereas in Adigean means red. In Kabardian, has two designations: brown and yellowish violet; and has three: beige, brownish, and violet. in Kabardian means dark-grey, brownish, and yellowish. The corresponding term in Adigean, , designates yellowish, yellowy. Perhaps regional variations have a bearing on this issue.

 

[6] So as to subdue it.

 

[7] Therefore, they ought to be inviolable.

[8] Nixetx is the name of a summit (in classical Shapsughia in Western Circassia), a few kilometres from where the supplication ceremony used to be held.

 

[9] Lighwetx (=Ridge of Fire) is the ancient (Circassian) appellation of a Shapsugh settlement on the left bank of the River Ashe, at a distance of about I3 km from the Black Sea coast. The village is located in the Lazarevsky District (of Sochi) in the Krasnodar Krai. In the I920s, the name of the village was supplanted by the Russian onomastic Krasnoaleksandrovsky III. However, the original name was restored in I993. With the choice of Sochi as the site of the 20I4 Winter Olympic Games, it would be apt to emphasize that the whole northeast coast of the Black Sea was once part of the homeland of the Circassians. The Circassian nationalists still lay claim on the whole area and are adamant that the original Circassian place names be restored in all of Circassia.

 

[10] Schewenazchw is the name of a brother of a (hallowed and benedict) victim of lightning. It literally means Half-Awake Lad.

 

[11] Name of a ridge in the mountains of Western Circassia, accessible from the road connecting Maikop to Tuapse on the Black Sea coast. Tuapse (Twapse=Two Rivers, in Circassian) is situated between Sochi in the south and Gelendzhik in the north.

 

[12] I is a compound word formed of the Turkic (gold, golden) and the Circassian I (here: topknot). In the olden days, Circassian men shaved their heads, leaving only a tuft of hair on the crown of the head. It is evident that not only did Mezithe have red moustaches, but he also had golden-red hair. When he got into a rage, his topknot would stand on end, terrifying all those around him.

 

[13] (multi-antlered, with branching antlers = deer) affords an example of a word used in the (secretive) language of the chase (schakwebze).

[14] Ezaxwe is the name of a place (in Circassia). Ezaxwe means drinking party in Kabardian. Perhaps Ezaxwe was the place to be to drown ones sorrows!

 

[15] In the language of the chase (schakwebze), wild boars and hogs were referred to as peschabe (soft-snouts).

 

[16] Amewiqwe is the name of a place (in Circassia).

[17] Ariq is the name of mountain ridge (in Kabarda; used for pasturage) and a settlement (also called Boriqwey) located on the right bank of the Terek River to the southwest of the ridge. Deer are referred to by the euphemistic appellation (of the language of the chase) (= multi-antlered, with branching antlers).

 

[18] Bedzele is a place name (in Circassia).