July 9, 2012 By Violetta Yunusova

Modern Russian Islamic music traditions: History and relationships with Islamic regions

The relationships of Islamic music traditions in Russia and Islamic regions: Near and Middle East, Central Asia, have started from the 7th century. Since this time in the territory of Northern Caucasus has lived Arabian people, whose culture has rendered influence on local traditions.Derbent city in Dagestan has played the important role in spreading of Islamic traditions. This city was situated on the single road along Caspian Sea from Iran, Near and Middle East. It was called a/-abvab(the gate of gates). A lot of people from Damascus, Palestine, Mosul, Jazzier and other places lived there. The reciting masters of the Holy Qur’an – kurra (karri) – propagated Islam, Arabian language and new ideas. Arabian language was popular in Dagestan right up to the middle of the l9th century. After that time Arabian population was turned to local languages and cultural traditions, which were Islamic with ancient local coloring to that time. The heritage of the great Arabian and Persian cultures was adopted in Derbent in North Caucasus.

Volga-Ural region and North Caucasus are two main regions of the spreading of Islam in Russia, with different types of music-religious traditions. If to North Caucasus Islam came through Dagestan from Arabian regions and Iran, then Volga-Ural region had a history contacts with Baghdad and with Iran, Middle (Central) Asia and Turkey later. The spreading of Islam and religion culture in this region took place during 9-l4thcenturies. After capture of Kazan khanate in 1552 and Astrakhan khanate in 1556, Russian tsar Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible) prohibited Islam from big cities. But in the middle of the l9th century there were 57 madrasahs and 430 mektebs(Muslims pre- schools) in Volga-Ural region, including the famous “Muhammadiya” madrasah and
“Kasymiya” madrasah in Kazan, “Galiya” madrasah in Ufa and others.

Islam in Russian Federation has some specific peculiarities, which is possible to select only in compare with the other Islamic regions. Some of them are descended from Russia geographical situation in Europe and Asia, and cultural situation between East and West. The others are characterized by ethnocultural particularities, and present different directions of the Islam with various orientations: Sunnism (MazhabHanan) and Sufism in Volga-Ural region, and Sunnism and Sufism-Muridism in North Caucasus. MazhabHanan is predominated in Russia. Today, several music traditions- Diasporas of nations’ of the former USSR: Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, as well as Afghanistan, Kurdish and some other diasporas, develop in Russia too. But their Islamic music traditions aren’t studied in Russia yet.

The system of Islam music-cultural traditions in Russia, in my opinion, comprises three layers from itself: religious; ceremonial; the nowadays religion music culture, including folk music: songs on spiritual poetry and others. It involves three types of ceremonies and genres: religion (rac’at, at-tajwid, azan); ritual (zikr) and folk (bait munadzhat, turkeyetc.).

Inflexion side of the Holy Qur’an reciting serves the sound standard (ideal) and defines the inflexion side of Islamic music-cultural tradition. Here wide-spread different traditions, first of all the Syrian style of the Holy Qur’an reciting at the average rate, so-called tadvir, have for a long time saved early styles of reciting; the spoken tradition of the text of the Holy Qur’an has appeared. Sunnite azan, wide-spread, in North Caucasus, comprises of itself repeated seven obligatory molds and has a traditional structure. The style of the North-Caucasian azan is close to Iranian and Azerbaijan. In the same time local styles of the Holy Qur’an reciting are based on musical modes (for example, pentatonic scale), local languages and music inflexions.

In Soviet time professional masters of the Qur’an reciting (hafez) were found very rarely. Many old men and women in villages studied Qur’an reciting from their mu//ah or their relatives. They saved Islamic heritage and handed down it to their children. Sometimes they didn’t know Arabian and studied Qur’an like a folk song. In fact, the folk style was very popular in Russian regions. In Soviet period I met the similar facts in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, too. Nowadays the famous religious figures from Arabian countries, Iran and Turkey are invited to Moscow mosques for religious service.

The main Islamic folk music genres in Volga-Ural region are bait and munadzhat (munadjat). They appeared in the 7-lOth centuries under the Islam influence. Bait [ba’i:t] (from arab. bait) – epic poetry and musical genre which Islamic poetry form with ancient local tradition – associated with ceremony of weeping for dead. Text was often written in special books with Arabian letters but music was always in existence in oral tradition. There weren’t tight melodies for them and famous religious songs were often used. Sometimes new music was composed. The themes of baits were different and historical theme was popular. Music of these baits looked like munadzhat. In the beginning of bait quotation of the Holy Qur’an (takbiror shahada) were put.

Munadzhat – is known as religious-didactic songs. In Volga-Ural cities it was arisen from the similar Near East poetic genre under the Sufi influence. In the Middle Ages  munadzhat was part of classic music, but this type of music disappeared later. Today munadzhatis the folk genre. One of the first notations of munadzhatscan be found in the book of a famous Russian ethnomusicologist, Sergey GavrilovichRybakov (1867-1922): Music and songs of Russian Muslims with studies of their way of life (S-Pb., 1897) in which examples of the end of the l9th centuty were written. Munadzhatis performed in death ceremony, on religious holidays, weddingceremony. They can be divided into religious and secular. The last ones are divided into historical, tragic, about important doings of life. The small part of religious munadzhats is performed on Arabian language the others – on local Tatar and Bashkiria languages. In religious munadzhats, surats of the Holy Qur’an are often used. Some of them are devoted to Prophet Muhammad, his mother and Islam religion.

Munadzhatwas considered as the keeper of religious ideas. Its music style sounded like folk as well as the Holy Qur’an reciting. The practice of reading (singing) didactic’- religious book “Muhammadiya” influenced on munadzhatstyle. This book was written in Arabic by the Turkish poet Muhammad Cheleby in 1449. Text has been often written in system of classic Arabian poetry – arud.

Specific characteristic of munadzhatmusic was enlarged cadence and the name of Allah has been always sung on the fundamental tone. The same fact in azan was described by M. Gettat (1980). The same phenomenon can be found in some munadzhat Modal system of munadzhatand bait is based on pentatonic scale, but in munadzhat some Arabian maqamelements can be found. Tatar ethnomusicologist Rosa Ishakova- Vamba was the first who wrote about this fact (as well as about Arabian influence inTatar music at all) in the soviet period in 1978. It wasn’t easy in that communist time.
She has opened the way to investigation of this question in Russian music science.

Musical style of bait and munadzhathas had an influence on the main Volga-Ural folklore genre ozon key (long song). In the end of the 1980s munadzhatsand baits began to disappear. Old performers refused to sing the religious songs for researchers. When Russia took independent statehood in 1992 and religion was permitted these genres began to rise.

Nowadays bait and munadzhatcan be heard on the stage in folklore ensembles’ programs too. Members of these ensembles in expeditions recorded ancient Islamic music from old masters and performed these genres on the stage. For example “Ak Kalfak” ensemble (chief – Gennady Makarov) from Kazan city used maqam style.

Since the end of last century munadzhatperformers competitions in Russia have been organized. One of them was put into practice in 2002 by Tatarstan TV, the others – in Tatarstan and Bashkortostan in 2005.

Religious music inspires modem composers from this region and is used in their musical compositions: concert for chorus a capellaMunadzhatby Shamil Shrifullin, oratorio Maulid an-Nabiby MasgudaShamsutdinova, E/vidagfor chorus a capella by Rashid Kalimullin etc. These compositions are often performed on religious holidays. Sufi practice, which was actively developed in Volga-Ural region in the Middle Ages, has disappeared now. But it continues their life in Northern Caucasus.

The music culture of Islam in Northern Caucasus wasn’t studied in modern music science. The first and, unfortunately, the last special work is my book about Islam and music in Russia published in 1997. In Russia, Islam comes out, on one hand, as a universal principle, and on the other hand, as various orientations: sunnism, Sufism etc. which often differ in their attitude towards musical activity and its concrete form. Music
is a very important part of the national culture of Russian Muslims’

Music is the important phenomenon of muridism – specific type of Sufi brotherhood’s Nakshbandiyaand Kadiriyamystically practiced in Northern Caucasus,
where Abu Hamid al-‘Gazali’s traditions are developed.

The main ritual tradition in this region is zikr. Musical practice of zikris based on the Holy Qur’an reciting, ritual songs and dances, including the local folk music, as death weeping uj, bozlauor magic medical songs – chapsh, historical songs etc. Relationship between pre-Islamic (heathen), Christian and Islamic cultural traditions in local folk genres determine specific quality of religious ceremony and its music, including the Holy Qur’an reciting. In the same time the influence of Islamic cultural tradition on folk music can be mentioned. For example, it is necessary to emphasize specific character of musical thinking, connecting with Qur’an reciting as ideal of  sound.

Circular zikrdances (called dzhagr) are performed with accompaniment of Caucasian drums (dhal, nagora), tambourine (daj) and hand clapping. Sometimes local flute kamylis also used. (GacapaeB, 1998; P.75) The famous Sufi Kunt Hajji (d. 1837) introduced that type of zikrwith musical instruments to Shamil, who was the famous political leader in the l9th century. But he didn’t like it. Holy Qur’an reciting with ritual dances in small zikrritual were included. (aypoB, 1971; P.35)

In my opinion, religious songs – mlid, qasydah, marsiyain Northern Caucasus, especially in Dagestan, sounds like Azerbaijan religious music. They are based on local maqamscales – mugams. This is the special theme for the future investigation. Region music-cultural tradition can be presented by religious songs tur (tulky). In modem Dagestan it is investigated only by philologists. They called these songs “poetry for singing” or reciting. In the beginning of the last century the first book has been published in Turkey by AbusufyanAkaev. But the first example of turkyabout night namazwas written in the l5th century, by Idris from Akysh village. Unfortunately, we don’t know anything about its music, especially in the past. We only know that music of popular classic songs has been used for Turkey songs. It looks like bait music in Volga-Ural region. But using of classic music reminds of munadzhat.

There are some local types of Northern Caucasus religious songs and zikr, but nobody has researched them yet. Study of the Russian Muslims cultural traditions has only begun, and it is represented very perspective.

Today Russian musicology shows great interest in world of Islam music research. In new Russia, this kind of schools have remained in central part of the country (Moscow, St-Petersburg), Siberia (Novosibirsk) and Far East (Vladivostok). Many scientists switched over from Soviet Asia to foreign Asian music: Arabian, Iranian, etc. Part of them continue their investigations in theory of Asian music, modem practice of classic music, ethnoorganology, Asian music history, composers school’s evolution and other directions and aspects. But Islamic music research in Russia is the new way of our science. In formed USSR this material has been investigated only like folklore genres without religion culture context. Many traditions of Islamic music in Russia are very old and they must be recorded and catalogued. Qur’an reciting in Tatarstan and Bashkortostan (Bashkiria) regions is studied by IyaImamutdinova from Moscow,GuzelSaifullina (who lives in Netherlands) and some others young ethnomusicologists. They and some other researchers, including beginners, were united by my conference “World Music: research problems” which took place in Moscow Tchaikovsky
conservatory in 2004, 2005 and 2007.

The important trend of oriental studies is application of the oriental music as a subject to conservatory education, creation of the training aids for students. The first special training aid “History of Non-European music cultures” has been published last year, by a group of scientists of Moscow and Kazan conservatories.

Special thanks for Bashkirian ethnomusicologist ZilyaImamutdinova, who has given to me some Audio examples.

ViolettaYunusowa is the Professor in the Department of Foreign Music History at the Tchaikovsky Moscow State Conservatory.

Courtesy: Congress des Musiquesdans le monde de |’Islam. Assilah, 8-13 aoOt 2007.

Conference on Music in the world of Islam.Assilah, 8-13 August, 2007. And all rights are reserved with the author, Violetta

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