Traditional Art in Turkmenistan
The most vivid representatives of traditional Turkmen arts are bakhshi - musicians, storytellers singing and playing dutar. Musicians-bakhshi have been always honored and respected in Turkmenistan. Bakhshi wander with their songs from one village to another and everywhere people prepare for their visits in advance: they arrange conversation topics, a place for the event, entertainments and so forth They unroll a carpet on the big platform, set a big fire to light everyone present and in a few meters from it lay dastarkhan-cloth to put fruits, chel-pek (thinly cut fried dough) and other refreshments on it. About 2000 people might gather to listen to bakhshi.
Under a Moslem custom bakhshi wear special clothes: a don (heavy cotton wool dressing gown), telpek (a cap made of white and black ram’s wool), a white shirt, soft skin boots and wide trousers. They drink the water taken from their own well, and use their own ware carrying it everywhere with them.
Bakhshi starts singing at five-six o'clock in the evening and stops at eight or nine o'clock in the morning. After each two hours he takes a short break (10-15 minutes) during which he drinks tea and talks to people. The musician is at all times accompanied by an assistant who knows bakhshi's habits and tastes very well.
National Musical Instruments
Dutar is a string musical instrument. The word's origin is based on two Iranian words: du - two, tar - a string. The most ancient musical instrument (around the3rd) -oscar. It is a wind ceramic instrument similar to a flute in sound. It became widely popular not only in Central Asia but also in India, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and Kazakhstan.
Gopuz is a string musical instrument with a vibrating reed. A musician holds it with his lips and uses his tongue to produce a very unusual sound. Another popular string instrument is ghidzhak. To play it you will need a bow. It is sometimes called an Oriental violin.
Tuiduk is a wind instrument (similar to surnai). Turkmen say that Adam who was moulded from clay had no soul. It was only due to the melodious tuiduk playing Archangel Gabriel could breath life into him. According to a Turkmen legend the main role in tuiduk invention was played by the devil. There is a ritual of inviting guests for a celebration which has survived from ancient times. Two tuiduk players stand in front each other, point their instruments upwards and play in unison. While doing this they perform magic circular movements which remind that this ritual used to be linked to shamanism.
Singing national songs is a very ancient art. Their topics are various and they are connected with different aspects of people's lives. Mothers sing lullabies to their children, children sing during their games; there are maiden, wedding; labour songs performed during carpet weaving, camel milking, mill working. The national epos - destan is of great popularity in Turkmenistan. It consists of musical-poetic legends: fairy tales, legends, stories which are recited drawlingly. In destans prosaic narrations are combined with poetic fragment which are sung under dutar accompaniment. Originality of Turkmen music is expressed and in the original manner of singing. Singers sing straining their vocal cords in very high notes. The peculiarities of natural landscape (steppes and deserts) along with nomadic lifestyle resulted in a habit of loud talking. Hence the loud singing which is in sharp contrast with a silent gentle sound of a dutar.