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Maqom series – Buzruk

In this series, we will concentrate on getting our ears accustomed to the various “maqom" – mode/melodic type – used in the Tajik-Uzbek tradition. A piece will be picked within each mode to demonstrate its characteristic.

As the first post in the series, we will begin with Buzruk, which is traditionally the first maqom to be mentioned of the six that make up the Shashmaqom – the six “grand suites" in the indicated mode.

What’s the shashmaqom?

Each of these maqom consists of an instrumental section (mushkilot) consisting several pieces, followed by the more substantial sung section (nasr) which contains a large number of pieces in the titled mode and “subsidiary melodic types". Throughout the series, pieces from both the instrumental and sung sections will be adapted for the dutar.

Maqom Buzruk

For demonstrating Buzruk, I have chosen a short piece, “Buzruk maqomi", adapted by the master Turgun Alimatov (note 1) for the sato, the long-necked bowed lute. He took the “Sarahbor-i Buzruk", the first piece in the sung section, known for its seriousness and complex melody, and made a self-containing piece out of its opening section.

On a technical level, the Buzruk mode is akin to a pentatonic mode, with the main notes D, E, G, A, B with occasional excursions into F natural and C as neighouring notes to E and B respectively. Furthermore, there is also the concept of the “starting note", the tonic, which is the D in this case. It is in fact the first note you hear in the piece. Another noteworthy element is a “characteristic motif" of G and E that you hear throughout the piece. If you read music, you can see the transcription for a taste of it below.

Buzruk (Alimatov 2)-1

The opening up to rehearsal mark A constitute the first xat, the verse, followed by the hang, the refrain, between A and B. The second xat follows immediately at B, and the same hang returns at C. A full-blown sarahbor would normally contain many more xat and hang. This is hence a simplified version – which serves our purpose to outline the basic characteristics of this mode.

Playing it on the dutar

The melody of the piece is actually very arhythmic – there are many long-held notes and drawn-out ornaments disguised as “rhythmic" movements. In performance, the singer (and accompanying instruments playing the same melody) is supported by the frame drum doyra playing a simple rhythm demarcating each beat, alternatively with a low and high sound (bum-bak), thus keeping the pulse even when there is an empty downbeat. However, when playing solo on dutar, it is impossible to hold a note for long, nor is it possible to tap the pulse without a melody (except for special effects). Therefore, long notes have to be played with repeated strokes to keep it sounding. Where there ought to be rests, I leave it blank sometimes, or prolong the previous/following note to fill the void, and also to add rhythmic interest.

Tuning-wise, the dutar is tuned to G on the lower string and C on the upper string. Even though there is a B lower than this C in the original, tuning the string down to this note would make the piece unidiomatic to play and so the note will be skipped subtly without affecting the overall presentation.

 

And for the really interested…

The Turgun Alimatov recording of the piece is taken from this recording, which itself is adapted from the Sarahbor-i Buzruk on what ought to be the official 1965 recording of the Shashmaqom directed by Yunus Rajabiy, the entirety of which can be downloaded here or heard on Spotify:

spotify:track:0Q3ZwzeCNa2WuPQ61ifmHE

According to Theodore Levin’s dissertation on the Shashmaqom in 1984, this performance ought to be the basis of the complete Shashmaqom transcription edited by Faizulla Karomatov and published  in 1969 and 1975. It differs subtly, especially in phrase length, from the commercial recording by Ilya Malayev, and from this rendition.

 

Pieces I’m learning – Dutor Bayot

This is a series where I shall post videos of pieces I have learnt along with a simple analysis of the piece, some background knowledge, as well as key points about the piece I noted whilst learning.

The first piece of the series is Dutor Bayot, probably one of the first pieces on the dutor that I have ever heard, and remains catchy for me for its brisk rhythm and simple melody.

  1. Structure:

Dutor Bayot A-1

B

Dutor Bayot B-1 + A 

C

Dutor Bayot C-1-1 + B + A

 D

Dutor Bayot D-1+ B + A

 

  1. Background

The melody of this piece is adapted from the melody of Bayot, the sho’be (sub-branch) of the Navo maqom* in the Bukharan shashmaqom, mostly in sung pieces. Characteristic of this melody is the gradual widening of the notes used in the major-like scale, beginning with a 3rd (do-mi) to a fifth (do-so), with and the culmination point (the avj) at the do an octave apart.

Adopted for the dutor, the melody is played faster than any of the sung pieces, and often incorporates purely percussive strikes on the body of the instrument (clicking with finger nails or tapping with finger tip), giving an impression of virtuosity.

*A mode which is used a few pieces in the collection, e.g. Muhammasi Bayot in the instrumental section (mushkilot), and talqini-bayot, nasr-i bayot, and ufor-i bayot. In the Ferghana-Tashkent tradition, however, bayot is a full maqom with five parts: saraxbor, tarona, savt, talqincha and soqinoma, each adopting the melody to their own usul (“groove").

  1. Versions available
  • Guzal Muminova, Dotar of Transoxania, Mahoor, 2007 (reference version for my recording)
  • Abdorahim Hamidov, Asie centrale: Les maîtres du dotâr, AIMP & VDE Gallo, 1993
  • Sultonali Xudoyberdiev (Soltan-Ali Khodaverdiev), Ouzbékistan : L’art du dotâr, Ocora, 1997
  • Zokirjon Obidov, Dotâr – Iran, Central Asia & Anatolia, Mahoor, 2010
  1. Thoughts on learning the piece

The version I learnt is the one recorded by Guzal Muminova from the album Dotar of Transoxania released by Mahoor in 2007. She plays with a steadier rhythm (compared to other recordings) and compensates for the virtuosity by using tremolos (riz) on the right hand extensively.

As the melody itself is quite straightforward and somewhat repetitive, variety is to be achieved through using various different strokes on the right hand to give different colours, all the while respecting the groove of the piece (♪♪♬♪), with a special emphasis in bringing out the syncopating motif of the final semiquaver and quaver.

The first half of section C includes a tapping on the soundboard of the dutor, imitating the bass strike on the doira. It is recommended to tap with two fingers (m and a) near the centre of the body just up from the bridge, in order to get a rich, deep sound. The index finger will then perform the up/down stroke on the string. As the melody is “broken up", the left hand will need to add more vibrato to let the notes ring on.

Alternative version

Dutor Bayot youtube