Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Musical Ethnography and Bagpipe of the Mordvins

Playing the puvama (Mordvin bagpipe)
Types of Mordvinian Instrumental Folk Music
Nicolai Boyarkin. Saransk, Mordovia

"In the above-mentioned prayers the main ritual functions were obligatory, performed, as a rule, by elected persons: the leader of the prayer _ ozksatya (ozks _ 'to pray, to worship'; atya _ 'old man'), or ozksbaba (baba _ `old woman'), who served as an intermediary between the Patron and the people, and was his mouthpiece, heard his `voice'; a beautiful girl (probably personifying the female source of the kin); a sturdy, handsome youth (personifying the male source of the kin), and musicians playing bagpipes and nyudis, as well as performers of protective signals on torama _ natural trumpet or horn.

"Folklorists believe that at community prayers 'music and singing were the most active components' of these dramatised rites (Brizhinsky). The best musicians _ pipers, nyudi-players, violinists, and the best dancers were invited to ozkses.

"Besides, it should be noted that at these ozkses not just song-texts, their choral sounding, tunes, but also timbres of musical instruments (puvama, nyudi) and the instruments proper had ritual meaning. For instance, for performing ritual tunes at ozkses special ritual bagpipes (ozks puvama) existed that differed from other types of bagpipes by their archaic design, and, in some places, the air-bags of such bagpipes were made of bladders of sacrificial animals (there were usually bulls bought for communal money) and their horns that served as resonators for the pipes of bagpipes or nyudis. Often, side by side with ozksatya and ozksbaba, the musicians served as mediums, i.e. intermediaries between the community and its mythological Patrons. The community was to do everything for the voice of the medium (in case of a musician _ the voice of his instrument) to reach the Patron. The musicians were placed on a fold-gate and lifted while playing; thus the distance between the community and its Patron was shortened. (At similar ozkses a Mari musician climbed a tree and played for the Patron on his ritual gusli). To communicate with Patrons ritual bagpipes were necessary, or at least a part of this instrument - nyudi; any other instruments, for example, those used for exorcising evil spirits (toramas, rattles) could not be used.

"V. S. Brizhinsky believes that there was also a practical reason for lifting the playing pipers. 'The custom', he writes, 'had two reasons: first, it was an acknowledgement of the exceptionally honoured status of the musicians, and second, a lifted position is more convenient for directing the choir.'  The second reason, even if it existed, must have appeared in later times, after ozkses had considerably changed and acquired, partially, aesthetic functions of traditional folk theatre. Out of the symbolic programme tunes of the ozkses connected with cults of trees, only those devoted to the birch ('Kelu') and the lime-tree ('Peshenya') have come down to us. Images of these sacred trees (side by side with oak and pine) are widely used in traditional lyrical songs that were intoned in the past of the ozkses. This refers to common mythological roots. These songs reflect most ancient concepts of the Universe. For instance, the image of the sacred birch _ traditionally worshipped by Mordvinians in the past _ is related to the idea of The World Tree, much evident in the poetry of many Finno-Ugric and other peoples."

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