Hungarian folk music is closely connected with the music of diverse Turkic peoples. Research into this interaction has already produced considerable results, but it is far from being completed. Intriguing new questions are being raised by continuous inquiry, e.g.: Why is the music of different Turkic ethnic groups so different? Do the linguistic connections of this language family correspond to the musical connections?

The folk music of several Turkic groups has no monographic elaboration so far, and the available publications often fail to answer the elementary questions, too, so it is vitally important to carry on with the expeditions. Only when a large number of tunes have been collected during fieldwork and transcribed, and the work of other researchers has been considered, can serious comparative research work begin.

A close study of the material gathered during the expeditions can define the fundamental strata of the music of Turkic-speaking groups and their interrelations, followed by a comparison of diverse folk musics and finally, attempts can be made to draw historical conclusions. It is also to be examined how a highly complex folk music like that of the Hungarians with eastern origins in its old strata is connected to Turkic music and to the music of precisely which Turkic people.

A sceptical reader might butt in that no matter how extensive the areal field research may be, conclusions as to Turkic or Hungarian prehistory or ethnogenesis are highly questionable, for a retrospect over thousands of years is hardly more impossible than looking back over a few hundred years in the history of folk music. All we may know is that prior to the organized school system, cinema, radio and particularly television that spread wide in the 20th century, the pace of cultural change was much slower. And also, that some strata of music, e.g. the laments and the parlando-rubato tunes usually sung in free rhythm are surprisingly persistent.

It is a generally accepted thesis that the evolution of large comprehensive tune groups requires lots and lots of years, but they usually survive longer, too. Concerning a few genres, there might be a chance to probe into the past, particularly when they are represented by many, more or less different but stylistically connected melodies, constituting a tune layer of tune style.

Field-research based examination of the archaic elements of Hungarian folk music has time-honoured traditions in Hungary. Just to mention the most important ones: Béla Bartók carried on fieldwork in Turkey in 1936, and László Vikár conducted comparative musical research in the Volga-Kama region among Finno-Ugrian and Turkic groups of people in the company of linguist Gábor Bereczki for over twenty years.

I joined this line of research some 28 years ago. In 1987−93 I spent six years in Turkey where I collected about 1500 tunes and examined another 4000, and on this basis I could be the first to outline a comprehensive picture of the complex musical styles I found there and their implications for Hungarian music. The next step was to examine the folk music in the area between Anatolia and the Volga-Kama region through my Caucasian, Kazakh, Azeri, Kyrgyz and further Turkish expeditions. An insight into areas more to the east was ensured by research trips to the Kyrgyz, Turkmen and Mongolian Kazakh people.

By now, a collection of over ten thousand tunes – most of them videotaped – as well as interviews and photos have been accumulated. This collection is found in the Archive of the Institute for Musicology of the Research Centre for the Humanities (Hungarian Academy of Sciences) and is integrated to Béla Bartók’s Anatolian collection and László Vikár and Gábor Bereczki’s collection in the Volga-Kama region. So far I have published 15 books as the outcome of my researches, this one being the next in the series.

The studied ethnic groups are tied to varying degrees to the origins of the Hungarians. One example is that of the Kazakhs: some of the Cumans who migrated westward merged with the Magyars, while their tribes left in Asia took part in the ethnogenesis of the Kazakhs (Golden 1992). Of equal importance is the North Caucasus where the ancestors of the Hungarians and those of the Karachays lived together in the territory of the Khazar Empire for some time before the Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin (Róna-Tas 1999).

Obviously, I cannot undertake the accurate mapping of the ethnically and linguistically highly diverse Caucasus as a whole. In the North Caucasus I did field research mainly among the Karachays and in the South Caucasus in Azerbaijan, in both regions among minorities as well. I complemented the North Caucasian collection with an important control material. In the late 19th and early 20th century masses of Karachay people fled to Turkey from the Russians. The deportation in 1944 of Caucasian groups to Inner Asia triggered off a new wave of exodus from the Caucasus southward. Unlike other, rapidly assimilating minorities of Turkey, the Karachays living mainly around Konya and Eskishehir still cherish their traditions. The musical culture of this group is also examined in this volume.

In Chapter One I briefly survey the expeditions whose aim was the exploration of the eastern connections of Hungarian folk music. Next, I touch on the earlier field trips to the Caucasus which go back as far as the Dominican monk Otto’s journey in 1232, followed by Frater Julian’s and much later by the Jenő Zichy expedition. Since then, no important Hungarian research has been undertaken in the region and the ones that targeted the area mainly traversed the southern part of the Caucasus. I give a short account of our field trips among the Karachays to acquaint the readers with the studied group and the particular musical and cultural concepts necessary for the understanding of the analytic section and the lyrics.

In Chapter Two the emergence and eventful history of the Karachay people can be read about from the beginnings to the mass emigration fleeing the Soviet expansion in the early 20th century and the deportation of the entire ethnicity in 1947 up to the present day. The earlier Russian and European travellers’ accounts about their social life, stratification, old customs, songs and deities are also conjured up.

In Chapter Three the reader gets the description and classification of Karachay tunes, together with links to the music of other Turkic groups. It is to be stressed that no synthesis like this of Karachay folk music has been written before. An important achievement of the analysis is the introduction of the collected 1200 tunes via a selection of 60 melodies after an acquaintance with which the majority of the rest of the tunes will appear familiar. That has great relevance to education, scientific comparison and cognition as well. The relations between Hungarian and Karachay folk music are also examined.

Chapter Four contains the scores of 287 tunes with lyrics that well represent the total of 1200 songs. For musically illiterate people the e-book form will make this chapter more enjoyable with a selection of the recordings of the presented 350 tunes. Musical specialists can get a glimpse of the practical manifestations of the tune types introduced in the previous chapter.

Chapter Five describes the Karachay language and the lyrics with an introduction of the ethnographic background. The song texts in standardized Karachay and their English translation are given in this chapter.

We do hope that the book will be of use for historians, Turkologists, linguists and the wider public, apart from comparative folk music researchers and ethnomusicologists.