2. In the wake of the eastern
connections of Hungarian folk music

Report on my fieldwork series in researching folk music

Report on my fieldwork series in researching folk music

In the late 19th and early 20th century folk music research was predominated by the universalist method seeking the origins and development of everything. Comparative ethnomusicology evolved from this background and flourished up to the mid-20th century when due to the collapse of colonialism the horizon of comparative investigations shrank.

The currently prevalent ethnomusicological trend of American origin evolved in contradistinction to the comparative approach; its questions and sometimes its method coincide with the main issues of social/cultural anthropology. Its basic inquiry is to explore how cultures work. In recent years, however, it has more and more frequently been raised that the baby was thrown out with the bath water and that music can be studied by itself as well. Although the louder and more influential mainstream ethnomusicology-anthropology often looks down upon analytic and comparative folk music research as outdated, there are clear signs of the strengthening of that approach. In several places including East-Central Europe the mentioned paradigm change into ethnomusicology in the above sense has not taken place, either.

Hungarians can rightly be proud, for Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály initiated a new branch of folk music research based chiefly on the vernacular music of the researcher, motored by the drive to explore as thoroughly as possible its historical roots, cultural and geographic connections, in collaboration with linguists and scholars of other non-musical disciplines. This strain of folk music research started over a century ago is hallmarked by the names of Bence Szabolcsi, Pál Járdányi, Lajos Vargyas, László Dobszay, just to mention a few great scholars in addition to Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály.

The collection and analysis of Hungarian folk music had hardly begun when the study of the musical culture of neighbouring and linguistically related peoples was also to begin. It is namely most important that research should not be confined to a small area or a single state formation, for several features of folk music are areal and just like rivers and mountain ranges, they have no respect for state frontiers but freely trespass them.

Hungarian scholars of great stature – some of them outstanding musicians and performers as well – have made essential discoveries about the oriental strata of Hungarian folk music prior to the Magyars’ settlement in the Carpathian Basin. Work by the writing desk was coupled with extensive field research: Béla Bartók and László Vikár started their prehistoric investigations among Finno-Ugrian people and continued among Turkic groups; I myself have been involved in the comparative examination of Turkic folk musics for some 25 years.

Traditional folk music research may have any of three goals: first and foremost, to collect, archive, transcribe and systematize, i.e. arrange in a transparent structure the tune stock of ethnic groups on the basis of reliable material. Surprising as it may be, this work has not been done in most parts of the world – in the East and West alike. Indicative of this is the fact that also several of my collections (e.g. Azeri, Karachay, Kyrgyz) belong to the major systematized video, audio and photo collections of the respective peoples. What is more, I usually record the tunes from authentic singers and musicians in small villages, while many of my colleagues tend to record the repertoires of professional or semi-professional singers in major centres. It is therefore fully justified for Hungarian scholars to have a share in the research of other people’s folk music, particularly because they are in possession of methods elaborated by their noted predecessors and continuously improved ever since.

The question may arise as to what extent the collected tunes are representative; in other words, to what extent they and the inferences they offer only represent the collected material or they can provide conclusions as to the entire folk music stock of the studied ethnicity.

When from a certain point during field research we tend to come across already recorded tunes, then the greater part of the given tune type is likely to have been collected. Further confirmation is the inclusion of the same tune types as characteristic in the existing major collections. I do not begin to write a monograph of the music of an ethnic group before these two preconditions have been met.

At the second level, comparative analysis is carried out: the tunes are categorized, the systematized folk music materials of different groups are compared and a musical map is plotted. At this level, an outsider researcher evidently has several advantages over a native scholar. In the Turkic realm a dim view is taken of those who speak of the differences – be they ethnic, cultural, or for that matter musical – separating Turkic peoples. This world, however, is far more unified linguistically than musically, and furthermore, the relations between musics widely deviate from the relations between tongues. A language can only preserve traces from the legacy of ancient ethnic elements, whereas certain musical layers may even survive a complete language shift. Just to mention an example: Kazakh folk music researchers and academicians were somewhat offended by the speech I delivered during the presentation of my Kazakh book in Almati in 2004, precisely by my statement that the laments of the Kazakhs in Mangislak and those in Mongolia widely differed. Nor were some Azeri glad to hear that Azeri folk music is more likely the survival of the music of the Iranian substratum than of an ancient Turkic tradition. It cannot be emphasized enough that the Hungarian researchers’ advantage lies in the knowledge of the method and way of thinking of the great predecessors.

The third level is the most spectacular, and at the same time the hardest and least certain, as attempts are made at this level to explore the historical strata and the organic musical relations. Bence Szabolcsi (1934: 138) wrote about it the following: “The researcher is hesitant to take this road, the road of comparing old folk traditions: May he hope for a glimpse of reality through the blurred trails of ethnic communities disrupted over a millennium and a half earlier, through the intricate jungle of hypotheses? Can he hope for historical certainty in the vague world of unwritten traditions?” His answer is pat: “He can hardly do so. Yet he must simply brace himself and take this course…” Kodály (1937-76: 17) adds that “neither Hungarians, nor any other ethnic group the Hungarians were in contact with from the 5th to the 15th century have a single note of written music from the whole period.” Later he notes: “Without any hope of contemporaneous data we are reduced to relying on the music of related and contacted peoples or their successors.”

Since it is consensually agreed that the Magyars settling in the Carpathian Basin comprised mainly Finno-Ugrian and Turkic ethnic groups, the historical research of the old strata of Hungarian folk music was primarily interested in the musical relations with these groups.

It soon turned out that there was no unified Finno-Ugric or Turkic folk music, yet the most typical musical forms of Finno-Ugrians and Turkic-Tatar groups could be differentiated. The original song type of Finno-Ugrians is a “litany” type built of repetitive motifs, while that of Turkic-Tatar peoples is polarly different: a pentatonic melodic realm without half notes, symmetrically structured into strict strophic forms (Lach 1929: 7-8, 14-17). It is worth adding László Vikár’s opinion who collected in the Volga-Kama region for decades (1993: 33): “Experience confirms that only the Finno-Ugrians borrowed from the Turks, not vice versa.”

Hungarian musicologists nearly unanimously agree that the Hungarian descending pentatonic tunes marking off our folk music from the music of our neighbours must be of Turkic-Mongolic origin. So it seems that “a people stemming from a fusion of Turkic and Ugric elements got Magyarized in their language and Turkified in their folk music.” (Szomjas-Schiffert 1976: 10).

In the light of the character of Finno-Ugrian music built of simple short motifs, the Hungarian-Ugrian musical relations are supposed to manifest themselves in the elementary tunes of the children’s games, villőzés, etc. Such tunes, however, can be found in the music of a lot of natural people and in the archaic tradition of advanced ethnic groups as well. Evidently the possibilities to look for the eastern parallels of one- or two-line tunes of a narrow tonal range are open to research, but such tunes – most of them even displaying similar melodic progression – can be demonstrated in the music a many different ethnic groups. There are weighty hypotheses on the Ugrian relations of the Hungarian lament. Let us, however, listen to what László Dobszay (1983: 92-93) had to say about it: “The Bulghar and Gregorian analogies invalidate the hypothesis that the Hungarian lament is exclusively an Ugrian melodic legacy… We ought to localize this musical language to the southern zone of Europe, taking the analyzed styles for the ramifying developments from a melodic culture practically in the Mediterranean zone that stretches a bit higher in the east.” My own investigations tend to suggest that closest to the Hungarian laments is the most prevalent Anatolian and Azeri lament as well as an important form of the Kyrgyz lament. With these Turkic peoples even the similarity of genres can be demonstrated in addition to music parallel.

To sum up: there is consensus that the descending pentatonic tunes fundamentally determining the character of Hungarian folk music are of North Turkic – Mongolian origin (Sipos 2010). Though the Finno-Ugrian relations with laments, children’s games, regös songs and psalmodic tuners have been considered, more recent research takes the position that they belong to the common tune stock of a larger (European) area, and as an outcome of my investigations, southern Turkic and Iranian musical similarities and connections have also been given serious thought.

All this suffices to explain why Hungarian researchers have been so keen on the study of the folk music of diverse Turkic groups.

Beginnings of research into eastern folk music

The first Hungarian to carry on thorough research into Turkic folk music was Béla Bartók, who did fieldwork in Turkey in 1936. Bartók ascribed great importance to his work on Anatolian folk music. He was so much preoccupied by Turkic music that before he chose emigration to America, he seriously considered to settle in Turkey. There was every reason for him to be excited about the collected material: he discovered strong relations between Hungarian and Anatolian folk music. Let me quote him:

“At long last on the fourth day we went to the area of the Yürüks as had been planned originally, some 80 km to the east from Adana, first to a big village called Osmaniye. Osmaniye and the inhabitants of a few neighbouring villages belong to the Ulash tribe, which was forced to settle down for some reason about 70 years ago.

We arrived in Osmaniye at 2 in the afternoon; at 4 we were already in the yard of a peasant’s cottage. I was rejoicing to myself: on location collection once again, we are going to a peasant cottage again! The host, 70-year-old Ali Bekiroğlu Bekir welcomed us warmly. Without any reluctance, the hoary old man started to sing, out in the yard, some old soldier’s story:

»Kurt paşa çıktı Gozana

Akıl yetmez bu düzene «1

I could hardly believe my ears: Dear me, as if it was a variant of an old-style Hungarian tune. Overjoyed, I recorded the singing and playing of old Bekir on two complete cylinders… The second tune I heard Bekir sing was also the relative of a Hungarian melody. That’s really shocking – I thought to myself.

Later, the old man’s son and others also came by to sing songs: the whole evening was spent with fine and pleasing work.” (Bartók 1937: 173-181)

In his study, Bartók writes that in 43% of the collected Turkish tunes traces of the Hungarian pentatonic structure can be found, and, moreover, “the octosyllabic ones tally with the Hungarian eight-syllable tunes of the old style, and the 11-syllabic tunes are closely related to them.” And he draws a daring conclusion: “All this points to a common West-Central Asian origin of the Hungarian and Turkish material.” (Bartók 1976: 211-212)

Bartók’s book has not been published in Hungarian to this day – I am presently making efforts to this end; the English version published in Budapest, then in America, and the Turkish variant released in Istanbul are not cited by almost any Hungarian ethnomusicological works (Bartók 1937 and 1991, Saygun 1976).

After Bartók’s Anatolian journey there was a break of 24 years in Hungarian research in the area, which could only be resumed when an agreement between the Soviet and Hungarian Academies of Sciences allowed for Hungarian scholars to travel to the Middle Volga region. The choice of this location was based on the hypotheses of several researchers claiming that the original habitat of the Magyars was somewhere around this region. Musicologist László Vikár and Finno-Ugric linguist Gábor Bereczki carried out fieldwork among Turkic and Finno-Ugrian inhabitants of the area between 1958 and 1979 (Vikár−Bereczki 1971, 1979, 1989 and 1999). Their investigations have revealed that analogies to the Hungarian fifth-shifting tunes could only be found on the boundary of the Cheremis and Chuvash areas of about 100 km in diameter, and only those Cheremis areas display them that are under the strong influence of the Chuvash (Turkic) language.

A special asset of our collection series is the presentation of a reliable comparative picture of the folk music strata of a vast area populated by a lot of ethnic groups. The work of Vikár and Bereczki has been a great contribution to the collection, analysis and comparison with Hungarian folk music of the folk music in the Volga-Kama region. It has been confirmed again that unlike the simple, motivic structure of Finno-Ugric music, Turkic music here is characterized by strophic tunes of broad melody arches and wide tonal ranges. The Votyak, Cheremis, Chuvash and Tatar volumes demonstrate in an exemplary manner the thoughtfully collected, well transcribed and systematized folk tunes of the respective groups. Even without the inquiry into the historical strata, this achievement is a major gain of this series of research.

Field research was interrupted for eight years between 1979 and 1987, but earlier and in this interval studies and books of internationally high standards were published on the eastern contacts of Hungarian folk music. To mention but the most important ones: Lajos Vargyas (1953, 2002) has given a broad historical outline of the folk music in the Volga-Kama region; Bence Szabolcsi (1934, 1935, 1956, 1957, 1979) has demonstrated even broader international relations; László Dobszay and Janka Szendrei (1988) have surveyed the Hungarian lament and psalmodic styles having wide-ranging international ties; and most recently, Katalin Paksa (1999) has summarized the historical strata of Hungarian folk music.

On our research into eastern folk music

I picked up the thread of Turkic folk music research in 1987. So far, I have spent a total of over 100 months among diverse Turkic groups: in Turkey (continuously in 1987−93), Thrace (1999, 2003), Kazakhstan (1995, 1997, 2006), Azerbaijan (1999, 2006, 2009), Kyrgyzstan (2002, 2004) and Turk­menistan (2011). I did field research among the Karachays of the Caucasus (2000) and those in Turkey (2001, 2002, 2005, 2009, 2010), and among the Navajo and Dakota Indians in America (2004, 2005). I have collected, transcribed and analyzed over ten thousand tunes in all, published 15 books and in order to widen this branch of research, I have initiated an international research team of ICTM for The Music of the Turkic Speaking People.

Herewith I should like to reiterate my gratitude to many people and organizations for their help with my endeavours. First to be thanked is my wife Éva Csáki, a Turkologist who has been an integral contributor to my investigations, herself doing collecting work, having a lion’s share in translating the texts collected in Turkey; she also recorded a significant corpus herself among the Mongolian Kazakhs and the Bektashis of Turkey, and translated the Bektashi, Kyrgyz and Karachay lyrics from Turkish.

My place of employment, the Institute for Musicology of the Research Centre for the Humanities (HAS) ensures the basic infrastructure needed for research, but fieldwork as well as the digitalization and publication of the collected material require other resources, too. These were partly provided by Hungarian organizations and in a great part by western scholarships. Just to mention some of the supporters: OTKA (Hungarian Scientific Research Fund), NKA (National Cultural Fund), Fulbright Visiting Scholarship, Andew V. Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellowship, Tokyo Foundation – Joint Research (JREX) Program (Japan) and the British Academy Stein-Arnold Exploration Fund. Without their repeated assistance this long series of research, the eastern folk music archive and the many books and publications would never have come into being.

It needs stressing that my Anatolian, Bektashi, Kazakh, Azeri, Karachay and Kyrgyz musical monographs are pioneering insomuch as maybe except Kazakhs no similar summary volumes had been made earlier, with only a few sporadic, small unannotated melody collections having appeared earlier. The idea to systematize and to compare musical stocks, and to explore the historical strata, was not even raised.

In the following, I am going to give an inkling of my research series spanning nearly 30 years. Though the main merit of the series is the systematization, analysis and comparison of the studied Turkic repertoires, here I can only touch on them tangentially, referring to my major publications in which the detailed results are presented with conclusions drawn from a large amount of tunes. I chiefly concentrate on vocal folk music, for that is the chief reservoir of archaic strata, and also, without it instrumental folk music prone to absorb new influences is difficult to understand.

Research in Anatolia

In 1987 I launched fieldwork among the Turkic groups and have been pursuing it to this day. In 1987−93 Éva Csáki and I taught at the Department of Hungarology in Ankara University. During this period I conducted several major researches resulting in about 1500 tunes. I started where Bartók had left off, and as the number of collected tunes began to dwindle, I moved more and more to the west. I also perused and excerpted all available publications of Turkish music, which extended my collection with another 3000 tunes after critical analyses. The six-year presence, my good command of Turkish, the consultations with Turkish folk music researchers, and first of all regular collecting, transcribing and analyzing work allowed me to prepare a large systematized Turkic folk music material for publication.

I have reported on my investigations in several books, in which I designated the major Turkic musical styles, classes, types, pointing out the connections (Sipos 1994, 1995, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2005). My books on the theme are the only serious attempts to systematize the Anatolian folk music apart from Bartók’s book based on a far smaller material. The analyses have revealed that the Hungarian−Anatolian contacts are even more significant and even weightier than he thought. What is more, even stronger Hungarian−Anatolian relations can be discovered in the psalmodic style extended by Janka Szendrei and László Dobszay (Szivárvány havasán ‘On the summit of the rainbow’), in the descending tunes of the old style, the small form of the lament, a basic tune type of children’s games and in several narrow-range tunes.

Let us stop here for a moment. Until now, the contacts of the Magyars with the Oghuz Turks have not been seriously deliberated – how come then that there are such astonishingly close connections in the music of Hungary and Turkey? At least two answers are worth giving some thought. First, the Magyars did come under – direct or indirect – Turkmen influence some time, but the other answer may be more probable: after invading Anatolia, the Turks did not exterminate the local population but living side by side with them, they gradually Turkified the Byzantine substratum whose culture must also have had its influence on the conquerors, e.g. through mixed marriages. Since the Hungarian psalmodic style and lament style can be traced back to a wider European musical stratum also constituting the foundations of Gregorian chant, these musical styles are thus related to Byzantium and the earlier local population there.

I have been pursuing my research in Turkey to this day, presently studying the music of the ethnic (Karachay, Tatar) and Sufi religious minorities (Alevis, Bektashis, Tahtajis), but I also work among Sunni Turks, e.g. last time in the vicinity of Burdur in 2011, and Kars 2014. Besides, I go on analyzing the folk music repertoire of the Turkish Radio and Television amounting to some 5000 tunes. What lends this collection its special significance is the intention to avoid repetitions, hence the over 5000 tunes represent many types.

To conclude, considerable Hungarian scholarly effort has been made to explore the folk music of the Volga−Kama region and Anatolia. Since between these two areas and more to the east various Turkic ethnic groups can be found, it was logical to extent the target area of research. The selected Turkic groups in the vast area from north to south are: Chuvash, Tatar, Bashkir, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Turkmen, Azeri, Anatolian Turkish groups, as well as Karachay-Bal­kars in the Caucasus and the Turkic minorities of the Balkans. Let me say a few words about my investigations among these groups.

Kazakh research

I compared the folk music of Aday Kazakhs living along the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea with the music of Mongolian Kazakhs living 3000 km east of them in my book Kazakh Folksongs from the Two Ends of the Steppe released by Akadémia Publisher in Budapest in 2001. Sipos (2001, 2006 and 2007).

The book was based on my research in Mangislak in southwest Kazakhstan in 1997 and Éva Csáki’s collection among the Mongolian Kazakhs in the same year. This means that it is not an overview of the whole folk music stock of an ethnicity but the comparison of two Kazakh ethnic units living very far removed from one another. Creating a complete musical collection of the enormous Kazakh area would have been illusory, anyway. Although Erzakovič (1955, 1957, 1966 and 1979) already published books about the Kazakh folk music in the 20th century, in theory offering a basis for a comprehensive review of Kazakh folk music. Most regrettably, however, the Russian scholar did not put down the words of the tunes whose structural analysis is therefore well-nigh impossible; besides, many tunes in his collection do not look like folksongs, they are at least “dubious”. The Kazakhs themselves cherish his efforts for their historical value rather than as a scientific source.

The analysis has revealed that while the Kazakh language is surprisingly unified despite the huge distances, the musical deviations are considerable. (Beliaev 1975:78). Let it suffice here to say that while the Mongolian Kazakhs’ typical do- and so-pentatonic tunes are closer to Chinese and Mongolian-Tatar tunes, the diatonic music of South Kazakhstan resembles the musical realm of Anatolia.

On the basis of accessible Thracian, Anatolian, Kazakh, Azeri, Turkmen and Kyrgyz music it may be concluded that a major areal musical watershed is at issue here. The pentatonic zone stretches broadly from China through Mongolia and East Kazakhstan to the Volga-Kama region and makes a great leap to the Hungarians from there. In the areas more to the south, from Kyrgyzstan through South Kazakhstan and the land of the Turkmens and Azeris to Anatolia and further to the south there are at most only traces of pentatony.

Let me quote some Hungarian relevance: with their two parallel lines progressing a note apart, the laments of the Aday Kazakhs display some similarity to the small form of Hungarian laments, while the pentatonic descending lines of Mongolian Kazakh laments are reminiscent of the Hungarian pentatonic laments. That is all the kinship between Hungarian and Mongolian Kazakh tunes, which is the more startling as in the (wholly pentatonic) melodic realm of both outer and inner Mongolia fifth-shifting tunes comprise a significant group. We are to discuss this later.

At the same time, the folk music of Aday Kazakhs living in the neighbourhood of Turkmens, includes a considerable number of psalmodic tunes which are popular in both Anatolia and among the Hungarians (first of all the Székelys). Apart from the historical examination of folk music in Turkey, the above feature also calls for a serious study of Turkmen folk music, which I started in 2011.

Azeri research

I resumed work in Azerbaijan in 1999, carrying out five expeditions with Baku, Shamaha, Kuba and Zakatala centres, and also collected music among refugees from Karabakh in Azerbaijan. More than 600 tunes were collected from Azeris, as well as from Tat, Tsakhur, Jewish and Avar minority groups.

I presented the results in my book Azeri Folksongs at the Fountainhead of Music published in English by Akadémiai Kiadó in 2004. I am pleased that the book was published in Azeri language in Baku in 2006 and in Hungarian in Budapest in 2009. There is no cause for complaint, particularly if I remind myself of the fate of Bartók’s folk music collections of which e.g. the Anatolian material was only published after Bartók’s death, thirty-two years after the submission of his manuscript.

The overwhelming majority of the Azeri tunes consist of one or two 7- or 8-, rarely 11-syllabic lines, their tonal range spans 3-4 tones, rarely 5 or 6, the melody lines are descending or outline a bulge, the time signature is usually 6/8 or some other time signature retraceable to 6/8, rarely 2/4 or parlando (Sipos 2004). This lends the Azeri music a singular character which –except Turkmens- deviates considerably from the music of neighbouring and more distant Turkic groups .

The Azeris are close relatives of the Anatolian Turks in linguistic terms, but the ethnogenesis of the two groups is different. That may explain why compared to the elemental Azeri music, Anatolian folk music is so diverse and stratified, presumably owing to the intricate ethnic diversity of the area. Though there are several simple tune forms in Anatolia, too, forms like the Azeri tunes are almost exclusively in the east where Kurds and Azeris live, while the simple tunes elsewhere in the country are different in character. Most probably the Ottoman tribes occupying the area of Azerbaijan Turkified the Caucasian and Iranian substratum but some of the original folk music survived.

Though there is only one tune type, a substratum of the Azeri lament, that is connected to Hungarian and Anatolian folk music, it is remarkable that some lament forms of these three peoples display such strong similarities (Sipos 2010).

It is unlikely that further (vocal) musical forms could be found by future Azeri folk music research; so it can safely be declared that the comparative structural analysis of Azeri, Tat and Tsakhur music has been completed. That cannot be said of the music of Avars in Azerbaijan of which I only have a vague idea now with the fifty tunes I recorded among them. Although they have nothing to do with the Avars of the Pannonian Basin, the limited material collected among them already displays several layers that might kindle the interest of Hungarian folk music researchers.

Kyrgyz folk music

The same applies to the music of the Kyrgyz living close to China and Mongolia: there was no comprehensive monograph of it, similarly to the folk music of most Turkic groups. Scholars may know the volumes on Kyrgyz folk music e.g. of Alexander Zataevich (1934), which are, however, far from giving an all-round picture. Typically enough, Beliaev (1975: 146) illustrates his study with 20 vocal examples, while Zataevich presents 250 – exclusively instrumental – tunes. That is meagre, compared to the 1300 tunes I recorded during two expeditions.

One of the areas I picked out was the southern side of the Yssyk Kul, the habitat of the Bapa subtribe of the Bugu tribe, where Chenghiss Aitmatov’s famous novel The White Ship takes place. The second selected area was the vicinity of At-Bashi in the very poor Naryn County with strong traditions, one of the main residential areas of the Cherik tribe. The third area was Talas County in the north under strong Kazakh influence. Apart from the south Kyrgyz region around Osh, the three selected areas more or less cover the musical map of Kyrgyzstan. Moreover, Dávid Somfai’s field research has shown that the music of the southern areas is not radically different, either. The 1300 tunes I collected during several field trips and another set of 1500 tunes I have studied provide a satisfactory basis for the comprehensive analysis of Kyrgyz vocal folk music, while the differences and similarities between the tribes living in these areas can also be pointed out.

What is more I seemed to have enough reliable material of Kyrgyz vocal folk music to write the book Kyrgyz Folksongs. Via the music of the Kyrgyz people the Kazakh folk music can be linked up with the music of other Turkic and Mongolian people living more to the East. On the other hand, the exploration of Kyrgyz music has a value of its own, as there are very few analytic and comparative publications specifically highlighting it.

Chapter 1 is a brief introduction to Kyrgyzstan, followed by the main factors of Kyrgyz ethnogenesis and the main views concerning them. I touch on the Hungarian researchers’ earlier Kyrgyz investigations and give a colorful account of my own Kyrgyz folk music collecting trips. Chapter 2 acquaints the reader with Hungarian ethnomusicology’s tradition in researching Finno-Ugric and Turkic folk music. I list here the main old Hungarian folk music styles and examine their possible Turkic – and maybe Kyrgyz – connections.

Chapter 3 begins with a review of the earlier Kyrgyz folk music publications, followed by the description of the musical features of Kyrgyz folksongs. The genres, formal features of tunes, the rhythmic and tonal bases of Kyrgyz folk music are outlined. I touch on the Kyrgyz instruments, instrumental music, Kyrgyz epic works and the musical foundations of epic songs.

Chapter 4 contains the classification of Kyrgyz tunes. This is the most difficult chapter to read but it includes the largest amount of novel information. The aim is to present the Kyrgyz folksong types, groups, classes and styles. A total of 94 representative songs are given to illustrate the tune groups, so the reader who attentively studies and possibly learns the melodies will have a good insight into the basic tunes and musical interrelations of Kyrgyz folk music.

Chapter 5 is an anthology of 332 folksongs, providing an interpretive background to the tune groups described in the previous chapter. At present, it is the largest single collection of Kyrgyz folksongs in print. Chapter 6 contains the Kyrgyz song texts and their English translation.

Chapter 7 offers a comparison of Anatolian, Azeri, Turkmen, Karachay, Volga-region (Tatar, Bashkir, Chuvash) and Kazakh folk musics from a bird’s-eye-view. Chapter 8 contains maps and detailed indices of the places of collection, singers, genres, song texts, musical forms, tonal ranges, cadences, scales and rhythmic formulae. The volume ends with a rich bibliography. The last pages contain the list of the attached video recordings.

It has been found that one of the Kyrgyz lament types is widely different from the Hungarian lament and from the general lament type of Anatolia, whereas another Kyrgyz lament is quite identical, and tunes of the Hungarian psalmodic style can also be found here. The folk music of the Kyrgyz people is not pentatonic, several tunes have a major tonal character, and many forms only use a narrow ambitus, e.g. the Manas Epic or the Jarapazan (ya, Ramadan) tunes performed at the end of the month of fasting.

All in all, the Kyrgyz music strongly differs from pentatonic folk music and widely deviates from the realm of familiar Kazakh folk music. However, to compare the music of the Kazakh and the Kyrgyz people speaking such closely related tongues we will need substantially more Kazakh tunes from reliable sources.

Religious songs and folk tunes of the Bektashis in Thrace

Turkic people live in Europe, too, e.g. numerous groups in Romania and Bulgaria, not only in Asia. In the last century there were several waves of emigration from Bulgaria to the European part of Turkey. The Alevi-Bektashi belief, the popular Islam of the refugees, differs from the Sunni religion of the majority in Turkey. The religion of the Alevi-Bektashis is heterodoxical, syncretic, gnostic, as it has absorbed several customs and religious elements from the environment over the centuries, drawing from neo-Platonism, Hebrew and Christian religion, even Buddhism and Manicheism. This was the religious practice of the Janissary corps, one of their saints Gül Baba being known in Hungary, too.

In the past decade several studies have been released on the Bektashi religion, but their religious songs and music life have not been approached in depth. Éva Csáki and I have been doing fieldwork among them since 1999, taking part in religious ceremonies, making interviews on musical, religious and other themes. The total of some 1200 tunes we recorded among Thracian Bektashis provided the material for our monograph published by Akadémia Publishing House in 2009 (Sipos−Csáki 2009).

Many of the Thracian Bektashi tunes can be discovered in Anatolia, which is no surprise in view of the common roots. The folk music of Bulgaria at the same time does not seem to have influenced them. What is startling is that their descending D-B-A tritonic laments are so different from the prevalent small form of the Anatolian lament.

There is close interrelation between the hymns and folk songs of the Thracian Bektashi, and lots of melodic parallels can also be adduced in more advanced types. However, some motivic structures of religious tunes whose melody lines are undulating or ascending massively differ from the typical descending or hill-shaped conjunct melody lines of Anatolia and might possibly be influenced by Turkish classical makam music (Sipos 2009).

Let me touch on the contents of the Bektashi volume in a bit more detail, to give an idea of the structures of our published and prospective monographs.

The book begins with a review of investigations among Turkic groups followed with a survey of the literature on the Bektashi. Then comes the account of the fieldwork to introduce the reader to the people whose music is to be presented and to the musical and cultural concepts necessary for the understanding of the strictly scholarly parts of the book.

A separate chapter discusses mysticism, particularly its Turkish forms such as the Bektashi, Alevi and Mevlevi branches, detailing the characteristics of the Thracian Bektashi religion and life style. Relying on our personal research, we compare the theoretical precepts of Bektashi religion and their manifestation in everyday life. Mention is made of the influence exercised by the community leader, the baba, on the community and the musical repertoire. A separate chapter is devoted to religion-related events, including a detailed description of the zikir ceremony for achieving a state of trance.

The first part of the book ends with a detailed analysis of the lyrics of some religious songs through which the poetry of Bektashi poets and the major points of Bektashi philosophy are also introduced.

An essential section of the book offering real novelty contains the comparative musical analysis. The tunes are surveyed by diverse criteria (scale, tonal range, structure, time signature, syllable number and textual contents), and systematized by the type of melody progression. This is not just a scholarly brain training but is useful in education as well, as it reveals the central tunes by which the Bektashi folk music is best characterized. In other words, having learnt these basic tunes, the majority of the Bektashi repertoire will sound familiar. Then we examine the relations of Bektashi tunes with neighbouring Bulgarian and Anatolian folk music, as well as with Hungarian and other Turkic groups. For comparative ethnomusicological research this has relevance as the exploration of the folk music of the Balkans may link up the well-known Hungarian and Romanian musical dialects with Anatolian Turkic areas more to the east.

A sizeable part of the book comprises music examples, nearly 600 of the collected 1200 being given in detailed notation. The scores are followed by the lyrics of the religious and folk songs and their Hungarian and English translation. The writers of religious hymns are usually notable poets (e.g. Yunus Emre, Pir Sultan Abdal, etc.) whose poems with English translation have never been published in such numbers. The song texts are annotated with the explanation of religious terms and poetic imagery, together with a comparative text analysis. We have also compiled a glossary for the study of the concepts and the poems. The indices include detailed information on the informants and the tunes in a transparent order.

As usual, I also compiled a CD to be appended to the volume with the finest and most characteristic Bektashi tunes to help the study of the culture of these groups. Several photos, diagrams and maps also help better understanding.

Until now, I have spoken of the music of Turkic groups living more to the south. An examination of the folk music of the Kazakhs in Mongolia inevitably entailed an acquaintance with the music of the Mongols as well. There are several books on Mongolian folk music, the most excellent ones being the volumes published in Galin-Paris-Chevé transcription about the Inner Mongolian area. Before going over to this region, let me interpolate a few words about my field research among North American Indians and about computer-aided investigations.

Music of the Navajo and Dakota Indians

Some ancestors of the American Indians probably migrated from Asia to America in several waves over tens of thousand of years when the Bering Strait was trespassable still. Their common roots result in their similar physiological features, and the different local language families can be traced to different waves of the migrations.2

It is also known that the music of several Indian tribes contain pentatonic scales. Their music has been researched extensively, with some comprehensive analyses having been published on the theme.3 There are many similarities in the music of different North American Indians, but in some areas the music of a group e.g. the Navajos in the southwest or the Dakotas in the great plain, developed independently.

I have been involved in researching the music of the Dakota and Navajo Indians since 2004 when I spent a longer time in Los Angeles at UCLA on a Fulbright fellowship. I listened to and transcribed the 1500 Dakota and Navajo tunes recorded by Willard Rhodes in 1941, and then carried on field research in the reservations of the two tribes in 2004−2005.

The Dakota tunes typically descend on a pentatonic scale spanning a wide range, which also applies to some old-style tunes of Hungarian folk music. The majority, however, distinctly deviate from the Hungarian descending pentatonic tunes, which are la-pentatonic and move motivically, while the Dakota tunes descend continuously on an A-E-D-C tetratonic scale. The Navajos build often astonishingly complex structures from short narrow-range motifs through variations and repetitions.

Our Navajo researches are being carried on in cooperation with the Brigham Young University, Provo (Utah). My American partner is Professor Jerry Jacquard, who used to teach at the Four Corners Navajo reservation in his younger years and is thus a great help in communicating with the Indians.

Computer-aided investigations

Some forty years ago UNESCO appointed Hungary – on account of the renown of our folk music researchers – to systematize the folk music of European peoples. The Folk Music Research Group completed the digitalization of a representative sample of European folk musics. To use Gábor Prószéki’s term, that work proved futile at that time, and the research was interrupted. Now Zoltán Juhász and I have resumed the enlargement of the data base and the analyses that were not so successful earlier, because of the limitations of the computers, for one thing.

We have introduced our program of digitalization in several articles (e.g. Juhász−Sipos 2009). The basis for computerized processing is the ordering of a point of the 32-dimension space to each tune, and the distances and other relations between the points are then easy to handle with mathematical and information technological methods. (The co-ordinates of the 32 dimensional points are defined by dividing the tune into 32 parts and the pitch at a point of division is a coordinate of a point.) We thus acquire a set of points in space, the points close to each other standing for similar tunes. Another major asset of the software is to find the most typical melody lines from a large amount of digitalized tunes with the help of a continuous iterative procedure. The software places the means of similar tunes (the abstract median melody line) onto the points of a grid, which provides the basic form of the melody lines in general of a given folk music stock. Naturally, it does not substitute for the researcher’s analytic work but it may lend support to it by offering a kind of “system” for the examined material. The researcher is free to accept, modify or discard this classification. The software may help compare different ethnic musics as well or look for similar tunes to a given melody in enormous sets of tunes. All this provides scholars with an excellent tool if they are willing to overcome the difficulties of computerized research and can cooperate with the logic and potentialities of the software.

Finally, let me share with the reader a discovery I have made to illustrate the advantages and possibilities of surveying the music of vast geographic areas.

The pentatonic descending fifth-shifting style,4
and the music of the Mongols

As mentioned earlier, Hungarian folk music research presumes that the pentatonic descending tunes root in times prior to the Magyars’ settlement in the Carpathian Basin and that they are of Turkic origin. The fifth-shifting tune style is said to be a logical consequence of descending tunes at the highest level of a penchant for repetition. It is represented by numerically few but widely spread tunes in Hungarian folk music.

Several scholars have studied the occurrence of these tunes in the music of other people. Bartók was the first to point out that the quintal-shift also occurs in the Cheremis and Slovak material. Kodály (1976: 17-26) analyzed in detail the phenomena of tonal and modal fifth-shifting, pairing further Cheremis and Chuvash analogies with their Hungarian counterparts. Though most of his examples are from the Volga region, he did not delimit the possibility of parallels to this area.

Bence Szabolcsi (1979: 107-109) exemplified the phenomenon of the quintal-shift with Cheremis, Chuvash, Kalmyk, Mongolian (Baikal region) and Chinese analogies, and connected this Hungarian style “to a specific style type, the Central Asian type, of pentatony that characterizes the great old cultures all over the world”. He also spoke about a general kinship of tunes that connects the pentatonic layers of Hungarian folk music to the folk music of many different peoples and cultures held together by a vast geographic area.

The Cheremis and Chuvash collection of László Vikár and Gábor Bereczki (1971) provides a detailed account of the fifth-shifting style of these groups. Their examinations have proven that this musical form lives within a 100 km circle on two sides of the Cheremis−Chuvash border, gradually disappearing as the distance from it increases. Vikár doubted the genetic relation between the Hungarian and Volga region fifth-shifting. He warned that during fieldwork he found a far larger number of upper fourth than lower fifth shift. He opined that the two-lined Cheremis tunes in the Lach collection were probably authentic and that not only the cadences but the melody outline of the Cheremis tune compared to the Hungarian “Peacock” tune were different. He wrote, among other things:

“Undoubtedly, there are some descending or fifth-shifting Hungarian tunes that may have Cheremis, sometimes Chuvash folksong parallels… but is that sufficient to declare that one is the direct descendant of the other? For instance, the Hungarian »peacock« motif is simple and natural and may appear in Cheremis, Chuvash, or perhaps Mongolian, even Celtic or Indian musical language known as pentatonic – without any special intervention.”(Vikár 1993: 33)

He argued that a busy area like the Volga-Kama region could hardly preserve very old phenomena, and the eastern Cheremis people of a more archaic culture did not know the quintal-shift. He thought it unlikely that a style – like the fifth-shift along the Cheremis−Chuvash border today – could flourish for millennia.

By contrast, Lajos Vargyas (1980: 13) had the following view: “… the similarity of the Hungarian and Volga-region fifth-shifting style and fifth-shifting tunes …. is so great and so voluminous that we cannot help hypothesizing a common origin, provided that there can be historical connection between the two areas.” In Vargyas’ theory the fifth-shifting style is a logical development from the descending tune style, from its descending melody progression and constitutes the most advanced stage of a drive at repetition. He reviewed the folk music of the Mordvin, Bashkir, Kazan Tatar, Votyak and Mishar Tatar people and found that quite unlike the musical style of these groups, “the broad fifth-shifting tunes are almost exclusive in the music of the two ethnic groups living along the Cheremis−Chuvash border in a narrow strip south of the Volga”. On the basis of two Mongolian tunes in the article of C. Nagy (1947: 80-81) and two examples in Szabolcsi (1979: 107−108) Vargyas also reckoned with the existence of the Mongolian quintal-shift (MNT VIII/A: 13). There is a tune from faraway Peru that almost perfectly tallies with a Hungarian fifth-shifting tune, and exceptionally such tunes can be come across among the Dakotas, too (Ördögh 1997: 114).

Vargyas (1980: 20-27) examined the quintal-shift in western music and demonstrated of the typical western “fifth-shifting” forms that in the majority of these ascending AB5CB tunes usually with a low start there is no quintal-shift, but only the correspondence of a note or two in some variants. The fifth-shift among the neighbours of the Hungarians (Moravians, Slovaks) is mainly a secondary development upon Hungarian influence.

I surveyed the quintal-shift in a wide Inner and Near Asian area. In Anatolia and Thrace there is sporadic and non-pentatonic fifth-shifting, among the Azeris there is none. One finds fifth-shifting tunes among the Karachay-Bal­kars on the southern slopes of the Caucasus, but they are not pentatonic and the musical fabric is not motivic (Sipos 2001 [2004!])

Fifth-shifting tunes cannot be found in the diatonic folk music of the southern Kazakhs or the Mongolian Kazakhs, although among the latter parallel progressing pentatonic lines are not infrequent. The closest are some strata of Tatar folk music, with its fourth-shifting lines instead of the fifth-shift. In Kyrgyz and Turkmen folk music, too, only a few examples can be found to illustrate parallel lines shifting a fourth or fifth.

Having studied over seven hundred Inner Mongolian tunes I found that about one-fifth has fifth-shifting, and further, that similarly to Hungarian fifth-shifting tunes, the beginning of the transposed line is often higher than it should be in a regular case. Some of these Mongolian tunes are two-lined with a low beginning which merely illustrate that the fourth- or fifth-shift has firm foundations in this area. The majority, however, are four-lined tunes some with very close Hungarian analogies.

I compared the Hungarian, Volga-region and Mongolian tunes as to scale, melody progression, form and cadences. The closest are the Cheremis and Chuvash fifth-shifting styles, with the Hungarian being related a bit less tightly. On the other side is the Mongolian group with the closely connected Evenki and northern Chinese tunes. The link between the two blocks is provided by the la-pentatonic tunes with 8(5)4 cadences and less dominantly, by the so-pentatonic tunes with 7(4)b3 cadences. Several further similarities and differences can also be discerned (Sipos 2001 [2004!]).

Much caution must be administered when one tries to retrace the musical relations of several thousand years ago from contemporary folk music data. If Kodály’s words apply to the Cheremis, Chuvash and Hungarian fifth-shifting styles, then they apply even more aptly to these Hungarian and Mongolian musical styles: “The pentatonic tonal system might have developed among ethnic groups whose physical contact is hard to imagine… This conspicuous, essential similarity in melodic structure, phraseology, rhythm, however, cannot be accidental. Here, direct contact or some common source must be presumed.”

Anyway, it seems that the pentatonic quintal-shift only occurs in Mongolian folk music and on the Cheremis−Chuvas border area in large numbers, in addition to Hungarian folk music. Several theories might be proposed on how a Mongolian musical layer found its way into Hungarian folk music. One possibility would be the Bulghar Turkic mediation, but it cannot be precluded in theory that the Magyars learnt it from the Avars already in the Carpathian Basin, for the Mongolic character of the Avar language – though not yet proven – is not yet confuted, either (Róna-Tas 1996: 119-128).

Even the direct Hungarian−Mongolian contact has been given some thought.5 Which of these explanations – if any – will be verified is beyond the scope of ethnomusicology, but through the presentation of (modern-time) folk music data it may help researchers of prehistory with their difficult work.

Finally, just a few words about my future plans. After the Karachay volume, I am going to resume fieldwork among the Turkmens I began in 2011 and go on with the study of Anatolian folk music, particularly the musical realm of the Alevis and Bektashis. I also hope to see the Hungarian-language version of Béla Bartók’s Anatolian collection in print.

Apart from the presentation of systematized materials, I am planning to write two syntheses. One is to cover the eastern connections of Hungarian folk music in the light of recent researches the other is to be a comparative analysis of the folk music of Turkic-speaking people.

After this survey of the precedents, let us review now the Hungarians’ historical researches in the Caucasus.

1 Bartók (1976) № 8a tune. The words in English: Kurt pasha went to Kozan, This event is beyond comprehension.

2 Charles and Florence Voegelin reckon with 221 different languages in North America alone, see Voegelin–Voegelin (1977)

3 Some pertinent publications: Browner (2002), Champe (1983), Debo (1977), Densmore (1926), Fenton–Kurath (1953), Frisbie (1977), Goddard (ed.) (1996), Hagan (1961), Halmos (1979), Herndon (1980), Herzog (1935), McNickle (1973), Nettl (1954) and Rhodes (1952–1953).

4 With the term fifth- or quintal-shift I refer to wholly or partially fifth-shifting tunes alike.

5 Sinor (1969: 274), Czeglédy (1949: 64) and László (1972).