JAVOHIR  (the booklet)  
Epics and love songs from the Khorezm region

When defining the populations of Central Asia, the sedentary, farmer, urbanite Indo-Iranian peoples are generally contrasted with the rural and cattle breeding nomads of Turko-Mongol origin. Increasingly rapid sedentarization since the 19th Century, and the various political divisions, mean that this model is no longer as clear-cut as it once was, as shown by the changes in the nomadic world, the cultural complexity and the extreme intrication of the various communities. Life styles have changed, yet tradition still bears the traces of an era when the horse, the steppe and epic tales provided the moral mainstays for any respectable person.

Today, the epic songs (destan) and poetry are still sung by professional minstrels, the baxshi (or bakhshi) who, in days gone by, were itinerant. These bards are instrumentalists, poets, singers, tale tellers, historians and, among their Kazak and Kyrgyz neighbours, the baxshi are also shamans, healers,…

In the Khorezm region, the baxshi perform during banquets and celebrations (toy) organised for weddings, circumcisions and any other public or private event. They generally play the dutar lute and sing. In the Khiva region, they are systematically accompanied by a player of the doyra, a large tambourine with a diameter of around forty centimetres.

From the end of the 19th Century on, the dutar lute (literally "two strings") has sometimes been replaced in this region by an Azerbaijani instrument when the Russians arrived, the tar lute (with 9 or 11 strings) of the Caucasian rabab family. 

Norbek Baxshi makes his living from his art. He performs mainly at banquets (
toy) but also participates in other celebrations and, for more pragmatic reasons, some shows put on specially for tourists with a small troop of musicians and dancers trained for such occasions. Norbek Baxshi was taught music from a very early age by his father Bolo Baxshi (1899 -1994), himself a renowned musician who sang, among others, for the Red Army. Up to the age of 10, he learned the dutar lute, an instrument that he abandoned to take up the tar lute when he started studying at one of the two music schools present in Khiva in the Soviet era. Learning the songs entails a tough and constant apprenticeship. An accomplished baxshi has a repertoire of at least a hundred songs and masters a varied and difficult series of vocal techniques that enable him to develop his personal style. Norbek Baxshi's style, imbued with the destan passed on to him by his father perpetuates, at times, a certain Caucasian influence.  

The transmission of the destan is oral, as is the case for traditional repertoires in general, and therefore this patrimony has escaped the various political and linguistic upheavals that have wracked the country. In the space of a single century, Uzbekistan has undergone five changes in alphabet and, since 1995, Latin writing is taught in schools instead of Cyrillic, which is predominant in Uzbekistan. Norbek Baxshi expresses himself in the Khiva dialect, similar to Turkoman, which includes many Turkish words.

Javohir means "the pearl"

CD tracks

1. 2. & 3.  G’arib Shoxsanam   - "Poor Shoxsanam". 
G’arib signifies both a masculine name and "poor" in the compassionate sense of the term. 
The story is an imbroglio of drama and love. The king has fallen in love with Shoxsanam and wants to marry her, but she refuses as she is in love with another: G’arib.
"You are the khan (king) but my heart is my only king".
However, unable to thus reject the king, Shoxsanam is granted a reprieve of seven years and G’arib flees abroad. Seven years later, preparations begin for the wedding ceremony. The festivities last forty days. Many baxshi perform at the party. Shoxsanam demands that no person pronounce the name G’arib in her presence, on pain of being decapitated. 

On the fortieth day, a baxshi
pronounces the forbidden word in one of his songs. He is immediately taken before the king to be executed. The king asks why he pronounced the name, even though he knew the terrible consequences that would ensue. The bard replied: "I used it because I am poor and it would be unjust to kill me for that." The khan, a just king, sets him free and grants him permission to sing his song before Shoxsanam. Full of emotion, Shoxsanam suddenly recognises the singer as G’arib.
There follows a verbal duel between the king and G'arib, which is a pretext for numerous narrative developments. In the end, the lovers get back together… and live happily ever after.

.  Hayronman   - "You astound me" 
"The sun rises behind the mountain, the birds fly away, why doesn't my wife come? I am surprised."
Norbek Baxhi composed the lyrics for this song on a musical theme that is very popular in Uzbekistan (1).

5.  Norbek Baxshi Sözi  - "Norbek's song"
"Look how beautiful she is! When she is sitting down, when she is walking, when she is standing up:  she is always wonderful! The young and the old stare at her. How could you not fall in love with that girl?"

6.  Oshiq Mahmud  - "Mahmud is in love"
This very old song, passed on orally over centuries is an oriental version of the universal Romeo and Juliette theme.
In a dream, Mahmud falls in love with the princess Nigor. He is from the Caucasus. She was born in Persia. They should have nothing in common. The khan's advisors scheme, but this time the story has a happy ending, as all destans do.

7. 8. & 9.   Görög’li
The epic song of Görog’li holds a special status in the baxshi repertoire. There are several versions of this destan depending on whether it is sung in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Turkey, Turkmenistan or Uzbekistan.
The tale is divided into a variable number of episodes, generally more than ten, that can be sung in any order. In Turkmenistan, for example, the epic tells the adventures of the young Rushan – from the Tekke tribe – who revolted against the Shah Abbas the 1st in the 17th Century, whereas in the Khorezm region, the same narrative thread is attributed to Jaloliddin who revolted against the authority of Genghis Khan in the 13th Century.

Görög’li, "child of the tomb" (from gör, tomb and ög’li, son) owes his name to the unfortunate circumstances of his birth and the fact that his mother died in childbirth. Tradition dictated that three days must pass before closing the vault of a woman who died while pregnant. This is what saved his life. In Khiva, even today, people prefer vaults at ground level because of the presence of saltpetre, unless it has something to do with some Zoroastrianism belief, the ancient religion that emerged in the 7th Century BC in the Khorezm region.

This epic chanson de geste recounts the various adventures of Görög’li and the forty brave riders who accompanied him as he went from victory to victory. But the tale of Görög’li's life is also a pretext for Baxshi
to evoke certain Uzbek moral values. The predominant message appears to be that, in order to lead a happy life, "a man must be in good health, have a beautiful and faithful wife, well brought-up children, a loyal friend and a sturdy horse."

10.  Peshrov
This instrumental piece, associated with the life of khan Muhammad Xorazmshoh, is one of the four musical themes that make up the identity of the Khorezm region (with that of Sohili Sulton, Sohili Navo and Muxammas Ushoq, which do not figure on this CD).

11.  Xurmondali
This song sings the praise of an exceptional young woman, Xurmondali, the female equivalent of Görög’li. Her strength of character is remarkable, her eloquence compels respect and her adversaries fear her physical strength. She owes her name to the dream her father had on the eve of her birth in which an angel offered him a sharon fruit (xurmon; "dali" meaning "I was given").

12.  Maxdumquli Maxdumquli was a famous poet living in the Khorezm region in the 19th Century. The song boasts the merits of good health and evokes a few popular truths, such as this Uzbek saying: "A donkey is always a donkey, it will never be a horse!"

13.  Baziryan
Baziryan was a warrior and a trader. He owned 360 camels. His name means "merchant" in Seistan (Armenia). King Guzal Shah hired him to kill Görög’li. But the affair took an unexpected turn. "Neither of us have descendants, why kill each other? What will remain after we are gone?" says Görög’li to Baziryan when the latter comes to kill him. In this beautiful destan, the two heroes end up inseparable (and invincible) friends, to the great displeasure of the king. There follow many intrigues until Baziryan is finally killed, assassinated before his faithful friend Görög'il is able to save him.

14.  Ali Qanbar
This ancient instrumental piece, very popular in the Khorezm region, refers to the horseman of Ali, son-in-law and cousin of the Prophet. Ali Qanbar, his Abyssinian slave, was in charge of his horse Dhu'l-janah and his sword Zulfikar.