Geok Tepe Muğam: A Musical Narrative of Turkmen Massacre in 1881
The central Asian steppes from the east coast of the Caspian Sea to Amu Darya have been inhabited by the Turkmens for more than one thousand years. These lands, which are now divided between Iran, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan, initially hosted traditional nomadic pastoral people (the Oghuz) in the early medieval centuries. In the 11th century, when the Oghuz embraced Islam, they were named Turkmen. They continued their nomadic lifestyle in the mostly arid lands of central Asia, depending on their portable houses (yurt), their strong horses, and stockbreeding. Almost constant conflicts arose with various governments of central Asia, Persia and later, the Russian Empire, over the grasslands.
The Turkmens’ nomadic traditions were complemented by their religious (Orthodox Islam) customs. Some of their traditions, as can be noted in their music and literature, were rooted in shamanism. In Turkmen culture, as with many others, poetry, stories and music serve as a means of passing down history from one generation to the next. Bagşys (musicians who play and sing) served as Turkmen narrators, singing about Turkmen historical events and daily life throughout the years through musical compositions (aydim) at wedding ceremonies, soirees and other social events. The oppression of the Turkmen people by the Persian and Russian empires is one of the tragic themes that have affected their musical traditions, both in form and content.
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