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Altai : "Golden Mountains"
1.       Roswitha
4132 posts
 05 Apr 2008 Sat 03:57 am

The Republic of Altai is located in Central Asia and borders on Kazakhstan, China and Mongolia. It is comparable in size with Portugal. The region is dominated by mountains with eternal snow and glaciers, similar to the European Alps. The highest peak, Ak-Sümer, is 4,506 metres (nearly 15,000 feet) high. Altai has a population of about 200,000 souls of various nationalities: Altais, Russians and Germans.

The Turkish peoples in Altai were hunters and nomadic shepherds tending sheep, horses and sometimes camels. The bequeathed an extremely interesting culture to their descendants, the basic features of which have been handed down from the early beginnings all the way to the present day.

One of the most important forms of Altai art, apart from painting and poetry, is the narration of epics in the falsetto voice to the accompaniment of the topshur, a lute-like string instrument. Texts are usually enunciated in the low bass register.
These narratives enjoyed great popularity amongst the people of the steppes. One of the legendary narrators, Deley, knew 77 of them by heart and the longest took seven days and nights. Altai has produced a number of masters of this art, such as N. Ulagashev and P. Kutshiyak and today the tradition is still kept alive by such people as Aleksey Kalkin, S. Aetenov, Shunu Yalatov, Tovar Tchetsiyakov and Tanishpai Shinshin.

They preserve a traditional heritage of popular literature and sing of their secret dreams and expectations. These epics contain the aesthetic ideas of this nation in its truest form of expression and tell of the everyday world and the world of spirits and myths. Most of them are pentatonic and melismatics play an important role in the development of the melodies. There are songs of congratulations, for each of the seasons, lullabies, songs for all sorts of animals and even insects, songs of travel, modern philosophical songs, ballads, and improvisations. Many are a kind of oral philosophy and, at the same time, textbooks designed to guide mankind to a higher level of consciousness.

With "Üch Sümer", a first album is now appearing with two folk-singers from Altai. Bolot Bayrishev and Nohon Shumarov sing of the beauty of their homeland Altai, of the "golden lakes", the Katun River, the Ak-Sümer (the highest peak in the Altai mountains), and the old "Pazyryk" - these are the hill graves where the defenders of the Altai are buried. Then they sing of their people, small though it is in number, and of mankind, Nature, the cosmos, and the entity they all form. They open the hidden depths of their souls and combine poetry with music.

One of the oldest legends of these inhabitants of the Altai tells of the origin of the Turkish tribe of Rükü, which is even chronicled in China. The Rükü lived in the southern Altai in the 5th century and mined iron ore. They consisted of 70 brothers, the oldest of whom had been born by a wolf and ruled over the winds and granted blessings. He even had power over summer and winter.


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