Monday, August 13, 2007

July 29, 2007 Bartang - Sepong

The Bartang Valley in the Roshan district is one of the most scenic, culturally rich, and diverse areas in all of the Pamirs. We set out in our new improved travel vehicle, a spacious mashrutka van driven by Ilkholm, a good friend of TDI logistical consultant Uvaydo Pulodov, for the eight-hour journey from Khorog to Bartang. Mahingul Nazarshoeva has graciously accepted our invitation to join the team for the three-day visit to the region. Along with Aliah Najmabadi, Maruf Noyoft, Will Sumit, Nasiba Imomnazarova, Dilya Shadmonbekova, Uvaydo Pulodov, and Sharlyn Sawyer. The mood was festive, many songs were sung as we drove, and in the new van there was nearly enough room for dancing. Our hosts in the village of Sepong, dancer Sarkori and Jonboz Dushanbaev, were expecting us. On the way we stopped at the home of Musarwal Minekov in Shujand village, at the entrance to the Bartang Valley in Roshan, to make arrangements to visit him and his group on our way back.

We arrived at the house of Jonboz in the village of Seponj to pay our respects to one of the most venerable, accomplished and respected gentlemen of his time. An accomplished musician and singer, Jonboz is also a scholar of classical Iranian poetry, makes all of his own instruments, and is an expert on Bartangi culture, among many other talents too numerous to list. He is the senior Khalifa, the spiritual leader of the community. Jonboz is often invited to tour internationally as a musician, and will travel to Europe, Canada and the US this coming October 2007 for a series of concerts, enshallah.
  • Concert Series: The Spiritual Sounds of Central Asia
  • Coincidentally his traveling companion during this journey would be TDI international team member Will Sumit. Our trip to Bartang provided an opportunity for them to meet before the trip. We arrived at the house a little before sunset to find Jonboz in good health and inspired to play his gidjak (spike fiddle). Manhingul accompanying him on daf. He responded to questions from the team regarding Raqs-e Gidjak literally a dance with the gidjak, by demonstrating some moves in a casual fashion. We eventually moved on by foot to our destination for the night, at the home of dance master Sarkori and his family. It was like coming home for many in the team who had visited in 2006. We were welcomed and set up with places to sleep for the next two nights. Our visit to Sepong this year coincided with the full moon and watching it rise over the towering peaks surrounding the valley, lighting the Bartang river with its timeless, magical light was an indescribable, never to be forgotten experience. In the morning after breakfast the team got busy, Manhingul and Sarkori were filmed in a discussion about their various experiences as professional dancers. Sarkori is known for his dancing of the Raqs-e Sema or Motam form, which is danced at funerals. Although this dance is thought to have been more widespread in former times, it has all but disappeared in the rest of Badakhshan. It is still practiced only in Bartang. It was a rare opportunity to have these two artists share their reflections on the tradition and its meanings.Nasiba, Dilya and Maruf set up the equipment and filmed the discussion, using an ancient mulberry tree for a backdrop.

    Throughout our visit Jonboz joins us from time to time at the Sarkori house and a dance event was set up with Jonboz and other local musicians. Many of the women in Sepong with a talent for dance participated, including Sarkori’s daughter Marina. No one in the local group or TDI was to be excused from dancing.
    At one point Jonboz became so carried away with the joy of the moment that he began to dance playfully with the gidjak. He was joined by Mahingul for an impromptu choreography of a Raqs-e Gidjak ve Daf that gave everyone a case of the giggles.

    Sarkori shares with the team some rare old black and white photos, circa 1950, of the early professional dance and music performances in Badakhshan. The pictures included a photo of Mahingul's mother, a celebrated artist, now well into her 80’s playing rebab. Many of the old prints had badly deteriorated. He entrusted them to Mahingul and the TDI project archives. Later back in Khorog we were able to make digital scans and new print copies for Sarkori and Mahingul to ensure their preservation and future enjoyment by the family.

    Late that evening after dinner as the full moon began to rise, we made our way to a nearby courtyard that was a gathering place for the young people of Seponj. One of the guys had a boombox and, mostly in the pitch dark, the younger Bartangi crowd perhaps from 7 years and up, had a full-on wild dance disco going. Music was eclectic with modern instrumentation but basically Pamiri, and whenever a well-known song from Badakhshan was playing the energy levels reached new heights. Although the dance gathering started with the young crowd, people of all ages dropped in and danced with abandon, including Sarkori’s wife and family, Mahingul, and most of our TDI team, who were among the last to leave.