Fathulloev, Salohiddin, and Faizali Murodov, eds. Folklori Kulob. Akademiiai Ilmhoi Jumhurii Tojikiston, Instituti Zabon va Adabiioti Ba Nomi Rudaki. Dushanbe: Devashtich, 2007.

The heirs to an eighty year old tradition of collection of oral texts in the regions of Baljuwan, Khawaling and Kulab (south of present-day Tajikistan, especially since 1958 by the Rudaki Institute of Tajik Language and Literature), the compilers propose, in the present volume, Cyrillic transcriptions of a wide range of Tajik songs from the city and region of Kulab. As usually in this kind of publication, the texts are classified by a hybrid combination of forms and themes, beginning with quatrains, continuing with songs for family celebrations, dance songs, lullabies, children’s games, elegies, satire, songs for labour days, ‘historical songs’, tales, proverbs and dictums, enigmas and a cycle (dastan) of the epics of Gurughli (“The War of Awaz against the King Qaysar and His Defeat”). In the same mood as during the Soviet period (see in particular the works by Aleksandr Boldyrev, Rajab Amonov, Soat Chalishev — on the latter, cf. my short reviews in S. A. Dudoignon & H. Komatsu, eds., Research Trends in Central Eurasian Studies, 2, Tokyo: Toyo Bunko, 2006: 272; see also the review No. 549 in Central Eurasian Reader 1 [2008]: pp. 449-50), these creations are introduced in the foreword as specific to an “illiterate (besavod)” people, totally deprived of an access to learned culture by the “rotten élites” of the early-twentieth-century Emirate of Bukhara. (Curiously, such a remark sounds very much like an encrypted allusion to the disgraces of present time.) If this essentially dialectic vision remains to be questioned in the light of the role played by identifiable literati in the creation and transmission of this corpus, the compilers properly insist on the capacity of creators to set their texts to music and to declaim them with a musical accompaniment of their own. They also soundly underline the substantial link between the performance of most of these texts with rituals or everyday activities. Unfortunately, neither the names of the informants, nor the exact places, circumstances and methods of text collections are even slightly indicated. Rapidly elaborated for being published before the ceremonies of the alleged 2,700th anniversary of the city of Kulab, the book does not raise either the question of the authorship of the transcribed texts. It also manages to omit the key contribution by the powerful corporation of the Pashto-language qawwals (قوّال, rhapsodes) of Kulab, most of whom were originating from Afghanistan, to the transmission of a rich oral repertoire of Persian sacred texts — absent from this anthology — throughout the most part of the twentieth century.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: II-5.2.B-440