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Mon, 07/17/2023 - 18:02
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Sounds of North now in smartphones. Yakut singer records music for global platforms

MOSCOW, July 17. /TASS Correspondent Dmitry Osipov/. Nadikan is the stage name of Yakut singer Nadezhda Varlamova. She studies the North's folk art and musical traditions. Nadezhda performs ethnic songs and plays the khomus - the Yakut analogue of harp. She has recorded a song which is the first song in the Yakut language available on iTunes. We have discussed with the singer how to preserve the Northern peoples' traditions through music.

Biir Tugen is what matters

Nadezhda Varlamova graduated from the Foreign Languages Department at the Yakutsk State University (presently - the North-Eastern Federal University) as a translator from Chinese and English. After the university, she finished international courses for English teachers and went to China, where she taught in Guangzhou and Foshan for more than three years.

The girl has been interested in music for long, unlike the ethnic music. When a student, she organized a group that performed covers of hits in English and Spanish. Later on, as soon as she went abroad and felt homesick, Nadezhda decided to record first songs in Yakut.

She returned to Russia in 2012, and recorded the Biir Tygen song (Instance), which became the first song in the Yakut language on iTunes.

Nadikan used to perform own songs, or sang with a group, and once suffered a small creative crisis. "I didn't want to sing in English anymore. I was missing something. So I took a lull. Then, I started playing the khomus: I was given a khomus as a present at the age of eight and only at times was playing it, including in my student years, but this hobby was not growing into anything bigger," she said.

At the age of 31, she took a three-year folk art course at the Yakutsk Music College. After the training she has remained at the college as a teacher of singing and voice production at the folk art department.

"Our repertoire is Russian romances and folk songs, Yakut songs and songs of the North's peoples. I also teach ensemble singing of Yakut and Arctic folk songs," she said.

From song to language learning

Nadezhda said she is conservative and tries to stick to traditions. "However, with time I've realized that a new look was needed to express musical thoughts. So, I take a folk song and make a modern arrangement. My idea was: to get into smartphones of the youth," she said. "When young people know their native language, then the nation has a future. I believe I'm not alone in this: to make the content that can attract not only fans but also those new to such music."

Nadezhda has always been attracted to her native Yakut culture, as well as to traditions of the North's peoples living in the region. "My interest in the North is since childhood. It has always been interesting and close to me," she said.

During folklore expeditions, Nadezhda studied the musical traditions of the Evenks in South Yakutia's Aldan and Neryungri districts. The local hospitality excited her so much that she planned to continue those trips and hopes to visit the reindeer herders' camp in the Neryungri district's Iengra village.

She even has started learning the Evenk language: "I've learned it on my own, and in spring I started going to free lessons. Classes are online and offline. The courses are conducted by the Association of Evenks of Yakutia. Students receive textbooks, dictionaries, applications, folklore materials. The lessons are conducted by activists - Natalia Ushnitskaya, supervised by Alexander Varlamov, a famous folklorist," she said.

Sounds of the North

Musical instruments, Nadezhda continued, can tell a lot about how people live and in what they believe. When staging musical performances, she uses Yakut national instruments, including the kyl kylysakh (string-bowed instrument with horsehair strings) and the khomus. Khomus is widely known across the world, and as a Yakut brand. Yakutsk even has a museum and a khomus center of the peoples of the world. It is the only museum of the kind, although many peoples use this instrument.

Among other Yakut instruments, the musician noted the ayaan that resembles a trumpet or bugle (in the past it was a hunting signaling device). The tangsyr is the Yakut analogue of the domra, the jaga is a hollow wooden rattle with bells on leather straps, the mas hobo is a percussion instrument made of several empty rectangular wooden cases fastened together.

The dungur percussion instrument was used in shamanic rituals. Yakut composers and musicians often include the Yakut tambourine in their works. They hit the dungur with a rattle "bylayah" with a fur tip. Kyupsur is a Yakut percussion instrument made of hollow rectangular wood, covered with leather on top and below. It is also beaten with a fur-coated mallet. "Five years ago, when I started my collection of instruments, I had to make some of them - for example, the noise ones," Nadezhda added.

Some of Yakut noise instruments are rattles of cow horns, bones and hooves. "It was difficult to find instruments of good sounds, and I asked my relatives in the village to send to me a bag of horns and hooves. I can remember how this parcel was brought to our college in winter. The smell was... My classmate and I took half of them to the master. I took a couple of big horns and hooves to my brother's farm, where we were making some instruments. The hollow horns, which we processed ourselves, had a more authentic sound," Nadikan told us.

According to the singer, songs of the Yakuts and the peoples of the North have many common motifs. For example, linguists have found that some songs from the Yakut heroic epic - Olonkho - resemble songs of the North's peoples.

"Take, for example, the song by the heavenly shaman - Ayyy Umsuur - it has the North's motifs. The circular dances of the Yakut peoples are similar. In the past, in the dance people were telling their visiting relatives from afar about events of their lives. Nowadays, the problem of preserving languages of Yakutia's all the peoples is acute. Song leaders are only few. Those who want to become them, can study folklore texts, and will begin improvising as experience develops," Nadezhda continued.

"The main differences between songs of our peoples are the language and melodies. All the peoples in the North have their own epics, including recorded ones. However, the Olonkho Yakut epic has been studied more thoroughly," she added.

Song about koumiss

In May, the singer presented a new music video - a song in the ethnic-folk style about koumiss. This song tells about the utensils used to drink koumiss. The clip was released on all major platforms.

"The clip was made by a team of enthusiasts, patriots. Money was not our goal. My dream is to release as much as possible folk material in Yakut and all the Arctic languages. Of course, I am often asked about the monetization. We do not have it yet, but to me, of course, much more important is the desire to help people, to learn new things from them. My position is: first give and only then receive."

Nadezhda is grateful to the like-minded people. "When a person becomes recognizable, it is easier to present thoughts and to find partners for new projects, to find people who care. My dream is to travel across our region and even the world in order to collect folk arts. In return, I will be happy to conduct master classes and to work with children. It is impossible to store the language and culture in archives only. Knowledge must be shared. I have been working on a release of a song in the Evenk language," she said in conclusion.


Photo by Denis Kozhevnikov/TASS



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