[Music] Iynar – Balkarian Legacy of Omar Otarov


Ored Recordings have done such stunning work recording and producing music from out-of-the-way places that they should be given an endowment to continue their work. This particular gem comes from Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkar Republic, which rests in the heartland of the Russian Caucasus. To familiarize yourself with your intrepid artists, consider reading the write-up you’ll find on their Bandcamp site:

Iynar (Eeinar) as is

The artistic work of the Iynar Ensemble has been a great example of what falls into the professional Soviet folklore category. The medium-size male choir appeared at the beginning of 90s in a Balkarian village Tashli Tala. The ensemble singers are the amateur artists who love singing and have enough talent for it.

The main part of Iynar’s repertoire consists of songs sung by Omar Otarov. Following the same logic, Tahir Guziev, the bandleader, used ‘the brightest example of the national folk music’ as a guidance. The repertoire includes the classic genres: ritual songs, Nart saga, ancient epos, lyric songs created by both past and contemporary composers. The ensemble plays at celebrations, takes part in various music and folk festivals, and occasionally wins awards.

However, Iynar seems to be related not to traditional folk genres but to the Caucasian pop scene. Their music video filmed in accordance with the standards of local pop music industry can be a bright example of that. It is evident due to the fact that this video received airtime on TV channel ‘9th wave’ which is specialized in the Caucasian pop music.

On the one hand, the whole situation seems strange, on the other hand it is quite common for the region. The thing is that many local amateur artists turn to epic heritage of the past while also having close ties to the local pop scene. This, in turn, leads them to adopting the aesthetics held by local film producers who draw inspiration from pop music of the 1980s.

What is also indicative is the way we were connected with them. We were introduced to Tahir Guziev by Muzafar Etcheev, the radio host, producer, and one of the leading figures of Karachay Balkarian Pop Scene. In other words, we came to the village Tashli Tala by getting directions not from folklorists but from a showbiz person.

We may call the ensemble Iynar as something not folklorish and get it out of our project’s agenda. This is what we would have done a year ago. Indeed, despite the fact that the Balkarian ensemble’s repertoire is, in its most parts, folk in nature, it is obvious that the way it is performed is not folk at at all.

What if we shift our focus from only authentic music and start looking at a tradition as an evolving phenomenon affected by various factors? What if we presume that the Soviet system and the Omar Otarov’s artistic legacy created a new tradition in the Karachay – Balkarian folklore? In such a case, Iynar becomes an important figure for Ored Recordings. We perceive it as today’s expressions of traditional music in one of its forms. The Soviet folk music is a new genre for Ored Recordings. Our scope of interest may have expanded, but traditional folk music remains at its core.

What is important is that theе recording session was not ordinary both for us and the music ensemble. At the very beginning, we explained that contrary to other music professionals we always aim at documenting the situation as it is. The ensemble members found the recording session rather new and unfamiliar. So far they had been dealing only with sound producers, who were quite intrusive during recording and post-production. So, the recording session in Tashli Tala was a kind of challenge to Iynar (unfortunately, the session turned out to be a bit formal)

Did the ensemble manage the situation? Did we manage to document a piece of semi-folk culture? This music release may offer answers.

Sound: Timur Kodzoko
Sound editing: Timur Kodzoko
Photography: Elena Miloserdova
Cover art: Milana Khalilova
Notes: Bulat Khalilov, Yaroslav Suzdaltsev, Olesya Altynbaeva
Special thanks to Muzafar Etcheyev and Betal Bekanov

Recorded in Tashli-Tala village, Kabardino-Balkaria,
Russia. In June 2016.

[Music/Culture] The Bard of the Caucasus: Armenian, Azeri, and Georgian Legacies of Sayat-Nova

It is truly a shame that such a treasure like Sayat-Nova, whose works were written in Armenian, Azeri, Georgian and Russia has been turned into a tool for nationalism.

Kamyar Jarahzadeh writes a wonderful article on the legendary band here for Ajam Media Collective.

[Music] Gregory Ayriyan – s/t

After years of having to let this project lie dormant, I’m proud to announce the resurrection of my record label, the Carrera-Linn Cultural Exchange (CLCX). Our first release is from the Russian-based Armenian-American violinist Gregory Ayriyan, who composed all but three of the tracks on this disc. The other composers include Sayat Nova, Komitas, and Niccolò Paganini, so he interprets the cream of the crop.