Yet another entertaining and utterly essential compilation of music from the Caucasus has been released by my favorite ethnic music label currently active, Ored Recordings. Many thanks to Bulat Khalilov for his brilliant work in digging up these gems which would otherwise be lost to history. Azerbaijan is a country with stellar traditions in music and storytelling, and it is my hope that Ored can continue to bring artists like this to the fore.
Ored Recordings produce some of the most unique and interesting music coming out of southern Russia. They straddle the line between being a proper record label producing vital new music and preserving ancient artifacts. Some notes about Zaur Nagoy’s release, courtesy of Ored’s Bandcamp page:
The Red Bull Music Festival took place on September 14-16 in Moscow. Red Bull conducts similar festivals around the world and every time tries to demonstrate the potential of local music and situate local sounds within a global context. The Moscow event was constructed around the same principles, with the slogan: “The unity of musical culture: from tradition to experiment.”
In regard to tradition and experiments, Ored Recordings was invited to give our perspective . Our portion was titled: Experimental Ethnographics, in which we spoke with the French documentarian, our friend and source of inspiration Vincent Moon, and the founder of the Morphine Records label, Rabih Beaini from Berlin. Vincent’s lecture and the collaborative audiovisual performance with Rabih features an experimental approach to ethnography and music and in this showcase Ored presented “original” sounds. For this we brought from Adygea the trio of Zaur Nagoy, Kazbek Nagaroko and Ramazan Daur – famous for their ensemble Zhyu, the film “Bonfires and Stars,” and our releases of their music.
At the last moment, due to a force majeure and only Nagoy reached the festival. For the festival, the label,and Zaur, these logistical changes became a real challenge. it became necessary to change the concept and format of the showcase.
In Circassian music, group performance is canon. In the choir (zhyu / ezhu) there is a saying: “The zhyu is a whip for a song.” The chorus of refrains and vocals largely determines the structure, rhythm and dynamics of a song. Even the outstanding Djeguako (minstrels) of the past have always had a small ensemble to back them up. At the same time, in archival records solo performance is quite common.
To this day, ethnomusicologists have been arguing as to whether or not there was mono-voiced performance before polyphony or that it is instead an indicator of the degradation of the singing tradition. Whatever it was, today, solo performance is a special, albeit not popular style of traditional Circassian music. Given the circumstances, Zaur had to demonstrate it.
For each song Zaur Nagoy gave comments on both the song’s content and context*. He did so not in an official/academic way, but with a liberating tone, reviving the story of the song with vernacular phrases and jargon. Thanks to this form of speech, the performace flet more like a ritual meeting in khachesh (guest room) combined with a stand-up show. And in the context of this release you may hear aspects similar to the genre of spoken-word.
Even if this experience of Zaur Nagoy’s solo release was an accident, we now want to work purposefully with this aesthetics and style in the future.