Shouts and Exclamations in Multitimbral Polyphony of the Circassian Dance Circle by Alla Sokolova

Circassian Dance

Alla Sokolova
Adyghe State University, Maykop, Russia

Operationalization of Concepts

The people, who are long living in the Caucasus (Adyghes, Abazins, Abkhazians, Balkars, Karachays, Ossetians), have many typologically similar cultural traditions. One of them is related to special behavior at the time of dancing action. In space of a dancing circle, jokes, shouts and remarks towards the dancing youth or musicians become norm. Most fully this cultural norm is studied by us on the basis of Adyghe material, but many conceptual provisions which are put forward in work can be implied to cultures of other people of the Caucasus. Even in emigration do the Caucasians tremblingly keep tradition of shouts that testifies to its high axiological value.

Festive dancing shouts are the Adyghe general norm. However in a language picture only two variants are still recorded: the Bzhedug – kIekuakh (chekuakh) and the Shapsug – kIadzhe (chadzhe). Literally the concept k1ekuakh is translated from the Bzhedug dialect of the Adyghe language as "co-shouting" or "supporting voices" (Kushu, 2015: 54). In the Shapsug dialect these exclamations are called kIadzhe – co-shouts. In scientific literature, rhymed shouts are called by R. Unarokova dzhegu ored – game songs (Unarokova, 2014: 320).

Terms k1ekuakh and kIadzhe are close among themselves, but transfer different semantic shades. K1ekuakh is "co-shouting", functionally secondary in the general sound field. The term indirectly characterizes the sound score of a holiday in which there are "main" and "minor" sounds. The concept "kIadzhe" bears in itself sense not merely of addition to the main sound atmosphere of a holiday, but the certain vibrating basis fastening all its sounds. According to R. Unarokova, stated in discussion of the present material, "kIadzhe" fills sound lacunas of game space, cements it and makes it holistic and perfect. Game action without shouts seems "empty", uninspiring, sad and unfestive. With shouts it gains nature of the organized and ordered action. The general between terms k1ekuakh and kIadzhe is that they express discretization of shouts, saying that they appear periodically, according to logic of dancing action and are definitely allocated in the general festive sound sphere.

The scientific term dzhegu ored – game songs – reflects the different artistic object. It characterizes rhythmically organized "chants" consisting of several monological or dialogical phrases rather than mere shouts or separate remarks and exclamations.

Performer Shouters

Shouts can be made by one person (the leader of a dancing circle, the hand-rattle player or any other participant of dancing action) or by a group of people (as a rule, men). In principle, any man participating in dancing action is permitted "to shout" during a holiday. However, also there is the order and discipline in this question.

Most important "shouter" in Circassian game is hatiyaklo – khаtiyako – the main manager of a dancing circle. His allocation from the mass of the people who are present on a dzhegu (a dzhegu is traditional Adyghe game. The same term designates the Adyghe wedding (Bgazhnokov, 1991: 188), takes place through a manner of behavior and communication with people around. Function of hatiyaklo is to operate a group of people, to keep the general order of a holiday and to play mini-performances inside a circle. The "mood" of a holiday, its scope depends on the hatiyaklo. Hosts choose day of a celebration according to the hatiyaklo, understanding that the success of action depends on his organizational skills, mobility, positive reputation, charisma and also abilities to be entered in the sound score by his shouts and exclamations. Sometimes people remember a celebration owing to the hatiyaklo, retell his jokes and enjoy improvisatory folk theater which he arranges.

The duty to shout is also assigned to rattlers (players on the pkhachich – the collided idiophones) who are a part of the Adyghe traditional ensemble. The traditional instrumental ensemble of the Western Adyghes consists of one pschynao (the player on a harmonica) and two rattlers (pkhachichao). Other variants of ensemble include 1) pschynao + a rattler + a doulist, 2) the accordion player + two rattlers, 3) the button accordion player + two rattlers (Figure 4), 4) the accordion player + a doulist, etc.(Sokolova, 2004: 68, 126) We already had to tell about functions of a rattler (pkhachichao) in detail (Sokolova, 2002:80). Here we will point that the musical history of Adyghes has remained names of several rattlers who have become famous due to not only play on pkhachich, but also owing to their shouts, back vocal, and acting skills. Those are Abas Baykulov from Magomet Khagaudzh's ensemble (1864-1918), Abubachir Kadruk from Ibrahim Dzhamirze’s ensemble (1896-1980), Saferbiy Tu and Othman Khakho from Mahmoud Shagudzhev’s ensemble (1909-1989), Shaban Tkhakumashev from Ulagay Autlev’s ensemble (1927-1991), etc.

Among the Turkish Adyghes, “shouters” are usually the big group of young guys (nearly 25 people) playing on a musical board – pkhambgu (Sokolova, 2004). As a rule, on festivities representatives of one village play on musical boards, and one group of guys in an hour or two replaces other group. A peculiar "virtual" competition develops between them, including, on sharpness and figurativeness of cried-out "cheerleading chants".

Content of Shouts

The most widespread and most frequent exclamation is the appeal to clap hands: "1agur shjuteu!" "1agur, 1agur, 1agur, 1agu!" – "Clap your hands!" "Hands, hands, hands, hands!" Such exclamations are recorded on the phonorecords made in Armavir (the accordion player Magomet Khagaudzh, khatiyako Tas Agirzhanokov, pkhachichao Abas Baykulov), they can be heard on the Adyghe merrymakings in Turkey and everywhere where there live Adyghes. These shouts are universal for any circle – the small or big, collecting acquaintances of people or organized in honor of guests from far-away countries. Universal shouts are turned towards passive part of participants of dzhegu – the people framing a circle, looking at the dancing.

Mainly khatiyako says these shouts. He has also special right to freely move in a circle and to direct in it a ritual order. A khatiyako’s marker is the small baton called "dezhjye besch" – "a nut stick". The greatest number of shouts are turned into the center of a circle, towards a dancing couple or the soloist. These shouts can be divided into three groups:

  1. The laudatory and encouraging shouts "Opseu!" – "Thanks!" "Opseu! Degu ukasho!" – "Thanks, you dance well!"
  2. The provocative or condemning shouts "Eu, еu!" – "Come on, come on!" "Plyape tychegapl!" – "Show your heels!"
  3. Shouts remarks or shouts instructions "Kyztemygaku!" – "Don't concede to her!" (usually it is told towards the young man who dances more weakly than the girl) "Zeblesch, Shumaf, zeblesch!" – "Part, Shumaf, part!" (it means observance of a pattern of the dance, need to hold a distance in relation to the girl). Khatiyako encourages the guy and at the same time points to him that he should dance in a consent with the girl. "Ekha, ekha!" – "Carries away, carries away!" – this shout is also addressed the young man. Khatiyako points to him that the girl dances more brightly and more expressively, she wins against the young man, public sympathizes her. At the same time the young man cannot concede to the girl, he should not allow her to win a contest.

Quite often shouts are addressed musicians or directed towards public. Analyzing the London sound recordings of the Adyghe songs, R. Unarokova has especially allocated shouts in the address of pschynao (the accordion player Magomet Khagaudzh, pkhachichao (rattler) Abas Baykulov and even the text of khatiyako, turned to himself: Opseu, Mukhamet, opseu (Thanks, Magomet). Khagudzh Mukhamet, uzpetyr syda, egugu (Khagaudzh Magomet, why are you standing, work hard); to Baykulov – Abas, eu, egugu (Abas, come on, work hard), in his own address – T1asi ary, T1asi ary (And Tas too, Tas too) (Unarokova, 2013: 90).

Role of Shouts in the Context of the Sound Score of a Holiday

Shouts in a circle, being combined with sounds of musical instruments (especially sounds of idiophones), mark the protected space. The space noted by shouts "is filled" by people, therefore, it is the occupied and protected territory. Outside this space is darkness and chaos. Within a dancing circle is an order and severity.

Shouts, certainly, are not music but without them the musical aura of the festive world is not imaginable and just does not exist. In an ethnic picture of the world the atmosphere of a holiday has very composite polyphonic score. The voice (shouts, exclamations) joins the general sound score of a holiday as one of elements of sound system. Shouts and exclamations, as a rule, have uncertain pitch. Nevertheless, we can claim with good reason that they are intoned, and their pitch and tembral characteristics promote quite accurate recognition. Moreover, being built in composition of the festive sound score and performed at certain moments of a ceremony, exclamations and shouts become certain genre attributes of the Adyghe dance music.

Semantic value of shouts in a dancing circle is disclosed by their comparison to traditional performing forms of chants and landscape geographical conditions of the people inhabitancy. Mountains, in which the ethnic culture of Adyghes was formed, have created importance and an esthetic ideal of top, peak. Mountain top is the desirable goal which is achieved by the few. But before those who have entered on top such view and prospects open which give rise to feeling of delight and pleasure because of proximity to gods. It means that the ceremonial exclamation is the state of the highest pleasure, the state pleasing to gods at the time of socially significant events.

Morphology of Shouts

We can call the shouts "simple" if they are performed by one person. They bring one color in sound polyphony of dancing action and express its verbal speech, rather than musical intoned component. "Simple" shouts are well heard on sound recordings of 1911-1913, repeatedly meet during dancing actions (ceremonial and nonceremonial) in the traditional environment. Among Adyghes of Turkey, along with "simple" shouts, occur "composite" shouts, performed by group of young guys. In some regions of Turkey (for example, in Dyuzzhi) "composite" shouts dominate. We call shouts (exclamations) "composite" if they are realized in an interlocutory form. Usually "soloist" proclaims any thesis, and the group of compatriots confirms or disproves it. Structurally "the dialogue" can have the antiphonal, stretto or bourdon form – i.e. to completely "copy" types of traditional solo and group chant of Adyghes (Anzarokov, 2011: 103).

Focused on the listener, shouts have certain characteristics:

  1. Their lexemes are usually repeated 2-4 times (similar to how microstructures or melodic constants – knees – in folk tunes are repeated): eu-eu, ekha-ekha, zeblesch, zeblesch, etc.
  2. Shouts move in a high texture. The more massed is a dzhegu, the higher-pitched are the shouts of khatiyako.
  3. Shouts are entered in composition of folk tunes. Quite often their location is defined by the termination of a melostanza of a folk tune that is justified in practice. At the time of the termination of a melostanza, first, it is easier to cry out against long sustained sound, and, second, it is also simpler to hear such shouts. In general there is a structural stereotype aimed at shout expectation. The satisfaction of expectation provides esthetic pleasure of public. 

Functions of Shouts

In instrumental sounding of the Adyghe holiday extra artistic fullness means not less, than the artistic. The shouts and exclamations turned towards dancing and public, intensely influence musicians and music. Not being music, exclamations are included into the sound score of the holiday, carrying out at the same time various functions. They are, at least, three.

  1. Verbal and sense-forming. The text of shouts is aimed at making a certain action: to clap, to dance more temperamentally, to raise legs above, to be turned, etc.
  2. Suggestive. An action is coordinated with nature of shouts, i.e. shouts change a condition of the dancer who has to and/or is forced to obey to them. Loud expressive shouts correspond to a temperamental clap of hands, to acceleration of rate of dance or to its more emotional expression.
  3. Axiological. Without shouts the holiday loses a tone and a tonality. Loud shouts are an indirect demonstration of presence on a holiday of a large number of people. Scale of action is an indicator of its social importance. Therefore, shouts are entered in the axiological model "sound loudness-mass character of action-the high social status of action".

The sound score of a dzhegu goes beyond "pure" instrumental music and thanks to shouts gains qualities of subjective and specific property. Thus for example, certain phonologic characteristics of music (delays, accelerations, accents, accentuations) are related to actions of the dancer which, in turn, are correlated by the public attitude, its support or condemnation, encouragement, whipping, etc. This interrelation of music and non-music is very important during its analysis.

At the same time connection of instrumental music with shouts is rapprochement of essentially different worlds – the world of a human voice and extra human (space, divine, reincarnated of a lifeless tree, reed, horn, etc.). Full rapprochement of these worlds is impossible, but detection of partial penetration of one in another allows a person to perceive semantic specifics of instrumental folk tunes.

The most high-pitched sound in traditional dancing melodies forms the folk tune culmination. Some performers use the most high-pitched sounds seldom, but, having reached them, "stop" music, as if hanging on a high-pitched sound. The stop is perceived by dancers as a sign to increase speed of dance performance.

In practice of young accordion players there are cases when dancers ask to play quicker. The musician accelerates a folk tune, but the dancer still remains dissatisfied and asks to play even quicker. When, on his appeal, the accordion player plays long sustained (extended) sound in the high register, this is perceived by the dancer as speed acceleration. Thus, the most high-pitched "hanged" sound of an instrumental folk tune is comparable to shout in a dancing circle. He is equated to the culmination – the highest manifestation of emotions.


Shouts are the peculiar feature of sound space of dzhegu entered in his syncretism (dance – instrumental ensemble – ritual theater, etc.). I. Zemtsovsky has very truly noticed that shouts are reckoned on fast feedback, on a certain proper response of the perceiving environment. Since shout is reckoned on weight, therefore, studying shouts brings us closer to studying mass musical consciousness of this society (Zemtsovsky, 1990: 104). In recent years, thanks to closer contacts with the Adyghes living in Turkey, the role of exclamations at traditional dzhegu considerably increases. If in former times (for example, in the second half of the 20th century) shouts in Adyghea remained a prerogative of khatiyako, and were single and rare, then now, owing to the influence of the Turkish Adyghes, there are examples of the group "cheerleading chants" which are almost continuously accompanying dancing action. Group performance of "cheerleading chants" by the Turkish Adyghes has probably been caused by "resettlement consciousness", became expression of collective security, a unification and unity. Usually they were performed by the men of one village who were simultaneously striking a long board – pkhambgu. Laudatory texts of these "cheerleading chants" have been turned, as a rule, to the dancing girl from their village. Representatives of other village could get into dispute, claiming that their girl dances better. Khatiyako anyway played a role of the leader, operating all shouts, and sometimes provoking them.

Tene kua? Tene kua?

Agur tene kua?

Ikoda, ikoda

Pchegum ikoda!

Tipschynao, tipschynao,

Tipschynao hey-ha!

Where have got to, where have got to?

Where have claps got to?

Have disappeared, have disappeared,

They have disappeared in a circle.

Our accordion player, our accordion player,

Our accordion player hey-ha!

Thus, shouts and music are elements of one system including also sounds and timbres of various musical instruments, the sound high-pitched musical line and a sound reflection of participants of festival. Immanent properties of instrumental thematic invention are as important as extra musical parameters and conditions of folk tune existence. At the same time shouts and music enter into the overall ethnic picture of the world.



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