Bakhshi art has been inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity during the Sixteenth Session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.
The session takes place online from 13 to 18 December 2021.
The nomination package for this element was prepared at the initiative of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev by the National Commission for UNESCO and submitted to the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage for consideration in 2020.
During the session, Uzbekistan delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister, Chairman of the National Commission of Uzbekistan for UNESCO Aziz Abdukhakimov, made an official presentation of the Bakhshi Art nomination. The participants were informed about the efforts made by the Government to preserve and promote this art form at the national and international levels. The main attention was paid to the concrete measures taken in recent years under the leadership of the President of Uzbekistan to revive the bakhshi art, including the organization of an international festival, which is held in Uzbekistan every two years.
The Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage approved the inclusion of the element on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage by general acclamation without any debate or vote.
According to the representatives of the evaluation commission, this art is a unique historical and cultural heritage, and the nomination package fits all the criteria for including this national element on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. The decision will contribute to further strengthening measures for the preservation, augmentation and promotion of the bakhshi art at the national and international level with the close support of UNESCO.
The bakhshi art has become the sixth element of the intangible cultural heritage included in Representative List by Uzbekistan. Previously, the list included the Cultural Space of Boysun District (2008), Katta Ashula (2009), Askiya (2014), Cultures and Traditions of Pilaf (2016) and Lazgi (2019). In addition, with co-authorship with other countries, Uzbekistan took part in the nominations Shoshmaqom (2008), Navruz (2016) and Miniature Art (2020).
In the coming years, it is planned to introduce the national element Ceramic School of Uzbekistan, as well as several multinational nominations with other states, such as Traditional Skills of Handicrafts and Playing the Rubab, Traditional Skills of Embroidery in Central Asia, Tradition of Khoja Nasreddin Stories.
Bakhshi Art (BAKHSHICHILIK)
Folk epic represents a cultural wealth of Uzbek peoples. As such, its importance cannot be underestimated. Looking at the history it is possible to notice that epic traditions emerged among the people of Uzbekistan (Uzbeks and Karakalpaks) in the ancient past. Since then, they have always existed and evolved.
Epic, in general, is alive because it exists in musical and poetical life. This occurs thanks to the creativity of bakhshi-shoirs (dostonchi, jyrau, baksy, yuzboshi, sannovchi), i.e. folk narrators, creators and keepers of epic traditions, popularizers of dostons, who represent in a single person a story-teller, poet, musician and actor. These are they, who transmit dostons, the greatest works of the people.
Bakhshi is a master and improvisator of words and stories, a skillful musician (skillfully plays on certain musical instrument) and singer (possesses the skills of traditional singing), who can accompany his performance with mimicry and plastique. He should be familiar with the life of his nation, with its culture and history. Moreover, he should have a rich vocabulary and masterly use popular language, be able to play with words, use their diverse forms. And all these features are connected with the art of bakhshi (bakhshichilik), which has centuries-long history.
Main requirements for the performers of dostons are: to provoke listener's interest with own melodies; to narrate a story (i.e. an epic) in an interesting and attractive manner. These, in turn, require that bakhshi-shoir constantly improves his skills, which emerge due to his natural talent, perception of the world, creative fantasy and subjective imagination. The repertoire of Uzbek bakhshis (storytellers and narrators of stories) includes heroic, historical and romantic dostons, which incorporated ancient cultural traditions, memory of the nation, its spiritual world and historical destiny, its civic, moral and aesthetic ideals. In dostons it is possible to find the ideas of patriotism and humanism, commitment and love, friendship and brotherhood. At the same time, freedom of fantasy, which is observed among bakhshis, makes possible artistic realization of folk ideals.
It should be noted that doston is not about verbal performance only. It is also the work of art which is prosaic, poetic and musical. Indeed, bakhshi does not read doston but sings it. The singing is accompanied by playing on dombra or by instrumental ensemble. The whole artistic composition, all figurative means and expressions of doston are aimed at improving the perception of listeners. And combination of music, poem and story creates a wonderful work of art, in which words play the most important role along with a melody. In dostons, a word, verse and text nevertheless bear the main semantic and artistic burden. And they sound more natural, emotional and expressive in the accompaniment of music.
Bakhshis (narrators and storytellers) are always welcome guests in family ceremonies and festivities, folk sayils (promenades) and festivals, which take place in a village or city. However, it should be noted that interest in this genre has been diminishing in cities since the end of the ХIХ and beginning of the ХХ century. And it is no wonder as to why the majority of dostons are written down and recorded exactly in villages and pasture lands, or among rural population, farmers and shepherds.
Being monumental in terms of its theme and plot, epic stories or dostons require significant abilities and solid skills in narration and improvisation, talents in music. In Uzbekistan distinct types of narration schools evolved, in which learning is based on "ustoz-shogird" (master-apprentice) traditional methodology. However, they differ in terms of themes covered and types of dostons narrated, in terms of performance style and composition of performers. In addition, existence of four local zones in the music art of Uzbek peoples found made possible the formation of the following distinct schools of epic (doston) narration: Samarkand, Kashkadarya, Surkhandarya, Khoresm-Karakalpak schools.
A video about the Bakhshi Art is available at the following link: