Bakhshi

Bakhshi

 

(Turkmen—bagshï; Kazakh—baks’i), folk singers, musicians, storytellers, and poets among the people of Middle Asia.

The word bakhshi comes from the Sanskrit bhikshu, meaning teacher. Among the Mongols, who practiced Buddhism, bakhshi meant a man who knew how to write Uighur script. Therefore, during the time of Genghis Khan and until the 15th century, bureaucratic scribes were called bakhshi. Among shamanists a bakhshi was a sorcerer, a wizard, or a folk doctor shaman who “drove out” evil spirits from the sick with magic songs and the playing of musical instruments.

Bakhshi sing folk songs and epic compositions—dastans—and accompany the singing on two-stringed musical instruments—dutars. (The prose part of a dastan is usually spoken.) Bakhshi have created and preserved an oral tradition. In an almost totally illiterate population, they were also disseminators of classical works. After the October Revolution, many oral works of the bakhshi were transcribed. For teaching complete mastery of the bakhshi art there was a system that gave an important place to poetry competitions.

REFERENCE

Uspenskii, V., and V. Beliaev. Turkmenskaia muzyka. Moscow, 1928.

KH. G. KOROGLY

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