Библиотека нематериального культурного наследия Республики Башкортостан
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«Synrau torna»:
a legendary tune from the depths of the ages
«Synrau torna» is a real pearl of Bashkir folklore, one of the most ancient instrumental Bashkir tunes that has come down to us. It is associated with an interesting epic legend about birds – wonderful patrons of people – and with the dance of the same name. The name from the Bashkir language is translated in various sources as «Sonorous crane», «Singing crane», «Crane song».
The melody and legend of «Synrau torna» are widely spread in the southeast Urals. This tune is very popular among instrumentalists. «Based on the onomatopoeic traditions of Bashkir musical and poetic creativity, pictorial, program plays performed on the kurai appeared in the distant past», – the scientist Akhnaf Kharisov notes in the book «Literaturnoe nasledie bashkirskogo naroda» («The literary heritage of the Bashkir people»). He calls «Synrau torna» one of the outstanding works of Bashkir folk instrumental music.
The famous kurai player Yumabai Isyanbayev along with other song samples of Bashkir music performed «Synrau torna» in 1927 at the World music exhibition in Frankfurt am Main (Germany). It is known that the kurai player was applauded for a long time and called for an encore three times. Today this melody is performed with pleasure by kurai players, kyl-kubyz players and dumbyra players, and with the appearance of words (more on this below) it has become one of the favorite songs in the repertoire of vocalists.
The uniqueness of «Synrau torna» lies in the fact that of all the famous Bashkir folk instrumental plays it belongs to the most ancient, but at the same time thanks to its unusual content and poetry it has become the basis for many new poetic, musical, choreographic and even theatrical incarnations.

The legend of «Synrau torna»
It will be appropriate to first get acquainted with the legend – we will give it in the version in which it is published in the book «Bashkirskie predaniya i legendy» («Bashkir stories and legends»), compiled by the folklorist Fanuza Nadrshina. The poetic and original legend was included not only in the collections of Bashkir fairy tales and legends, but also in the Internet portals of fairy tales of the peoples of the world.
«In ancient times there was a mighty batyr (hero, brave warrior) among the Trans-Ural Bashkirs. He had a horse – a gray tulpar (a winged (or flying) horse in Turkic mythology). He could move the owner wherever he wanted. There was no equal to this batyr in strength, courage and intelligence. If an enemy army attacked his land, he mercilessly destroyed the enemies, protecting his relatives and his native land. In addition, this batyr was a famous kurai player and singer. When he climbed the Irendyk (a mountain range in the east and southeast of the Republic of Bashkortostan) and played the kurai, the sounds of his kurai were clearly heard in the villages located among the mountain valleys. This batyr got married, but only many years later his wife gave birth to his son – a sturdy child, as heavy as lead. The child grew by leaps and bounds. People spoke of him with admiration: "He will be braver than his father".

Indeed, when he became a young man, he began to resemble his father in everything, and even surpassed him. As people say: "What a chick sees in the nest, it does in flight". The young man also became famous for playing the kurai. "I'll marry my son while I'm still alive", – the father thought, and betrothed a bride to the young man. He gave his son a gray three-year-old stallion born from a gray tulpar, and one of the sunny spring days the young batyr went to the house of his future father-in-law. When he arrived, he left his stallion in a meadow, not far from the house.

In the morning, when the young guy came for the stallion, he heard a surprisingly beautiful melody, so he froze in amazement. Then, impatiently, he ran in the direction from which the sounds came. Having approached, he hid himself and began to watch. A flock of small gray cranes, having gathered in a circle, was playing in the glade. In the center stood a female crane. As soon as she flapped her wings and began a melodious clang, the others immediately joined her and began to spin. The young guy listened with ecstasy to the sonorous melody of the cranes, listened until he remembered it. Fearing to forget the song of the birds, he jumped on his horse and rushed like an arrow to his father-in-law's house. Having dismounted, he took his kurai and began to play a crane song. The people gathered – both old and young.

– How do you know this strange, amazing melody? Did you compose it yourself? – one aksakal (head of the clan, elder, respectable person) asked the young guy.

– No, grandfather, – said the young guy and told about what had happened.

The people were excited: what if something bad happens?

And the elder said:

– It's the song of the cranes. Where they play a big battle is destined to happen, in which many people will die, as our grandfathers used to say in the old days.

When the batyr heard these words, he immediately went home. At home he told father everything as it is.

– Yes, my son, in the old days it was said that where cranes play, there will be a massacre, disaster will descend on the country. Your father has seen a lot of such fights in his lifetime. Now I have become old, my strength is not the same. I present my combat equipment to you, – the old batyr said. – Be brave, do not tarnish the honor of the family. Be merciless to foreign enemies and be loyal to your family and your native land, – only then will you be happy. This is my testament to you. And now gather an army of the most reliable people.

The young batyr summoned the horsemen of the country, gathered an army and prepared for battle. And in fact, it was not long before the land of his family was attacked by strangers. The young batyr commanded his archers to launch an attack, and they began to hit the enemies at a distance visible to the eye. When the fighting subsided, they celebrated the victory for several days in a row. The young guy was called the batyr of the country. And the tune he heard from the cranes has since been called the "Crane song". The lake near which the massacre took place is called Yaugul (literally – "lake-massacre")».
Historical information about «Synrau torna»
The first mention of the legend of cranes goes back to the historical book of Ahmad ibn Fadlan about his journey to the Volga in 921–922. The famous explorer-traveler wrote: «We have seen how one group of them worships snakes, another – fish, a third – cranes. I was told that the Bashkirs once waged war with some enemies, moreover, these enemies defeated them and put them to flight. When this happened, the cranes screamed so loudly behind their enemies that they were frightened and were forced to escape themselves. Since then the Bashkirs began to worship cranes and say: "The crane is our god, because he put our enemies to flight". That's why they worship them».

Fanuza Nadrshina in her article «V pesnyah – istoriya naroda» («History of the people is in songs») notes that the information of Ahmad ibn Fadlan is similar in its main motif to the legend «Crane song», in which birds act as wonderful patrons of the Bashkirs, warning of the impending military danger. When studying such legends, which have brought to our time the echoes of the mythological ideas of the people, light is shed on the roots of its history. According to ethnographic data, in the primitive beliefs of the Bashkirs the crane was a totem, an object of worship, for many years there was a cult of the crane. Thus, for example, all four clans of the usergan tribe still consider the crane their ancestral bird. In the work «Kul't zhuravlya v fol'klore i narodnykh traditsiyakh bashkir» («The cult of the crane in the folklore and folk traditions of the Bashkirs») researcher Azaliya Ilimbetova writes:
«It was forbidden to kill totem birds, destroy nests and eat their meat and eggs. In Bashkir folklore the crane acts as a patron, a defender of the clan, the nest he built on the roof of the dwelling symbolized well-being. According to beliefs, the shoutings and games of cranes near the village were considered to be harbingers of tragic events».
Gazim Shafikov notes that to determine the antiquity of a folk work some special signs indicating its approximate age are not always important, the spirit itself, the figurative series, the hidden meaning of the folklore monument are important. The writer expressed his admiration in one of the essays of the book «Dykhan'e zhgucheye istorii» («The burning breath of history»):
«"The Crane song" is an amazingly beautiful legend. As beautiful as it is ancient. Something extremely distant emanates from it. And the people in it are some kind of unearthly, almost extraterrestrials, although there are geographical signs: the spurs of Irendyk... The Khakmar river... How simple it is! And how delightfully beautifully and accurately this musical game of sacred birds for Bashkirs is conveyed. [...] It is rare to hear in any song of the human race such strange sounds and tones, which are not subject to any analysis or interpretation, such a striking musical imitation (more precisely — reflection) of crane voices, as in this one. It is precisely reflection, not imitation!».
In the 90s of the XIX century the folklorist Sergei Rybakov worked among the Bashkirs. His invaluable ethnographic and folklore materials were summarized in the book «Muzyka i pesni ural'skikh musul'man s ocherkom ikh byta» («Music and songs of the Ural Muslims with an essay of their life»), which was published in 1897. He wrote in the form of a musical notation 204 Bashkir melodies, among them – the ritual songs «Kara yurga» («Black ambler») and «Synrau torna» («Singing crane»), the legends of their composition are given. Describing the instrumental work «Singing crane», Rybakov wrote that «…some kind of elusive sad and at the same time touching poetry emanates from this melody; this is one of the few minor Bashkir melodies».

The legend recorded by the folklorist says:
«Once upon a time special cranes walked in a flock on the mountains, some of them sang with the help of the throat, and others danced. The Bashkir piper heard them and adopted their singing. These cranes are rarely seen by anyone, and if someone sees and hears their singing, then such a person, according to the Bashkir belief, will either be extremely happy, or will soon die. The Bashkirs told me that the people do not like to listen to this song, because where the mentioned cranes sang a song, there was a war or a drought before».
Bashkir kurai player and collector of folklore Karim Diyarov recorded the tune and legend «Synrau torna» in 1926 in the Baimaksky district from a resident of the village of Basayevo Ishbulda Nugumanov and a resident of the village of Kuseyevo Galimyan Akhmetov. It is noted that there was a belief among kurai players that forbade them to often perform a melody about cranes.

At the end of the legend the lake is mentioned, near which a fierce battle took place – Yaugul. It is located in the Baimaksky district, about 10 kilometers to the south of city of Sibai. In the comments to his notes Karim Diyarov writes that another name for this lake is Kyltaban – a lake overgrown with reeds, which is mentioned in the legend «Sem' devushek» («Seven girls»).

As mentioned in the «Bashkirskaya entsiklopediya» («Bashkir encyclopedia»), the melody of «Synrau torna» is also known in the recordings of Farit Kamayev, Alexander Klyucharev, Lev Lebedinsky, Kamil Rakhimov, Khusain Akhmetov, Maulit Yamaletdin.
How an instrumental tune became a song
The People's Poet of Bashkortostan Rami Garipov composed poems to the melody of this song in 1964. Written by the hand of the master, simple and understandable, containing the words «Ural», «Salavat» and «kurai», sacred for every Bashkir, they were picked up by the performers and since then they have been sung with great pleasure, having become folk.

Сыңрай-сыңрай осоп килде
Сыңрау торнаҡай.
Уралыңдан сәләм, тине
Сыңрау торнаҡай.
Уралҡайым, Уралҡайым,
Тыуған Уралҡай!
Иҫән-һау, ти,
Урал-тау, ти
Сыңрау торнаҡай.

Юҡ хафа, ти, юҡ афәт, ти
Сыңрау торнаҡай.
Илдә ир-ат – Салауат, ти
Сыңрау торнаҡай.
Уралҡайым, Уралҡайым,
Тыуған Уралҡай!
Ил көйләр, ти,
Тел һөйләр, ти,
Уйнар ҡурайҡай.

Ҡыуанысым, йыуанысым
Булды Уралдай,
Йыр ҡанатлы, нур ҡанатлы
Сыңрау торнамдай, —
Уралҡайым, Уралҡайым,
Тыуған Уралҡай!
Быуаттарҙан быуаттарға
Осоп барғандай!..
The famous kurai player, improviser Ishmulla Dilmukhametov also gave a new life to the ancient melody: he combined the melody of «Synrau torna» with the poems of Salavat Yulayev (the found Russian translation was translated back into Bashkir language by Rashit Nigmati). The song was completed by a virtuoso uzlyau (throat singing among the Bashkirs) of the artist. That's how the song «Uralym» was born, which most people consider to be a folk song initially.

This song became the best-known number not only of Ishmulla Dilmukhametov himself, but also of famous singers Radik Gareyev, Gali Khamzin. Now the song «Uralym», which has become the «calling card» of Bashkir culture, is sung even by non-professional performers at international events.
Musical characteristic and the new life of an ancient tune
Like any folk melody «Synrau torna» has different versions. Thus, for example, in the musical notation of Karim Diyarov it appears as a richly ornamented with grace notes and triplet turns (gruppetto) instrumental tune of a small range. The most familiar version to the modern general listener is given in the desk book of each kurai player – the textbook «Kurai» by Gata Suleimanov. It is interesting that in all versions the melody has a pronounced minor color with alternating natural minor with the Phrygian mode (with a lowered second degree).

This song is also part of the pedagogical repertoire of the Department of solo singing of the Ufa Institute of Arts named after Zagir Ismagilov. Teachers Farzana Sagitova, Flyura Kildiyarova, Yamil Abdulmanov give this song to their students to learn, and not only to Bashkirs – it is sung by Russians, Tatars, Uzbeks and Chinese.

In the XX century composers of different generations showed great interest in the melody of «Synrau torna». The Moscow composer Viktor Belyj — the author of the famous song «Orlyonok» («Little eagle») — in 1939 used the melody «Synrau torna» in his piano work «Tri miniatyury na bashkirskie temy» («Three miniatures on Bashkir themes»). This tune is used in the work for the symphony orchestra «Legenda» («Legend») by Masalim Valeyev. Airat Kubagushev did the processing of «Synrau torna» for the ensemble of kurai players, Abdulla Khalfetdinov did the same for voice and piano. Nur Dautov created a work for soloist, choir and orchestra based on this song.
The modern sound of the song «Synrau torna» was given by the pop-folk group «Karavansarai». This song has become one of the most popular and successful for the band. The song wit h a kurai solo by Rasul Karabulatov and vocals by Vildan Yarullin in a beautiful modern arrangement became a real hit.

«The piercing, heart-wrenching melody and its legend, the centuries-old history were supposed to excite to the depths of the soul. This is the task we set ourselves. And we wanted not just to perform it in our style, but we needed some special feature, a highlight in the concert number. While working on the song I came up with the idea to make the shoutings of cranes with the help of a kurai. And this successful find perfectly fit into the beginning and ending of the number»,
– says People's Artist of Bashkortostan Rasul Karabulatov.
The musician explained the technique of performing the crane shouting on the kurai:
«When I was studying at the woodwind department of the school we, students, thoroughly studying our instrument, tried to extract sound in different ways, including turning the instrument over and making intermittent movements along the holes with our fingers. It turned out very interesting combinations, but it was just pampering, it was not used anywhere. And it was this technique that I decided to use in the work on the song "Synrau torna". It became the "calling card" of our group. Subsequently this technique with the shouting of cranes was also used by other groups and individual performers».
The song «Synrau torna», among other compositions, was performed by the group «Karavansarai» at the International competition «Aziya dauysy» («Voice of Asia») in Alma-Ata (Kazakhstan) in 1992 and became a diploma winner of the competition. After that the song hit the radio in Germany and in 1992–1993 held the top line in the music charts.
The dance «Synrau torna» and the ballet «Crane song»
Meanwhile the people also came up with a dance to the instrumental tune «Synrau torna». The scientist Azaliya Ilimbetova notes that several variants of the folk dance «Torna beyeue» («Crane dance») have been preserved, which, presumably, had a ritual character and was performed to prevent various disasters. The famous researcher of Bashkir dance Lydia Nagayeva writes about the maiden dance «Synrau torna», built on imitation of the games and singing of cranes and performed to the melody of this tune, in the book «Bashkirskaya narodnaya khoreografiya» («Bashkir folk choreography»). According to her, currently the dance is not performed. The description of the dance «about the sacred white cranes» in the book is based on the story of Gulnur Mamleyeva, a native of the village of Bulatovo of the Burzyansky district. Her mother taught her this dance.
«Thin wooden plates were tied to the thumb and forefinger of both hands of each performer. The girls clapped their hands during the soloists' dance, hit wooden plates against each other, creating an additional musical accompaniment that encouraged the soloists who replaced each other. With the help of these plates the girls imitated the movements of the crane's beak during a ritual dance. The performers skillfully moved their fingers, hands, turned smoothly, achieving similarity with the movements of the crane's head. The graceful image of the sacred cranes was also created with the help of soft movements, smooth strokes of the hands. The girls performed these movements in a circle, in the center oIf which each demonstrated her skill of reincarnation»,
– Lydia Nagayeva describes.
The dance of the flock leader stands apart in the composition:
«The leader begins his dance solemnly, moves smoothly in a circle, putting hands to the sides. After performing two or three movements with her hands at a slow pace the girl takes her hands back and squats. At this time the kurai sounds louder, the girls start tapping their plates to the playing of "Synrau torna"».
The movements of the soloist in the role of the leader are also based on imitation of the habits of the crane.

Fanuza Nadrshina believes that the ritual crane dances that existed until recently in southeast Bashkortostan among the Bashkirs of the telyau clan are associated with the oldest totemic views. These dances were performed during weddings and other celebrations: according to beliefs, the «participation» of the ancestral bird in the days of the most important events in people's lives contributed to the viability of the clan, its well-being in the future.
«The ritual and magical function aimed at "deterrence" the enemy, "averting" trouble was probably executed by crane dances, which were performed in war conditions. This idea is prompted by the presence of signs of ritual in the structure of the dance (wooden plates tied to the thumb and forefinger, which imitated the beak), as well as the existence of various superstitious ideas about cranes»,
– the folklorist writes.
Based on the poetic legend, the first Bashkir ballet «Crane song» by Lev Stepanov and Zagir Ismagilov was created. The main leitmotif of the musical score was, of course, the tune of «Synrau torna». The libretto for the ballet was written by the legendary choreographer Faizi Gaskarov. The ballet is based on the legend of love between Zaitungul and Yumagul, who are helped to overcome all difficulties by their compatriots and native nature in the form of cranes. The main expressive means in ballet is an organic combination of classical dance with Bashkir folk dance, with elements of pantomime, rituals, folk games. The movements of the «crane» girls in ballet are very similar to the described movements from folk dance. The ballet in three acts was written in 1941, the premiere took place in 1944 on the stage of the Bashkir Opera and Ballet Theater.
The ballet «Crane song» with Zaituna Nasretdinova (later People's Artist of the USSR) in the role of Zaitungul inspired little Rudolf Nureyev – a future genius dancer, when he came to the theater for the first time with his family at the age of six. The same performance was shown in 1955 in Moscow at the Decade of Bashkir literature and art, and Rudolf Nureyev himself performed in this ballet as a dzhigit («skillful and brave equestrian», «young guy» in translation from the Turkic languages). In 1959 the ballet turned into a movie by the Sverdlovsk Film Studio. Today this incredibly beautiful ballet performance has become a classic of the national ballet and still does not leave the repertoire, having survived several editions and generations of dancers.
Author (compiler):
  • L. Aralbayeva, 2021