"Dongbula" and "Aken" antiphonal singing

Playing the treasured DongbulaSome people classify the folk instruments of the Hazak nationality into stringed instruments, skin instruments and breath instruments. And other people classify them into playing instruments, wind playing instruments and percussion instruments. In fact, only the classification methods differ.

Dongbula is one of the instruments of the Hazak nationality, and the most popular traditional instrument among the people. It is in great varieties. Most of them are chiseled from whole piece of pinewood or birch wood, carefully carved and beautifully inlaid. The sound boxes of Dongbula are in two types: one is in triangle shape, and is named with the name of Abayi, a modern poet, called as "Abayi Dongbula"; the other is in ellipse shape, and is named with the name of Jiangbu'er, an Aken among the Hazak people, called as "Jiangbu'er Dongbula". The two kinds of Dongbula are in different appearances, and the tone color of each has its own strong points. The strings are made from sheep's intestines, most Dongbulas have two strings, and some have three strings. At present, sheep wire strings wrapped with nylon have replaced the sheep intestines strings, and copper materials are added and used.

The volume of Dongbula is not loud, but the tone color is graceful. When playing it, use the left hand to press the string and the right hand to pluck. It can be used to play and sing by oneself concurrently, and for solo or instrumental ensemble. Moreover, it is light and convenient, easy to take with, and is appropriate to the moving life on the pasture. So it is deeply loved by people.

Group dancing of menThe Hazak nationality is one that is proficient in singing and dancing. The proverbs among the people say: "Songs and horses are the two wings of the Hazak people." "The sound of songs accompanies you from the cradle to the tomb." Not only all the men and women, old and young love singing and are able to sing, but also they have the "professional" singer among the people---Aken.

"Aken" is the call to those folk actors that know poems and can play instruments and sing. They are the keeper, spreader and creator of folk art. "Aken cannot live to a thousand years old, while his songs can be spread for a thousand years." Aken has rich knowledge, abundant enthusiasm and facile imagination, can play and sing impromptu and show striking literary merit, their songs are vivid and lively. They also can write lengthy narrative poems, and have made contribution in all areas of the Hazak folk songs (short songs and narrative songs). Most of the excellent Akens formed their own style in the creation activities. They impromptu create and sing songs by a Dongbula and a loud and clear singing voice, and incomparable wisdom, the listeners feel like hearing the flow of river and lake and the galloping of horses; and feel that it is an excellent likeness with the natural environment on the pasture and the living state of people, especially the galloping of horses expressed with striking meters. Akens are universally respected among the people.

Among the Akens, some people are especially proficient in participating in the impromptu antiphonal singing activities. Generally, they are not engaged in other singing activities, or the long folk songs, they only participate in the activities with Aken antiphonal singing as special skill, which is generally called as "antiphonal singing Aken" by people.

Aken antiphonal singing is in two forms: spontaneous and organized. The former is in the character of meeting friends with songs. To improve the skill, test their own level, the Akens usually spare no efforts and make a long and arduous journey, call at the prestigious Aken at their own accord to sing antiphonally, and learn from each other by exchanging skills. The latter form of Aken antiphonal singings are specially arranged by the chairpersons or hosts on the funeral ceremonies, wedding days and festivals. At this time, the Akens always represent their won clan and tribe to participate in the antiphonal singing, their success or failure not only affect their own fame, but also are closely linked with the honor of their clan and tribe. So the listeners always shout encouragement for the Aken of their own party.

Aken antiphonal singing is a kind of contest on skills and wisdom. At the time of antiphonal singing, the Akens play their own Dongbula and accompany for themselves, cross-examine each other and sing antiphonally. They try to overtake each other and do not give ground, try their best to show their talents and overwhelm the other party in the skill of impromptu songs, the ability of mastering language, talents, manner and even moral standing. The antiphonal singing of both parties does not come to an end until one party feel ashamed of his inferiority and bow to the other party's superiority on his own accord. On the summer pasture that is as beautiful as a painting, the Aken playing and singing party is held every year. The participators are the famous Aken chosen and assigned from all tribes, some are old men, and others are young singers.

In some sense, the yearly Aken playing and singing party of the Hazak nationality is an activity that uses poems to go on philosophical debate and the trials of wisdom and ability, and concurrently the activity to spread knowledge and enlighten ideology, and the activity that is liked best by the Hazak people. By this time, people always ride horses and take carriages, bring along the old and the young, and come to participate in it from scores of miles and even several hundred miles away, the beautiful Hazak pasture becomes a joyful sea.

The pure white yurt <<
Horse racing and "snatching sheep" >>