Baba-Gambar – patron saint of music and songs

Baba-Gambar – patron saint of music and songs

The Turkmen epic storytelling genesis throws back in history. Baba Gambar, one of the first professional folk musicians of the Merv oasis, is a bright and interesting personality. Several legends are associated with his name, and the image of Gambar itself arose from ancient myths at the turn of the 14th century.

According to legend, otherworldly forces told the future bakhshi how to make a dutar from mulberry wood, and strings from silk threads. Soon, Baba Gambar’s followers – fledgling musicians – began to call him their patron. And if the sound production was very bad, they said, “The Saint Patron of songs Baba-Gambar has forgotten us!”.

In the story of the Turkmen writer Atajan Tagan “Where is Baba-Gambar, where is the patron of songs?” tells about the life of a young dutarist, who inherited his father’s gift of Teke-bakhshi. The musician plays the dutar day and night long, and when his wife tells him about the death of the songs’ patron, the sonorous melody stops and the musical instrument falls out of the hands of the amazed fellow.

Young bakhshies who wanted to receive the master’s musical blessing made a pilgrimage to his resting place. They believed that there was a tree growing there that grew out of the cleft of his dutar. According to legend, “Baba Gambar spread a carpet on the surface of the water surface and performed his healing melodies on it”. Young bakhshies received a blessing from the mythological image of the musician through a dream.

Eastern thinkers were convinced that melodies that can express the performer’s spirits, invisibly affect the listener. In ancient times, music was considered to be a medicine for the soul and body, and bakhshies borrowed the content of the epic creations from legends, and added their views and beliefs.

The performing art of bakhshi was passed down from generation to generation, reflecting the national spiritual and moral views of the people. And unlike other genres of folk art, the performance of songs of bakhshi is not associated with household rituals and ceremonies. Storytellers sing about everything in the world, their songs were and are resounded at celebrations and national holidays.

Returning to the image of Baba Gambar, it is worth to note that the mythical character has a star of the same name. In the night sky, it can be seen from autumn to spring. The star was used as a calendar marker and its conjunction with the Pleiades was considered as the beginning of each month.

In various cultures of the peoples of Central Asia, India and Pakistan, there is a mythological character – the patron saint of music and musicians. Baba-Gambar or, as it is called in the musical culture of the Kyrgyz people – Kambar, is considered to be the founder of Kyrgyz music. And if the Turkmen patron saint of musicians created the dutar, then in Kyrgyz history he is credited with the invention of the three-stringed plucked musical instrument komuz.