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A few guesses, some of them wild

As if carried in on a bracing wind from the foot of the Urals, this recording fell into my hands from a friend, who had transcribed it from a collection of vinyl records borrowed thru a family connection. The four-track EP is sung in Bashkir, the Turkic language of the indigenous people of the Republic of Bashkortostan, a constituent of the Russian Federation. The song is called, unhelpfully for us non-bashkirophones, “Бишек йыры, ” and I have not been able to find a translation for the title. However, a web search for just those Cyrillic characters turns up a number of Russian and Bashkir music sites, with any number of instances of the string, a result too rarefied for drawing sound conclusions.

But there are more clues: Here is a transl[iter]ation of the record label, shown above, as best I can manage: Bishek jyry (Kh. Ibragimov–G. Tukaj) M. Khismatullin and the Orchestra of the Bashkir State Theatre of Opera and Ballet, directed by G. Mutalov. I would venture Ibragimov/Tukaj to be the composers and M. Khismatullin as the vocalist. With these names, perhaps further web searches would be fruitful; I’ll leave that up to the curious among you.

I find objects from this region and period to be particularly evocative and somewhat mysterious, because I grew up in the United States during a time when the Soviet Union, or simply “Russia” as many called it, was thought of as a monolithic empire filled with “Russians, ” with very little cognizance allowed for the many dozens of ethnicities that live within the territory of that huge confederation. I think it is accurate to think of today’s Russian Federation as a country composed of many smaller countries, peoples living among the scattered Russians and their kin, hiding in plain sight within the Slavic behemoth.