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The most vibrant elements of Evenk musical culture are their songs. Everyone sings, women, men, children. The singing is done either a capella by a soloist or in rounds with improvised replies. This makes it hard to record them ìout of contextî. Thus the women say they cannot sing a lullaby because they are not rocking their child at the same time. Likewise a singer rarely remembers all the words once he has finished singing, saying simply: ìI sang what came to mindî.
The tunes and the refrains of the songs are fixed; each region, each clan has its own tunes and each person has his/her variations. This is one means of recognition, just like the ornamentation of clothing. The set passages that express essential ritual formulas (the desire to be strong and numerous or such formulas as ìfor the better we are going to liveî, ìlet us play the games of our ancestors and we will liveî) also give the singer time to improvise the next part.
In the improvised passages, the singer must keep the tune and find the words that form a sequence of similar sounds within a strophe, while creating as many metaphors as he can. He must pay attention to the content of his improvisations, given the Evenk belief in the power of words. He uses phonetic ìtricksî (lalies) either to create pleasing vowel harmonies or to complete the number of syllables needed for the rhyme. For instance, he can add on to a word or a strophe ñngan, -ngany, gu gun, lolo, jaja, e, a o jojo, etc.

There are narrative songs sung for oneself (while working or transhuming) or for an audience, songs of greeting or good wishes sung for a celebration or on the occasion of an encounter. Among nomads, one can also ìsing to the reindeerî, while riding or milking. Here are some examples of refrains: ele-vale, sagagjam (I will sing), ogoj, ogolo-lo, egej, u-juju, gokaj, gudjaje, gunem (I say), adyn gatchin (like the wind), mevan doodun (deep in my heart). Lullabies have slower tunes and refrains: ba-lju-lju, built on ba ìcradleî, bo-bohoho, ljulju.

There are many sung rounds with replies: devejde (ochre), delehintcho, monchoraj, heno (ptarmigan), solongo (ermine), goshongo (Siberian civet cat), osuoraj (Evenk version of the Yakut ohuokhaj), egelelja, etc. The tunes and the refrains vary from region to region and from one owner clan or lineage to the next. Such rounds are sung on all important occasions: weddings, departure for the army, meetings between Evenk from different regions, seasonal celebrations (reindeer-herdersí day and ikenipke, the New Year, after the first cuckoo). They are regarded as the main means of collective ritual action. Today they are led mainly by the women.

For the last ten years, under the influence of the Russians and the Yakut, authored songs have been appearing in Evenk, composed by young singers like Vladimir Kolesov, Oktja Naumova or Evgenij Markov, for the village of Iengra alone.

Author(s): A. Lavrillier
Date created: 2003-09-09 - Date modified: 2004-04-15

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Evenk round dance : delehintcho (3.7MB)

Improvisation (sagadjam) (0MB)
Song for my grand-mother (0MB)
Delehincho (round dance) (0MB)

Elder women singing

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emma, 03/05/2004
are there any song duels among the evenk ?

alex, 03/05/2004
not as clearly as among the inuit, but there are wishing songs gifts and counter-gifts

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