by Asghar Khan
Tajiks live scattered around Central Asia, in South China, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan and parts of India. Tajiks live in plains as well as highlands. In China majority of Tajik people inhabit in Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous Country in Kashgar area and Zepu, Shache, Yecheng, Pishan and Aktao Counties in the south Xinjiang with a population of over 40,000 Ismaili Muslim. They are highland Tajik and the only original white people speaking Indo-European family of language.
The Pamir plateaus, where Tajik people live, are converging place of the Tianshan, Kunlun, Gangdisi, Xindukushi and Himalayan Mountains. Tajik proverb says “a person’s navel is on his belly while the world’s navel is on the Pamirs”. The flying eagle is their totem and receives great respect, due to its symbolic importance.
Tajiks believe that the eagle is the king of animals and represents image of honesty, kindness, bravery, strength, speed and justice. Therefore, heroes, sages, and outstanding young Tajiks are respectedly called “eagles”, by the Tajiks. Eagle flute and eagle dance evidently show their deep respect for the eagle.
There are more than a dozen legends concerning eagles, and four concerning the eagle lute and eagle dance. Although the details of legends are a bit different but they all tell a similar story: a kind Tajik bullied by the evil.
An eagle helped the poor Tajik to resist but he died ultimately in order to protect the man. The eagle asked the kind person to make a lute with his wing bone. When the lute is playing, the world will be full of happiness. Then the kind person played the lute and girls began to imitate the eagle’s actions with the music.
Gradually, the Tajik arts — eagle flute and eagle dance came into being. Because Tajik dance movements imitate those of eagles, generally the traditional Tajik dance is named “Eagle Dance”, which derives from their worship to their gods and ancestor (including totem). The dance actions are to imitate the eagle’s soaring, diving, wheeling and joyful flying.
A seven-eighth rhythm arrangement is used for both music and the dance. At first, one dancer goes onto the field and dances. Then he invites another. They begin to move forward slowly with their arms spread, like two eagles hovering. When the music turns quick, they chase and play with each other. Once they get close, they spin away immediately. They rise or squat suddenly, or jump while spinning. The women’s dances are much softer, but also imitate eagles.
It originates from the folk traditions and there are no fixed dance steps, so every one can dance without following specific steps. At the festivals, wedding ceremonies, and gatherings, two musicians alternatively play eagle flutes and two women beat hand-drum (small drum similar to the tambourine), the old and the young join in the spectacular dance.