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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

The Beluch possess most soft musical voices


The

beginning of a song is somewhat sudden and startling, and usually too loud, as if the singer had not properly gauged the extent of his voice in relation to the instrumental accompaniment, but he soon manages to get in most perfect unison with the melody of the dambura and the violin or other instruments, except in cases of singers endowed with extra musical genius, when they will go on improvising by the hour, using the theme as a guide. They generally sing in a minor key, with pretty refrains at the end of each bar.

[Illustration]

The most common and favourite air is the above on which elaborate variations are added.

The Beluch singer seldom changes from minor into major or from one key into another, but he is very fond of repeating the same melody in all the octaves within the utmost limits of the compass of his voice. It is considered a feat in singing to hold a note for an interminable time, as also to go through the greater portion of the melody without taking breath, and it really seemed extraordinary that some of the singers did not break a blood vessel in the process. The eyes of the performers got so swollen and almost shooting out of the head with holding the notes so long, and the veins of the temples and arteries in the neck swelled to such an extent as to cause serious apprehension.

On one occasion I heard an improvised song with

the accompaniment of the _soroz_ (violin) only. This time--an exception in my experience--the song was given in a deep, low, nasal voice, each note being tremulous and held on for several minutes in a most plaintive manner.

Some of the love songs were quite pathetic and touching, and in the war songs, the grievances were poured forth very plaintively with an accompaniment of strings and drums and burst out suddenly into fire and anger. At this point, when the musicians were carried away by the martial words of the song, the instrumental accompaniment became next to diabolical. It was very inspiriting, no doubt, and made them feel very war-like. The din was certainly such as might have turned any man into a fighter.

Love songs, in which the singer imitated women's voices to perfection, were really most graceful and sad, and quite interesting were the musical recitatives with violin accompaniments which the Beluch render in quite a masterly way.

Then there was the comic song--quick-timed and full of life--much too full and too comic to appeal to a European, and so fully illustrated that personally, I infinitely preferred the more melancholic ones which had more music in them.

Duets and trios were occasionally attempted with quite good results, except that there always seemed to be a competition as to who should start highest, and this had occasionally a grating effect.

The Beluch possess most soft musical voices, well-rounded and graceful, quite a contrast even in mere conversation to those of their neighbours the Persians or the Afghans; but the character of the Beluch songs and music is not dissimilar from the Persian, and both betray a markedly Arab origin. In Persian songs, too, an _andante_ movement with chorus joining in every few bars frequently occurs, but in the Persian chorus we generally find a liking for chromatic diminuendos and crescendos, which are not so frequent in Beluch music.

Persian music is inspiriting. There are certain musical notes the vibrations of which seem to go to the heart more than others, and on these notes the Persian musician will work his melody. Sad love songs in a falsetto voice are prevalent, and are sung so high that, as with the Beluch, it makes one really quite anxious for the safety of the singer. The notes are kept on so long and the melody repeated so often, that the artery and veins in the singer's neck and temples bulge out in a most abnormal manner.


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