Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Irina Duskulova / Ирина Дускулова - Yukaghir songs

Ethno-pop with lyrics in Yukaghir? Now I truly have heard everything. Only a month ago I wouldn't even think that one day I'll post anything like this here, even if I've posted quite a lot of Mari and Komi ethno-pop before. However, these two languages, albeit endangered, are still spoken by hundreds of thousands native speakers, while both varieties of Yukaghir are spoken only by a couple of hundred people (mostly elderly). Yet there is modern music in this language, even if I managed to find only a couple of songs. Interestingly, there's also relatively many works of modern literature in both Yukaghir dialects, and the amount of talented Yukaghir writers and artists is suprprising for such a small-numbered ethnic group.

Yukaghir languages once were spoken all over the vast expanses of Eastern Siberia, but they were replaced by Yakut and Tungusic languages almost everywhere over the last millenium. The culture of Yukaghirs has some remarkably archaic traits (i.e. some remnants of matriarchy), which are thought to be the legacy of very ancient inhabitants of Siberia. Genetically, they exhibit roughly equal frequencies of Y-DNA haplogroups N1c (typical for Uralic peoples), Q (typical for Native Americans and Paleo-Asiatic/Siberian peoples), and C2 (typical for Altaic and Paleo-Siberian peoples, and some Native Americans like Na-Dene). The origins of Yukaghirs can be traced back to Neolithic Ymyyakhtakh culture (2200-1300 BCE) which was spread across Eastern Siberia, with some Ymyyakhtakh-like artifacts found as far as in Alaska and northern Scandinavia. After a series of smallpox epidemics, the total Yukaghir population dropped under 1 thousand by the end of XIX century, and survived only in two remote regions in the extreme north of eastern Russia. Long considered an ethnic group soon to be extinct, the Yukaghir population is now fairly stable in numbers, although they remain one of the smallest minority ethnic groups in Russia, and not many of them still speak their language.

Much like the language, the Yukaghir culture is quite unique, although sharing many elements in common with other indigenous cultures around the Arctic Circle. Yukaghirs are known for their surprisingly vast medical knowledge, for their pecular pictographic writing system (a very specialized one, mostly used in love letters and improvised maps), and a great degree of equality between men and women. The traditional lifestyles of Tundra and Kolyma Yukaghirs differ significantly, the former being nomadic reindeer herders, and the latter - sedentary hunters and fishermen.

Yukaghir languages have no apparent affinity to any other language family, although they do have some similarities to Uralic, Tungusic, and other Paleo-Siberian languages. A distant relationship to Uralic (Finno-Ugric & Samoyedic) languages had been proposed by several linguists, but it's far from proven. Out of the linguists whose works I've read, Vladimir Napolskikh is a supporter, and Ante Aikio is a critic. I'm not competent enough to judge on this matter, but from what I know about Uralic and Yukaghir languages, it isn't hard to believe that they're connected in some way. In particular, these Yukaghir songs remind me of Mari ethno-pop for some reason, and the singer herself reminds me of Marina Sadova :)

Now, a few words about her. Irina Duskulova was born on 17 June 1992 in Nelemnoye, a small settlement in Northeastern Siberia which is one of the few places where the Yukaghir culture and language are still alive to some extent. She's a niece of a well-known Yukaghir writer and poet Gennady Dyachkov, and apparently has inherited some literary talent from him, since she writes most of the lyrics for her songs by herself. Above is the video of her performance at the "Sana Yrya" song contest in Yakutia, which earned her the "Discovery of the year" award when she was 19 y.o. By now, she's a head of the "Yarkhadana" ethnocultural center in Nelemnoye, which hosts cutural events, promotes healthy lifestyles among the local population, and helps to preserve the Yukaghir folk traditions.

She's also a winner of numerous local beauty contests, and rightfully so, even if her appearance is definitely not something I used to see everyday. Look how beautiful she is in the beginning of the video above, when she appears on the stage in a short blue ethnic-themed dress which perfectly matches her appearance... Additionally, she has appeared in a music video filmed in Nelemnoye - the very first MV for an Yukaghir song:

These two songs are the only ones in Yukaghir I know. I could find another two songs of her in Yakut, and one more song that's standard Russian pop. By the way, she was happy to know that I'm going to post her songs on here (even if my blog isn't about such kind of music in general).

P.S. (2019) Irina has just released a couple of new songs in Yukaghir, and I decided to include them into a Youtube compilation, along with all the other songs by her I could find:

No comments:

Post a Comment