“Is Sara here? Let her come forth, Birzhan Seri - the singer has come. Who comes near Sara in eloquence? But now her life is drawing to an end”.
This bold introduction became a preface to the one of the most famous steppe folk song battle that took place at the Eshkiolmes foothill in 1871 between Birzhan–Sal Kozhaguli, a mature 37 year old akin and Sara Tastanbekkizi a local beautiful young woman (“rising star” of a song genre as we say today).
I don’t know what Birzhan Sal felt that moment, but I for sure would be confused having heard this fearless girl’s respond:
“I thought you are wise – but you are miserable,
I don’t like people like you, Birzhan Sal
I would take out the sword that is unsheathed
Mind your neck.
Only a cloud of stench would remain
If I beat you with my tongue”
This is it – no mercy to the age and no reverence to the maestro’s authority, who had to ride few weeks from Kokshetau!
Intensity of emotions predetermined the famous aitys length – it lasted for several days. And though it ended up in Birzhan’s victory (admittedly not glorious – as he had to confuse and reproach his opponent for having an old husband, that she was forced to marry by her relatives), but total Sara’s triumph. Whose name was widespread throughout Kazakh steppes and mountains and became familiar to every person.
Moreover for people’s history both participants of the historical battle joined into one inseparable couple. Birzhan – Sal and akin Sara. “Birzhan and Sara”. Immediately comes to mind Tulebaev’s opera premiered in Almaty 1946.
The fact that this aitys not only remained in the people’s memory but it had been committed to paper a year later, shows its real and great meaning.
The first recording is a result of efforts taken by Jusupbek Shahislamulyi, folk songs collector who managed to put everything down without delay. And this song battle playbook was published in Kazan 1898.
…Indirect consequence of the historical aitys was the fact that a house in Kapal survived to the present day where doctor Sobolewski accepted patients and where Shoqan Walikhanov used to stay in the twilight of his short and bright life.
A memorial Sara Tastanbekkizi’s museum was opened here in Soviet days.
Despite the fact that all the expedite tags and captions are written in Kazak (and this weird for many Russian speaking Kazakhstani people tendency – is typical for many small province museums), it is attractive not only for Kazak people. Moreover, museum director Aigul gladly meets everyone and is always ready to conduct an excursion for anyone who comes.
Several comfortable museum rooms of a former doctor’s house contain not only things connected with Sara herself (folk singer’s dombra survived to the present day), but also showpieces reminding us about the past of Kapal and its surroundings.