Circassian Music & Musicology

Monument to Vladimir Bereghwn

One of the Greatest Circassian Minstrels

of the Second Half of the 20th Century 

Бэрэгъун Владимир

Адыгэ джэгуакIуэшуэ

This is part of the project 'Circassian Cultural Icons', which aims to present to the world the art and work of Circassian cultural institutions and workers. Amazingly, I was unable to find a cyber monument to the art and work of Vladimir Bereghwn in all the Circassian websites in Circassia.


Ponder this: The Ministry of Culture of the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic does not have a website! And this: The website of the President of Kabardino-Balkaria does not disseminate information in Circassian. It makes one wonder what chance is there for Circassian culture and language.


Hopefully this humble attempt at erecting monuments to the great men and women of Circassian culture would go some way in filling the gaping gaps in the presentation of Circassian culture and folklore to a world audience. 



Vladimir Bereghwn


Vladimir Bereghwn (Бэрэгъун Владимир) (1939-1998), Honoured Cultural Worker of the Russian Federation and People’s Artist of the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic, was one of the best singers of the 1970s and 80s in Circassia. Although he recorded many fine and memorable traditional and modern songs, his powerful operatic voice was best suited for ancient anthems. He documented and recorded a number of Pantheonic chants, including ‘Mezgwasche’ («МЭЗГУАЩЭ»; ‘Forest-Lady’). His wide Nart repertoire included an emotive rendering of ‘Nartizch Wered’ («НАРТЫЖЬ УЭРЭД»; ‘Song of the Ancient Narts’), which causes tingling sensations in the back of one’s head, ‘Ashemez yi Pshinalhe’ («АШЭМЭЗ И ПШЫНАЛЪЭ»; ‘Ashemez’s Melody’), ‘Bedinoqwe yi Pshinalhe’ («БЭДЫНОКЪУЭ И ПШЫНАЛЪЭ»; ‘Bedinoqwe’s Melody’), ‘Sosriqwe Maf’e Qeih’ («СОСРЫКЪУЭ МАФIЭ КЪЕХЬ»; ‘Sosriqwe Fetches Fire’), and many others. His heroic/historical repertory included ‘Senjeley yi Wered’ («СЭНДЖЭЛЕЙ И УЭРЭД»; ‘The Song of Prince Sanjalay’), in which he evokes the heroism of the mediæval prince-warrior. 



Бэрэгъун Владимир


Бэрэгъун Владимир (1939-1998) адыгэ уэрэджыIакIуэ цIэрыIуэхуэм я нэхъыщхьэу еплъытэ хъунущ. Абы и макъ гъуэзэджэ лъэщгуэрэм удихьэхауэ уодаIуэ. Абы игъэзэщIат пасэрей нарт уэрэд зыбжанэ, псалъэм папщIэ «АШЭМЭЗ И ПШЫНАЛЪЭ», «НАРТЫЖЬ УЭРЭД», «БЭДЫНОКЪУЭ И ПШЫНАЛЪЭ», «СОСРЫКЪУЭ МАФIЭ КЪЕХЬ» жыхуиIэ уэрэдхэр. ЛIыхъужьыгъэ теухуа уэрэд куэд зыгъэзэщIа Бэрэгъуным, псалъэм папщIэ Пщы Сэнджэлей (Жылэгъуэт Идар и къуэ Къанкъылыш и къуэщ) зи гугъу ещI уэрэдым «СЭНДЖЭЛЕЙ И УЭРЭД».

The art of Bereghwn shall be divided into musical genres. This project will take some time to complete.


1.  Pantheonic Chants and Hymns


a-  Forest-Lady (Мэзгуащэ; Mezgwasche)


Mezgwasche was the goddess of forests. She was also protectress of the vegetable kingdom and the invocation of her name brought forth the rains. This is one of the defining chants of Circassian musical lore. Two versions of the chant are presented.

Mezgwasche (Forest-Lady)1.mp3 Mezgwasche (Forest-Lady)1.mp3
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Mezgwasche (Forest-Lady)2.mp3 Mezgwasche (Forest-Lady)2.mp3
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2.  Anthems of the Nart Epos


a-  Bedinoqwe’s Melody (Бэдынокъуэ и пшыналъэ; Bedinoqwe yi Pshinalhe)




This song is from the epic album ‘Adige Nart Pshinalhexer’ («Адыгэ Нарт Пшыналъэхэр»; ‘Circassian Nart Melodies’), Melodiya, 1987. This is part of one of the epic songs on Bedinoqwe’s heroism and exploits. It describes the appearance of the intrepid horseman.


When the exotic warrior set on his campaigns on his steed, his two hounds played by his two sides and his two eagles perched on his shoulders. The sun shone on his right shoulder and snow fell on his left. He was preceded sometimes by a great conflagration and by thick mist at others, and a multitude of rooks swarmed, or wild birds soared, in his wake. His steed sprang and spun. The coals issuing from Bedinoqwe’s mouth set the sides of his path on fire…


Bedinoqwe was the son of Bedin and a Nart female warrior who fought the Chint (generic term for the enemies of the Narts) incognita in men’s war costume. Bedin and his wife lived on the bank of the Don River. Whilst a Nart was being hosted by Bedin, the sound of Bedinoqwe crying was heard from his mother’s womb as she brought in the food table. The Nart was freaked out, and he hurried to the Narts and relayed what had transpired in Bedin’s guest-house. The  Narts fell into great consternation and they resolved to murder the child the moment it would be born a male. When Bedinoqwe came to the world, the Narts kidnapped him from his parents house, but they did not have the heart to kill him, seeing how extraordinarily handsome he was, so they placed him in a hole in a tree and left him to his fate. He was found by the Nart gooseherd, who brought him up with his wife in the cellar so that no one amongst the Narts would know about this. When Bedinoqwe came of age, the gooseherd went to Bedinoqwe’s parents and told them that their son was still alive. Bedinoqwe became a man in full measure. He came out of the cellar and fought the Chint, as his mother did in earlier years, and he inflicted woe unto them, and then went back to the cellar. This is but one of many tales that relate the heroism and fierceness of Nart Bedinoqwe, the inimical foe of the Chint. Bedinoqwe did not wreak his vengeance on the Narts, his people, but he pursued a somewhat aloof existence. When the exotic warrior set on his campaigns on his steed, his two hounds played by his two sides and his two eagles perched on his shoulders. The sun shone on his right shoulder and snow fell on his left. He was preceded sometimes by a great conflagration and by thick mist at others, and a multitude of rooks swarmed, or wild birds soared, in his wake. His steed sprang and spun. The coals issuing from Bedinoqwe’s mouth set the sides of his path on fire… When he first joined the Narts in their white wine festival (санэхуафэ; sanexwafe) at the great palace of the Alij clan (cf. the Circassians’ reference to the Greeks as ‘Alijxer’), he was received very warmly and he partook in the dancing and merry-making. It was the Nart matron Satanay, in her infinite wisdom, who made the arrangements for the awe-inspiring hero to join Nart society so smoothly.

Bedinoqwe’s Melody.mp3 Bedinoqwe’s Melody.mp3
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b-  Nart Sosriqwe’s Melody

(Нарт Сосрыкъуэ и пшыналъэ; Nart Sosriqwe yi Pshinalhe)




The words of the tale are available in A. I. Alieva and A. M. Gutova, 1979, pp 71-5 (see 'Circassian Bibliography' section of this website). The first stanza of this song is perhaps the most recognizable in the whole of the Nart repertoire.




Сосрыкъуэу ди къан,

Сосрыкъуэу ди нэху,

Зи мэIухур дыщафэ,

Афэр зи джанэ куэщI!


Sosriqwe is our beloved one,

Sosriqwe is the light of our lives,

Whose shield is silverine, [and]

Whose shirt-hem is a coat of mail!



This is the story of the epic duels between Sosriqwe and Toteresh on Mount Hereme. In the first meet, the invincible Toteresh son of Albech easily prevails over Sosriqwe, but gives him a leave of execution until the next morning. ‘He who forfeits a date was not born a man by his mother,’ he said as he let Sosriqwe go. Terrified, Sosriqwe goes back to his over-protective mother Satanay, who counsels him to use ruse to overcome his adversary (‘the terror of whole armies’), and she invokes black magic in aid of her pet son. In fact, the brash Nart was many a time saved from certain death by the intervention of the mighty sorceress. On the set date, Sosriqwe casts a dark mist over the sacred Mount, causing Toteresh to nod off. Sosriqwe makes his appearance with loud clamour issuing from the bells attached to the mane and tail of his steed Tx’wezchey. Toteresh’s steed takes fright and casts the rider off. As Sosriqwe stands over Toteresh with sword in hand, the supine Nart pleads for a third encounter. However, wily Sosriqwe refuses, cuts off Toteresh’s head and returns triumphant to his doting mother.

Nart Sosriqwe’s Melody.mp3 Nart Sosriqwe’s Melody.mp3
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3.  Historical/Heroic Songs and Ballads


a-  Andeimirqan (Андемыркъан; Andeimirqan )

Andeimirqan (b. circa 1509), the equivalent of Robin Hood in the Circassian ethos, was a contemporary of the 16th-century potentate Prince Beislhen (Beslan) (son of Zhanx’wet), nicknamed ‘Pts’apts’e’ (‘The Obese’), who is credited with modifying the structure of the peerage system and updating the Xabze. Andeimirqan was the progeny of a mésalliance; his father was a prince, his mother was of unknown stock. According to one legend, he was found by Andeimir while on a hunting expedition. When his hound barked at the trunk of a tree, he wondered what the matter was, only to find a twig-basket perched on a forked branch. He brought it down and found a tiny baby covered in the basket. Andeimir, who was childless, was joyful at the find, and he brought up the child as his own.


Andeimirqan grew up to be an intrepid horseman. The news of his exploits went far and wide. He was in the entourage of Prince Beislhen, and one day while the potentate was on a hunting expedition – carted in a carriage, as the Prince was too large to fit on a horse – the Prince took aim at a wild boar, but missed the mark, and the boar fled into the forest. As the boar was driven out of the forest, the Prince took another aim, but missed again. However, Andeimirqan’s arrow pierced the boar and stuck him to the Prince’s carriage. By some accounts, it was there and then that Beislhen resolved to get rid of Andeimirqan. He instigated Qaniybolet, one of Andeimirqan’s closest friends and younger brother of Prince Temryuk Idarov, to betray him. One day, Qaniybolet asked Andeimirqan to go out with him on a hunting expedition. A contingent of Beislhen’s troops lay in ambush, and they put the hero to the sword. Some analysts maintain that the murder was a result of the internecine war for supremacy over Kabarda, as Andeimirqan, despite the obscurity of his mother’s lineage, could have claimed the mantle of sovereignty for his warrior character and bravery. It is thought that Andeimirqan was killed before 1552. He was Christian. At the time, the Circassians venerated Dawischjerjiy (St. George) and Yele (Prophet, or St. Elijah), in addition to their pagan gods. It was Beislhen Pts’apts’e’s son Prince Qaniqwe who left Kabarda (in the second half of the 16th century) to establish the Beislheney (Beslanay) nation-tribe.


A full account of Andeimirqan, his exploits and murder can be found in Z. Qardenghwsch’, 1969 (1970), pp 223-336. [See section 'Ziramikw Qardenghwsch'' of this website] 

3Andeimirqan.mp3 3Andeimirqan.mp3
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b-  The Song of Andeimirqan 

(Андемыркъан и уэрэд; Andeimirqan yi Wered)

The words of the song (in Kabardian) are found in Z. Qardenghwsch’, 1979, pp 32-4. [See section 'Ziramikw Qardenghwsch'' of this website]


See preceding entry for a short account of the legendary hero.

4SongOfAndeimirqan.mp3 4SongOfAndeimirqan.mp3
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c-   The Song of Prince Sanjalay

(Сэнджэлей и уэрэд; Senjeley yi Wered)

In the 16th/17th centuries, Prince Sanjalay, who sired seven sons and two daughters, had 400 men in his town (Terek; Тэрч къалэ) and a further 600 Tatars in Otary. Sanjalay (Сэнджэлей) was Prince Teimriqwe Yidar’s younger brother’s grandson. Prince Sanjalay’s father was Qanqilish (Къанкъылыш) son of Zhileghwet (Жылэгъуэт). In Russian sources he is referred to as ‘Sunchaley Yanglichev’ (Сунчалей Янгличев). His first trip to Moscow took place in 1605. He was appointed leader of the Terek Fortress and military camp north of present-day Grozny, capital of Chechnya. Sanjalay lived well into the 1620s. Many of his progeny also distinguished themselves as military leaders. Prince Sanjalay and his descendants, the last influential branch of the Idar Dynasty, held sway in Lesser Kabarda from their base in the Terek Fortress for most of the 17th century. The military exploits of Prince Sanjalay against the (remnants of the) Tatars and their leader Soteresh are forever preserved in song. For more details on Prince Sanjalay, refer to 'A Brief History of Kabarda' on this website.


9SongOfPrinceSanjalay.mp3 9SongOfPrinceSanjalay.mp3
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d-   The Song of Hetx’s Dear Son


(Хьэтхым и къуэ кIасэм и уэрэд; Hetxim yi Qwe Ch’asem yi Wered )


The words of the song (in Kabardian) are found in Z. Qardenghwsch’, 1979, pp 56-8. The words and sheet music are available in Z. Qardenghwsch’, 1969, pp 48-50. 


The events of this heroic tale, which is also heard among the Shapsugh, took place most probably in the second half of the 18th century. The son of Hetx stood up to the tyranny of the vehement prince of the Daw clan. The prince’s sexual exploitation of his female slaves solicited a retaliatory response from our protagonist in the shape of forming an intimate relationship with the prince’s wife. With the prince beside himself with anger, and on hearing that the son of Hetx was on a hunting expedition in the forest with a group of men, he collected his followers and went after him. The two parties met and fought. The son of Hetx slew the prince, and in turn the prince’s attendants killed the son of Hetx.

Song of Hetx's Dear Son.mp3 Song of Hetx's Dear Son.mp3
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5.  Wedding Songs and Chants  

a-  My Pug-Nosed One!

(Си Пакъ!; Siy Paq!)

Full details of this wedding banter are available in the section 'Fascinating Song: Siy Paq!' on this website.

SiyPaqBereghwn.mp3 SiyPaqBereghwn.mp3
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b-   We are ushering in the bride!

(Нысэ къыдошэ!; Nise qidoshe!)

A song chanted as the bride was ushered into her new home. The majestic music is fit for princesses.

We are ushering in the bride!.mp3 We are ushering in the bride!.mp3
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c-  ‘The wedding is upon us…’

(Нысашэ къэхъуащ...; Nisashe qex’wasch…)

While waiting for the bride to arrive to the site of the main wedding celebrations, songs, such as the following comic composition from the Cherkess, were sung at the house of the bridegroom's father. For sheet music and words of the song (in Circassian), refer to V. H. Bereghwn and Z. P’. Qardenghwsch’, 1980, p125-7. The words in Circassian with an English translation are available in the audio file itself.

The wedding is upon us....MP3 The wedding is upon us....MP3
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 6.  Comic & Satirical Songs

a-  The Song of the Yinariqwey Conflagration

(Инарыкъуей мафIэсым и уэрэд; Yinariqwey Maf’esim yi Wered)

The words of the song (in Kabardian) are found in Z. Qardenghwsch’, 1979, pp 127-30. It is said that the song was composed by Dawit Sheriy, Lut’e Nibezch, and Sehiyd Deriqwe.


In the summer of 1914 a conflagration swept through the village of Yinarqwey (now part of Upper Kurp in Kabarda). Nax’we Wezir, whose Kumyk grandfather came to Yinarqwey to live amongst the Kabardians, was holding wedding celebrations at his house for his daughter (before being escorted to her future home). A piece of live coal fell off a tea-urn and landed on some straw. The straw caught fire, and the especially hot and dry wind blew the lit straw all over the houses of the village. At the start of the fire the priest Shogwe looked at his watch. The strong wind blew in such a way as to set most of the village on fire. The priest looked again at his watch after the fire had consumed the village. According to his reckoning it took two hours for the village to go up in smoke. Only a few houses were spared, including the priest’s. This was the third time that the Wezirs caused the village to be burnt, as Nax’we’s grandfather before him was responsible for the other two incidents. It is said that Shogwe bought victuals for his fellow villagers, who were left with no stocks of foodstuffs.


Song of the Yinariqwey Conflagration.mp3 Song of the Yinariqwey Conflagration.mp3
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7.  Traditional Songs 

a-  The Dance of the New Day Sunshine

(МахуэщIэ дыгъэпсым и къафэ; Maxwesch'e Dighepsim yi Qafe)

The words of the song are by Peitr Qezher (Къэжэр Петр; Kazharov). Bereghwn’s performance of this anthem is a showcase of both power and finesse.

Dance of the New Day Sunshine.mp3 Dance of the New Day Sunshine.mp3
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b-  Ancient Dance

(Къафэжь; Qafezch )

The words of the song are by Peitr Qezher (Къэжэр Петр; Kazharov), the music by Vladimir Bereghwn.

Ancient Dance.mp3 Ancient Dance.mp3
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8.  Classical Songs & Arias

a-  Jeriymes’s Aria from Vladimir Mole’s opera Daxenaghwe

Vladimir Mole (b. 1940) composed the opera Daxenaghwe (Дахэнагъуэ) in 1969 based on Zalimx’an Aqsire’s (Акъсырэ Залымхъан) play of the same name. Other operatic works of his composition include Qambotre Latsere (Къамботрэ Лацэрэ; Qambot and Latse).



b-  My Sweetheart’s Wings

(Си лъагъуныгъэм и дамэ; Siy Lhaghwnighem yi Dame)


The words of the song are by Zubeir Thegheziyt (Тхьэгъэзит Зубер; Tkhagazitov), the music by Zhebre’iyl He’wpe (ХьэIупэ Джэбраил; Jebrail Khaupa).

My Sweetheart's Wings.mp3 My Sweetheart's Wings.mp3
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Albums by Vladimir Bereghwn: 

  • ‘Adige Nart Pshinalhexer’ («Адыгэ Нарт Пшыналъэхэр»; ‘Circassian Nart Melodies’), Melodiya, 1987. [This set of records is perhaps the best collection of Nart songs and chants]
  • ‘Kabardian Folk Songs’ (Кабардинские народные песни), Melodiya, 1977? [исполняют Владимир Барагунов, Л. Бекулов, И. Художников, К. Аталиков, Хор Радио И Телевидения Кабардино-Балкария, художественный руководитель: Борис Мизов. 1. Кавказ кьуршхэр; 2. Анзор и кьуэ; 3. Мартинэ; 4. Си Пакь; 5. ДжэгуакIуэ уэрэд; 6. Уэдобнэ джабэ / обр. В. Барагунова; 7. Ашэмэз и пшынальэ; 8. Сэнджэлей]
  • .......
  • .......


Books by Vladimir Breghwn: 

Bereghwn (Baragunov), V. H. and He’wpe, Zh., Narodnaya instrumentalnaya muzika adigov (cherkesov) [National Instrumental Music of the Circassians], Nalchik: El’-Fa, 2005. [600 pieces]

Bereghwn (Baragunov), V. H. and Qardenghwsch’ (Kardangushev), Z. P’. (compilers), АДЫГЭ УЭРЭДХЭМРЭ ПШЫНАЛЪЭХЭМРЭ, ЯПЭРЕЙ ТХЫЛЪ. Adige Weredxemre Pshinalhexemre, Yaperey Txilh. Narodnie pesni i instrumental’nie naigrishi adigov, tom 1 [Circassian Songs and Instrumental Folk-Tunes, Vol. 1], Moscow: All-Union Book Publishing House ‘Soviet Composer’, 1980. Online. Available HTTP: <> (accessed 11 January 2009). [Edited by E. V. Gippius. This, and the other volumes in the series, are seminal works on Circassian musical lore. Some of the collected songs and chants are very ancient indeed]

АДЫГЭ УЭРЭДХЭМРЭ ПШЫНАЛЪЭХЭМРЭ, ЕТIУАНЭРЕЙ ТХЫЛЪ. Adige Weredxemre Pshinalhexemre, Yet’wanerey Txilh. Narodnie pesni i instrumental’nie naigrishi adigov, tom 2 [Circassian Songs and Instrumental Folk-Tunes, Vol. 2], Moscow: All-Union Book Publishing House ‘Soviet Composer’, 1981.

АДЫГЭ УЭРЭДХЭМРЭ ПШЫНАЛЪЭХЭМРЭ, ЕЩАНЭРЕЙ ТХЫЛЪ. Adige Weredxemre Pshinalhexemre, Yeschanerey Txilh. Narodnie pesni i instrumental’nie naigrishi adigov, tom 3 [Circassian Songs and Instrumental Folk-Tunes, Vol. 3, Parts 1 and 2], Moscow: All-Union Book Publishing House ‘Soviet Composer’, 1986, 1990.


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