Circassian Music & Musicology


Hezhdal Qwnizch


Къуныжь ТIатIу и къуэ Хьэждал

(Хаждал Кунижев)



Hezhdal Qwnizch (1930/1-1996), Honoured Artist of the Kabardino-Balkarian ASSR and soloist of the Choir of the Television and Radio Broadcasting of the Kabardino-Balkarian ASSR, is a folk singer of note. He recorded many songs and chants, including the emotionally-charged ‘The Plaintive Song of Zhambot and Yeqwb’ («ЖАМБОТРЭ ЕКЪУБРЭ Я ТХЬЭУСЫХЭ» ‘Zhambotre Yeqwbre ya Thewsixe’) [of which an audio file is available on this website].


Qwnizch joined the Philharmonic Symphony Ensemble (the forerunner of the Kabardino-Balkarian State Philharmonic) and worked in the 1950s with such illustrious musicians as Hesen Amirx’an Hex’wpasch’e (Амырхъан ХьэхъупащIэ и къуэ Хьэсэн), Muhezhir Pschihesch’e (ПщыхьэщIэ Мухьэжыр; accomplished and much recorded accordion player), Qanschobiy Qwschhe (Къущхьэ Къанщобий), and others.


Qwnizch had an impressive range of songs in his repertoire. We shall include a number of seminal songs. This is an on-going project. Any additional information (sent to on this accomplished minstrel, or any other comments and suggestions, will be much appreciated.


Songs by Hezhdal Qwnizch


Heroic and Historical Chants & Ballads


1.  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. A full account of Andeimirqan, his exploits and murder can be found in Z. Qardenghwsch’, 1969 (1970), pp 223-336.


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 Temriuk 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.


SongOfAndeimirqan.mp3 SongOfAndeimirqan.mp3
Size : 3660 Kb
Type : mp3

2. Dimixeshen Schhech'e Xekwr Dobgine

(Дымыхэшэн щхьэкIэ хэкур добгынэ)

Dimixeshen Schhech'e Xekwr Dobgine.mp3 Dimixeshen Schhech'e Xekwr Dobgine.mp3
Size : 9931 Kb
Type : mp3

3. The Song of Wezi Murat

(Уэзы Мурат и уэрэд; Wezi Murat yi Wered)



Written by Bechmirze Pasch’e, this is a song against despotism. The words of the song are available in the song file.


Murat Wezi was an intrepid abrek (abrej), protector of the poor, in the period of Tsarist occupation of Circassia. He managed to escape many times from the clutches of the Tsarist invaders, despite perfidious tip offs. One account tells of his emigration to Turkey, where he lived until his death. Another version has him exiled to Siberia, from where he never comes back.

Wezi Murat yi Wered.mp3 Wezi Murat yi Wered.mp3
Size : 1980 Kb
Type : mp3


1. The Lament of Qeirbech
(Къербэч и гъыбзэ; Qeirbech yi Ghibze)
Qeirbech yi Ghibze.mp3 Qeirbech yi Ghibze.mp3
Size : 4240 Kb
Type : mp3

Plaintive Chants

1.  The Plaintive Song of Zhambot and Yeqwb

(Жамботрэ Екъубрэ я тхьэусыхэ; Zhambotre Yeqwbre ya Thewsixe)



The song was composed by the minstrel Yisuf Mesey (Мэсей Исуф). The words (in Kabardian, with Russian translation) and sheet music are available in V. H. Bereghwn and Z. P’. Qardenghwsch’, 1990, pp 461-72. The words of the song (under the title ‘Qwschhe Zhambot yi Wered’ [‘The Song of Zhambot the Balkarian’]) are also found in Z. Qardenghwsch’, 1979, pp 73-80.


This is a classic tale of murder and revenge. One day, Zhambot Qwschhe was murdered in his house. His mother instructed her other son, Yeqwb, to avenge his brother and slay his murderers, or else she would disown him. Yeqwb pursued his brother’s killers for two years and slew one of the suspects in Nalchik. The authorities hunted down Yeqwb, who took refuge in an old stone tower in the mountains. When the pursuers failed to take him alive, they brought out a big cannon. The troops fired a blank shot to intimidate Yeqwb into coming out. When our hero refused to yield, a live shot was fired, blowing the tower and its resident into smithereens. When Yeqwb’s mother heard about the manner of her son’s death, she asked Zhambot’s widow Negwresh to bring her accordion and play. Thrice did the mother dance for joy!


Zhambot and Yeqwb – who were of noble lineage – and their mother (a Kabardian from the Disch’ech’ family) came to the village of Tox’wtemischey (now Lashinqey) in the 1850s, after being hounded out of their Balkarian village following the murder of their father in a land dispute. They lived in prosperity and harmony in their new village for some time, but their relationship with the Tox’wtemisch clan turned ugly following a land dispute. Matters got even worse when Zhambot kidnapped Negwresh L’ibeiqwe, the fiancée of Andzor Tox’wtemisch, a captain in the cavalry, and made her his wife. Zhambot was killed in 1857. However, the murderer was never found out. Yeqwb wreaked his revenge in 1859, slaying Andzor Tox’wtemisch in Nalchik.


PlaintiveSongOfZhambotAndYeqwb.mp3 PlaintiveSongOfZhambotAndYeqwb.mp3
Size : 5029 Kb
Type : mp3

2.  Woe unto me!

(Сэрмахуэ!; Sermaxwe!)



This is a traditional plaintive chant.

WoeUntoMe.mp3 WoeUntoMe.mp3
Size : 5426 Kb
Type : mp3

3. The Plaintive Chant of Gwaschemaxwe

(Гуащэмахуэ и тхьэусыхэ; Gwaschemaxwe yi Thewsixe)

Gwaschemaxwe yi Thewsixe.mp3 Gwaschemaxwe yi Thewsixe.mp3
Size : 10183 Kb
Type : mp3

Other Songs

1. This is our custom, we Circassians!

This is our custom, we Circassians!.mp3 This is our custom, we Circassians!.mp3
Size : 2360 Kb
Type : mp3


2.  Daxezhan

(Дахэжан; Daxezhan; name of a girl; literally: ‘Beautiful Princess’)



This is Qwnizch’s rendering of the famous traditional song. The words of the song are available in the song file.

DaxezhanQwnizch.mp3 DaxezhanQwnizch.mp3
Size : 3394 Kb
Type : mp3

3. Bax'sen (Бахъсэн; Bakhsan)

Bakhsan is a principal town in the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic, the centre of the Bakhsan District. The Circassian name of the town is Ехъущыкъуей Ипщэ (Upper Yex'wschiqwey).

Bakhsan.mp3 Bakhsan.mp3
Size : 2452 Kb
Type : mp3

4. Zeiyiqwe (Зеикъуэ)

Zeiyiqwe is a village in the Bakhsan District of the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic. Its name literally means 'The Gorge of Cornel-Trees'

Zeiyiqwe.mp3 Zeiyiqwe.mp3
Size : 1918 Kb
Type : mp3

5. Awshijer (Аушыджэр) 

Words and music by A. Biyts'u. Awshijer is a village in the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic on the left bank of the Cherek (Sherej) River. It is also called 'Dighwzchiqwey' ('Дыгъужьыкъуей').
Awshijer.mp3 Awshijer.mp3
Size : 2192 Kb
Type : mp3

6. The Song of Nekwre the Bridegroom
(Щауэ Нэкурэ и уэрэд;
Schawe Nekwre yi Wered)
Schawe Nekwre yi Wered.mp3 Schawe Nekwre yi Wered.mp3
Size : 2014 Kb
Type : mp3

7. The Song of Raya 

(Рае и уэрэд; Raye yi Wered)

Raye yi Wered.mp3 Raye yi Wered.mp3
Size : 1849 Kb
Type : mp3

8. The Song of Ghwsch'ipse

(ГъущIыпсэ и уэрэд; Ghwsch'ipse yi Wered)
Ghwsch'ipse yi Wered.mp3 Ghwsch'ipse yi Wered.mp3
Size : 11043 Kb
Type : mp3
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