MUSIC AND DANCE IN KAZAKHSTAN

KAZAKH MUSIC

Kazakhs are fond of music and are good at singing and dancing. Two famous Kazakh proverb go: "Songs and horses are the two wings of the Kazakh people" and "The sound of songs accompanies you from the cradle to the tomb." The "Dombra" is their favorite instrument (See Below). The Aken playing and singing festival is held every summer on the open steppe pasture. It features poems and arts as well as music and dance. Folk music instruments of the Kazakhs are classified by some into stringed instruments, skin instruments and breath instruments. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, kepu.net.cn ~]

Kazakh music and dance has many unique features but also has many things in common with the music and dance of Mongolia and Central Asia. For Kazakhs the summer has traditionally been the best time for merry-making. They often sing and dance during summer nights on the pastures. Their music and dance is not only enjoyed by Kazakhs, it is enjoyed by Chinese and other ethnic groups.[Source: Chinatravel.com chinatravel.com \=/]

Kazakh music is inextricably linked with its storytelling traditions and improvisational poetry ( See Literature). Songs and poems have have traditionally been sung in verse to the accompaniment of the dombra. The 19th century musician Kurmanghazy is Kazakhstan’s best known composer. Western classical music took root in the 20th century. The first musical performance was held in 1934 and the Kazakh State Philharmonic was launched in 1935. In 1937 the Abai State Academic Theater of opera and ballet was founded. Other Kazakhs that have made a name for themselves in Western music include the conductor Alan Buribaev and the violinist Aiman Musajojaeva.

According to the Kazakhstan government: “At the present stage of development in Kazakhstan formed a branched structure of musical culture. Here everyone can find something that he likes. Along with performance and composer creation in European styles, the country continues to develop traditional forms of music making as well as massive rock music and pop music, jazz. Religious and folk music includes folklore and oral traditions of peoples living in Kazakhstan - the Uighurs, Koreans, Germans, Dungan , Russian, Tatar. Among well the collectives are the State Symphony Orchestra, the Kazakh folk instruments. Kurmangazy, choir, folk dance ensemble, State Quartet, pop ensembles, brass and jazz bands. Kazakhstan is also home to many outstanding performers of classical music worldwide: E. Serkebaeva, B. Tulegenova, G. Esimova, A. Dnishev, G. Kadyrbekov, J. Aubakirova, A Musakhodzhaeva and the cradle of stars uzykalnoy Kazakh diaspora abroad - M. Bisengalieva, E. Kurmangaliev sisters Nakipbekovyh. [Source: VisitKazakhstan.kz, Official tourism website of Kazakhstan]

“Music schools and institutions include the K. Baiseitova and A. Zhubanov, Almaty State Conservatory, Kurmangazy, National Academy of Music in Astana, the State Opera and Ballet. Abay Kazakh State Philharmonic, Djambula Kazakhconcert, Institute of Literature and Art. M. Auezov and other musical and educational, scientific and cultural institutions. Every year, people of Kazakhstan gathers talented youth at the festival "Days of New Music", "Zhiger", "Altyn Alma", International contest "Voice of Asia", and folk musicians - at the International festival of traditional music.

Kazakh Musical Instruments

Kazakh folk music instruments are classified by some into stringed instruments, skin instruments and breath instruments. They include the kobyz (a rudimentary two-stringed fiddle which is said to by some to have been the world’s first bower instrument), zhetigen ( a 7-string instrument with a rectangular sound box), sybyzgy (a pan-pipe like instruments made of two reed or wood flutes tied together), dabyl, dauylpaz (hand drums) and Jew’s harp-like instrument.

A.A. Zhubanova of Al-Farabi Kazakh National University wrote: “The richest in sense of a sound palette is kobyz, the two-string instrument made by battering of an integral tree. Top deck of kobyz was fitted by the camel skin, and as strings the bunch of horsehair stretched. It was played by the right hand with the help of fiddlestick, which looks like a bowstring of a bow. As the left hand does not press a string to a deck but only touches it, the instrument emits the original sound similar to a human voice. Distribution of kobyz has been limited by difficulty of its manufacturing and with some difficulties with playing on it, but its special sound was often used by national sorcerers “baksy” at carrying out of spiritualistic sessions. [Source:A.A. Zhubanova Al-Farabi Kazakh National University, 2010 */*]

“Kazakhs created also wooden- wind instruments. For example, sybyzgy, having 6 apertures on one side and one - octava - on the opposite side. At blowing air, performer emits with voice a light sound, therefore the soft rumble is heard; horseshoe shankobyz having a metal horseshoe on the middle, is jingling at contact with fingers. The height of its sound is regulated by motion of lips - by articulation. */*

Dombra

The "dombra" (dutar or dongbula) is the favorite Kazakh instrument. It is a strummed two-stringed lute used in Uzbek and Kazakh music. Said to have made Genghis Khan weep, it comes with an oval, rectangular or guitar-shaped soundbox. The dombra comes in a variety of forms. Most of them are chiseled from whole piece of pinewood or birch wood, carefully carved and beautifully inlaid. The sound boxes of dombra are of two types: one is triangle shape and named "Abayi Dombra” after a modern poet name of Abayi; the other is ellipse shaped, and is called the "Jiangbu'er D`ongbula" after Jiangbu'er, an Aken among the Kazakh people. The two kinds of dombra have different appearances, and the tone quality of each has its own strong points. Most dombras have two strings, and some have three strings. In the old days the strings were made from sheep's intestines. Today most are made of sheep wire wrapped with nylon, with copper materials added. ~

The sound of the dombra is not loud, but the tone color is graceful. Most play it using the left hand to press the strings and the right hand to pluck them. It can be used to play and sing by oneself or with others, or a solo instrument or instrumental ensemble. Moreover, it is light and easy to carry; appropriate for the nomadic life on the steppe. ~

A.A. Zhubanova of Al-Farabi Kazakh National University wrote: “More freely and more widely than other Kazakh steppe instruments, the silver voice of the dombra is the unpretentious companion of nomads... Its strings store musical wisdom of centuries, for it the anonymous steppe composers who had not known the notes created the immortal pieces of music, embodying in them alive life of their people. [Source:A.A. Zhubanova Al-Farabi Kazakh National University, 2010 */*]

Kazakh Dombra Kuy Recognized by UNESCO

In 2014, the Kazakh traditional art of Dombra Kuy was placed on the UNESCO Intangible Heritage list. According to UNESCO: The art of DombraKuy refers to a short solo composition performed on a traditional pear-shaped, long-necked, two-stringed, plucked musical instrument known as a dombra. The music aims to connect people to their historic roots and traditions through classical and improvised pieces that engage the audience at a spiritual and emotional level. Public engagement in the performance serves as one of the most important means of social communication between people and contributes to the transfer of knowledge and skills related to Kazakh culture. [Source: UNESCO, Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity ~]

“The music is usually accompanied by narrated stories and legends. It is traditionally performed at social gatherings, holidays and festive celebrations, amid a rich variety of food and musical entertainment. It serves as a vital social and cultural experience, strengthening people’s identity and promoting solidarity and mutual understanding in society. Aspiring and talented musicians are apprenticed to masters from the moment a child demonstrates an interest in the philosophy and virtuosity of traditional music and performance. Amateur musicians then apprentice themselves to other more experienced and talented performers from their region to increase their skills and repertoire. ~

According to UNESCO Kazakh traditional art of Dombra Kuy was placed on the UNESCO Intangible Heritage list because: 1) Traditionally transmitted from master to disciple through generations, the Dombra Kuy performance is an essential entertainment during family and community gatherings and plays an important role in strengthening social cohesion among Kazakh people while providing them with a sense of identity and belonging; 2) Inscription of the element on the Representative List could contribute to its increased visibility at the national and international levels, while encouraging integration and intercultural dialogue, promoting solidarity and respect for cultural diversity, and highlighting creativity. ~

Kazakh Aken Singers

The Kazakhs and Kyrgyz have a long tradition of informal recitation of folklore and improvised narrative singing performed by bards. Kyrgyz bards have traditionally been , accompanied by a three-stringed, apricot-wood instrument called the komuz. The Kazakhs have a similar tradition except they use a two-string instrument.

"Professional" singers are called Aken."Aken" have traditionally been like minstrels: folk actors that recited poems, epics and myths and played instruments and sing. They are regarded as the keepers, spreaders and creators of folk art. A Kazakh proverb goes: "Aken cannot live to be a thousand years old, but his songs can be spread for a thousand years." Aken are expected to have rich knowledge, abundant enthusiasm, a vivid imagination and the ability to sing in an impromptu and improvisational style that addresses contemporary issues and the character of the ausience watching him. Their songs are vivid and lively. Some aken write lengthy narrative poems, short folk songs and narrative songs. The best Aken forge their own style, sing impromptu songs in a loud and clear singing voice, with incomparable wisdom, accompanied by the Dombra. Listeners feel like they are hearing the flow of a river and the galloping of horses and experiencing life on the steppe. The rhythm of many songs is meant to duplicate movements of their horses. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, kepu.net.cn ~]

The term “aken” (akyn) refers to a performer that improvises verses – rather similar to a “minstrel” in old Europe. The akens began as the oral carriers of history, myth and philosophy for Central Asia's pre-literate nomads.

Among the Akens, some people are especially proficient in participating in the impromptu antiphonal singing (alternate singing by two choirs or singers) activities. Generally, theses aken are specialists who don’t engage in other singing activities, or sing long folk songs. Aken antiphonal singing comes in two forms: 1) spontaneous and 2) organized. The spontaneous form is measured in part on the ability of the aken to make friends with their songs. To improve their skill, akens often make long and arduous journeys to call on prestigious Aken to learn techniques. The organized form of Aken antiphonal singings is performed at funeral ceremonies, weddings and festivals. At such times the Akens represent their clan or tribe. Their success or failure not only affects their own reputation, it is closely linked with the honor of their clan and tribe. The audience often cheers loudly and shouts encouragement to Aken of their tribe or clan.

History of Aken

An aken, or bakshy, is the musical title given to the bards who mastered the art of improvised narrative singing. In the old days aken acted as shaman and healers and passed on history, myths and clan stories and genealogies. They were famous for philosophizing and reeling off verses hours at a time about subjects ranging from the wonders of the universe to the pleasures of drinking koumiss. They were skilled at using old stories and legends to make thinly veiled editorials about current leaders and figures.

In the Soviet era, traditional music and satirical narrative singing was suppressed and Kyrgyz aken were forced to improvise verses that honored the Communist party and the bard tradition was adapted for propaganda purposes. Akens often sang about Lenin, the revolution and the achievements of the party.

One Kazakh aken wrote:
We treasure our honor and our hoards,
We’ll cut our foes to pieces with swords...
That at the victory Stalin should touch
His had in contentment to his moustache

The aken form was neglected after the collapse of the Soviet Union but have been making a come back in recent years. Now the aken string together verses about Putin and noodles.

Aitysh Competitions

Aitysh is a traditional music-poetry contest between two performers, who sit near each other and compete by exchanging verses, each cursing and mocking of the other, and trying to be clever, poetic, musical, rythmic and topical, not unlike the rap competitions that Eminem engaged in the film 8 Mile. One Aken told the Washington Post, “It’s all about improvising on whatever topic comes up. Who has the sharpest verses with the most musicality and rhythm and wisdom and wit.”

Some aken participate in the impromptu antiphonal singing (alternate singing by two choirs or singers) activities. Generally, these aken are specialists who don’t engage in other singing activities, or sing long folk songs. Aken antiphonal singing comes in two forms: 1) spontaneous and 2) organized. The spontaneous form is measured in part on the ability of the aken to make friends with their songs. To improve their skill, akens often make long and arduous journeys to call on prestigious Aken to learn techniques. The organized form of Aken antiphonal singings is performed at funeral ceremonies, weddings and festivals. At such times the Akens represent their clan or tribe. Their success or failure not only affects their own reputation, it is closely linked with the honor of their clan and tribe. The audience often cheers loudly and shouts encouragement to Aken of their tribe or clan. ~

Competition Aken antiphonal singing is a measure of skill and wisdom. During festival events Akens play their own Dombra, cross-examine each other and sing antiphonally. They try to overtake outdo their rivals, not give up ground, and do their best to show off their talents, hide their shortcomings in their impromptu songs, displaying the command of language, singing talents, manner and even moral character. The singing does not come to an end until one party feel ashamed of his inferiority retires on his own accord. Aken contests are held every year on the summer pastures of the steppe. The participants include famous Aken, representatives from a number of clans and tribes, old seasoned singers and young upstarts. ~

Akens Recognized by UNESCO

In 2008, aken was included in the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. According to UNESCO: The predominant form of cultural expression among the Kyrgyz nomads is the narration of epics. The art of the Akens, the Kyrgyz epic tellers, combines singing, improvisation and musical composition. The epics are performed at religious and private festivities, seasonal ceremonies and national holidays and have survived over the centuries by oral transmission. [Source: UNESCO ]

“The value of the Kyrgyz epics lies largely in their dramatic plots and philosophical underpinnings. They represent an oral encyclopaedia of Kyrgyz social values, cultural knowledge and history. The pre-eminent Kyrgyz epic is the 1000-year-old Manas trilogy, which is noteworthy not only for its great length (sixteen times longer than Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey), but also for its rich content. Blending fact and legend, the Manas immortalizes important events in Kyrgyz’s history since the ninth century. The Kyrgyzs have also preserved over forty “smaller” epics. While the Manas is a solo narration, these shorter works are generally performed to the accompaniment of the komuz, the three-stringed Kyrgyz lute. Each epic possesses a distinctive theme, melody and narrative style. Akens were once highly respected figures who toured from region to region and frequently participated in storytelling contests. They were appreciated for their proficiency in narration, expressive gestures, intonation and lively mimicry, so well suited to the epics’ emotionally charged content.

“During the 1920s, the first part of the Manas trilogy was recorded in written form based on the oral interpretation of the great epic singer, Sagynbay. The epics remain an essential component of Kyrgyz identity and continue to inspire contemporary writers, poets, and composers; even today, the traditional performances are still linked to sacred cultural spaces. Although there are fewer practitioners nowadays, master akens continue to train young apprentices and are helped by recent revitalization initiatives supported by the Kyrgyz government.

According to UNESCO akens were placed on the UNESCO Intangible Heritage list because: 1) The pre-eminent Kyrgyz epic, the Manas trilogy, is an oral encyclopaedia of Kyrgyz social values and history. Performed at seasonal ceremonies, national holidays and other social gatherings, the Manas epic continues to inspire contemporary Kyrgyz writers and composers. 2)The tradition of tutorship and the master-apprentice method of transmitting the art of the Akens needs to be revitalized. Kyrgyz scholars of epic poetry and cultural workers need to be trained in state-of-the-art methods of digitization and archival management, including digital archives. The UNESCO project intends to renew and promote interest in the art of the Akens in Kyrgyzstan and abroad and ultimately recover the prestige of being an Aken.

UNESCO hopes: “Studios for young Akens in various regions of Kyrgyzstan will be opened, and contests among those attending the studios will be organized. A concert tour consisting of both famous Akens and the most talented youth from Aken studios will also be staged in two regions. The compilation and publication of a representative, concise edition of the Manas, the pre-eminent Kyrgyz epic, and its translation into Russian will be undertaken.

Famous Aken and the Revival of the Form

Famous aken include the Kyrgyzs Togolok Moldo, Sayakbay Karalayev and Sagymbay Orozabakov, and the Kazakh Jamboul Jabayev. The later was born in 1846 and lived to be 99. He was known throughout the Soviet Union and was declared “the patriarch of folk poets.”

One of the greatest akens of all time was Toktogul. He appears on Kyrgyzstan’s 100 som banknote and was a master at the art of Aytish. Some of his improvisations got him into trouble with the local “manaps” and they arranged for him to be exiled to Siberia. After the Bolshevik revolution he wrote a poem about Lenin which is sometimes credited as being the beginning of “democratic ideas” amongst the Kyrgyz. [Source: advantour.com]

It is said that at the time the Soviet Union collapsed there were only four akens left in the country. The art form is, however, showing signs of a revival – with the creation of the Aitysh Foundation, the opening of a school for young akens and an increasing awareness in the Manas Epic (following the celebration of the 1000th anniversary of the epic in 1995 – it is even being taught in schools). Sung in the Kyrgyz or Kazak languages, it is almost impossible to catch the pithiness of the verses in translation. During the 2005 Parliamentary elections, akens went on the campaign trail, taking their version of a stump speech from village to village.

Legend of the Origin Kazakh Music

According to the Kazakhstan government: Of the hoary antiquity to the present day came Kazakh folk legend about the supernatural, the supernatural origin of music, singing. She says that soaring high in the sky, the divine song, flying over the great Kazakh steppe nomads, sank very low, so people hear it, by nature endowed with great musical gift and abilities. And the saying: "God has placed in the heart of each particle Kazakh kyuya since his birth." It is no accident, perhaps, the people came, "outsider" who witnessed the life and lifestyle of the Kazakhs in the 18-19 centuries, not without surprise and admiration the very striking ability of people to create, rapid musical and poetic improvisation, broad involvement in the sphere music making the whole population - from infants to elders deep. [Source: VisitKazakhstan.kz, Official tourism website of Kazakhstan]

“The children had fun playing on clay wind instruments - saz syrnae, tastauke, uskirike that "at hand" the master or the child acquired the strange shapes of animals, birds, fish, horses, multihead, brightly painted and covered with shiny glaze. In response to children's songs and musical games, mother's lullaby and songs of teaching adult men (osiet deer) kids learned about the world around us and become full members of their socio-cultural community.

“Further independent life gave new artistic knowledge and experience through participation in youth games and entertainment with the mandatory participation of music - kayym-aytysah, tartysah, dialogical singing songs Kara domestic deer. The repertoire of "young age" enriched by the love lyrics and a variety of songs and rituals multi Kazakh wedding with mournful parting laments brides and cheerful youth fire-zharami, signaling a battle shock - dabyla, dauylpaza or shyndauyla to hunt the beast, or during the military campaign. In this regard, the "maturity", which carries poise and experience, was designed for the accomplishment of big government and public affairs, to protect the interests of intergeneric kind of song and poetry competitions - aytysah and the administration of folk ritual celebrations and ceremonies as - Zharshy - an organizer and performer of the ritual. And "old age" and "wisdom" accompanied by music and poetry mentoring young people, singing songs, philosophical reflections on the meaning of life and irrevocably bygone youth, about the sweet and so quickly time has passed you when your age - only twenty-five (zhiyrma demon).

“This was the age-old musical life-cycle of a Kazakh nomad, constantly reproduced from year to year, from generation to generation, ensuring the full functioning of various folk musical traditions and gave rise to well-known lines of the great Abay:

"... The doors opened to the world of song for you.
The song accompanies the land of ashes, groaning.
Song - the eternal companion of the joys of earth
So hearken to her sensitive and Prices, loving! "

Ancient Music in Kazakhstan

According to the Kazakhstan government: At the early stage of development of the music was completely subordinated to utility service needs of an ancient nomadic society and was accompanied by a major religious and personal ceremony. Difficulties during the formation of the Kazakh ethnic group major epics-zhyr, performed zhyrau (native epic traditions), and were originally connected with the administration of military rituals of magic and the cult of ancestors. In the folk memory survived more than a hundred tales, each of them - thousands of lines of poetry, performed to the accompaniment kyl-Kobyzev - bow musical instrument with two strings of horsehair or pinch tool - dombra. As one of the most beloved genres of folk arts, heroic and lyrical everyday epics "Koblandy", "Alpamys", "Er Targyn", "Kambar", "Kiz Zhibek", "Kozy-Korpesh and Bayan-Sulu," Enlik and Köbök "and many others for bringing this to the descendants of the legendary, mythological formerealnye dokazahskoy historical events and actual Kazakh history. [Source: VisitKazakhstan.kz, Official tourism website of Kazakhstan]

According to the Kazakhstan government: “Hatched later archaic samples of instrumental music people - Cui - also served at the stage of its emergence magical function. The origin of the two traditions - the epic and instrumental linked in the popular mind and tradition with the name of a legendary saint - Korkyt - the first bard and shaman, "his father kyuev" and creator of a musical instrument - kyl-Kobyzev. However Kobyzev, structure and names of the parts which embodied the characteristic of shamanic concepts of 3-tiered model of the universe (upper, middle and lower worlds), Cork's great legacy left to posterity - kobyzovye Cui - "peel", "Zhelmaya" (The name of the sacred camel " ), "Targ tana" ( "spotted calf"), "Elimay" ( "O, my homeland"), "Ushardyn uluy" ( "Howl Ushar"), etc. Some of them had the onomatopoeic nature and transmit voice wildlife part - is a philosophical meditation on the meaning of existence, life and death. But in all the works easily perceptible to the ear kyuya passing from one to another and repetitive musical motives - though come to life in the sounds Kobyzev words of the ancient prayers, commands, spells, addressed to God, spirits, supernatural forces.

“In ancient times goes and the history of Dabrowa and sybyzgovoy instrumental traditions. Evidence of ancient origin Dabrowa music became archaeological discovery: the excavations at the ancient city of Khorezm were found terracotta figurines musicians playing plucked dvuhstrunkah. Scientists note that Horezmian dvuhstrunki, come about at least two thousand years ago, are typological similarity with the Kazakh dombra and was one of the common tools of the early nomads who lived on the territory of Kazakhstan.

“The most archaic examples of Dabrowa and sybyzgovoy music include Cui-legend with the names of birds and animals - "Akku" ( "The Swan"), "Kaz" (Gus), "Nar" ( "Camel"), Cui of lame and unfortunate creatures hunting - "Aksak kiz" ( "lame girl"), "Aksak wild ass" ( "lame wild ass"), Cui, laments about the drowning child and the baby animals - "Jorge ayu" ( "Bear-pacer"), "Zarlau" ( "Lament"), "Zhetym kiz" ( "Orphan Girl"), etc. All of them are preserved remnants of ancient forms of religion, cults and representations of the totem of the people and still carry the living history silently gone millennia.”

“All the spiritual heritage of the nation developed until the early twentieth century in the form of unwritten and transmitted "from mouth to mouth" from father to son, from a teacher - a student from the past - in the future. Nomadic and semi-nomadic type of economy predetermined characteristic folk instruments and musical traditions, and their "built into" the life and the life of the Kazakh society and is inseparable from other forms of artistic creation - the verbal and poetic.

Themes and Influences of Kazakh Music

A.A. Zhubanova of Al-Farabi Kazakh National University wrote: “The musical culture of Kazakhs since olden days was famous for the composers and performers. Perhaps, boundless steppe spaces and a nomadic way of life promoted distribution and riches of sounds, result of that became creation of wonderful steppe performances. On the origin of unusual musical abilities of Kazakhs, the great educator Chokan Valikhanov wrote: “The Heavenly song soared above the ground. And where it fell below - there it heard and perceived by people, where rose - people of that country did not hear it and has not learned to sing. Above the Kazakh steppe divine song fell low, Kazakh people has heard it, has apprehended and has learned to sing. That is why they sing so magnificently.” [Source:A.A. Zhubanova Al-Farabi Kazakh National University, 2010 */*]

“What themes were mentioned in the Kazakh music? As well as all people, Kazakhs sang of love - love to mother, to girl (young man), to people, and to the Native land. There were kuis - legends. For example, “Lame Koulan” in which musical language opens the content of the legend narrating about old events: the unique son of khan Dzhuchi has been killed on hunting by lame koulan (a strong steppe stallion), which was hit by him. The khan suspecting wrong, but not wanted to hear about this, has announced that a throat of the person who would bring, news about khan’s son, will be filled in by lead. Nobody has dared to come to khan, till the appearance of kuishi. Having listened played by him kui, khan has understood all. In horror from death of the son and in anger on dombra, which told the truth, he has commanded to fill in the interior of dombra with lead. Among the kuis is also march music (“Perovskiy’s March “ S. Kurmangazy performed at ball in the house of general-governor Perovskiy), and tragically-pathos, such, as kui “Zhiger” Dauletkerei, about which Alexander Zataevich wrote: “I think, that any musician, having familiarized with wonderful music, should understand, what in the present case was charged to modest dombra and in its limited means was laid the music of absolutely exclusive depth, pathos and relevancy”. */*

“As the musical notation was not familiar to Kazakhs, kuis and songs were transmitted through performers-improvisators, i.e. the eternal life was received only with that musical heritage of steppe which has passed through the filter of history. Solitary musical records of the Kazakh music are dated by the middle of 19th century. At the end of 19-th century there was a work “Kazakh music” (in German language) of the musicologist A. Ejhgorn, who recorded and has grown fond of Kazakhs songs and kuis. This is the first scientific research of the Kazakh music. In 20-s of 20th century musician-ethnographer Alexander Zataevich, who was inspired with love to the Kazakh music, has recorded more than 2 thousand of songs and kuis, has published two invaluable collections: “500 songs and kuis of Kazakh people” and “1000 songs of Kazakh people”, has made a processing of some songs for a piano, wrote a note about national composers. At the same years legendary singer Amre Kashaubayev, who had acted with triumph in 1925 on the World’s fair in Paris, and in 1927 - at the International musical exhibition in Frankfurt am Main, for the first time has acquainted Europeans with musical culture of Kazakh people.” */*

Kazakh Music in the Russian Era

According to the Kazakhstan government: Only by the 19th century was “Kazakh music released from the chains shackling of religion and ritual, and begins to develop as self-sufficient artistic creativity. This period was a truly spiritual renaissance of the nation, who gave the flowering major musical traditions of the people - the instrumental, song, akynskoy. On the vast territory of Kazakhstan formed various local professional musicians and performing schools, with each region offers a kind of "specialization" in the development of specific traditions. Thus, the territory of western Kazakhstan has been a central area in the development of Dabrowa kyuya tokpe and Sarah arch area (Central Kazakhstan) - the epicenter of the vocational tracks, the south-western region (Karmakchinsky district) to keep and develop the rich tradition of epic skazitelstva and Zhetysu - traditions aytysa - adversarial Art akyns-improvisers.” [Source: VisitKazakhstan.kz, Official tourism website of Kazakhstan]

Names like Kurmangazy Dauletkereya, Tattimbeta Kazangap, Dina, Bir ai, Achan, Zhayau Musa, Estaya, Ibraya, sledges, Madi, Mukhit, Abaya, Kenena Azerbaev went down in history not only Kazakh, but also the world's musical culture. Their work, distinguished by a bright personality style, characteristic of imagery and terms of music and expressive means of pride, classics of Kazakh musical culture. By creating high art and an introduction to ordinary people "divine mystery" - the music, they enjoy life with great love and respect in the society and have always been at the center of attention and attraction. The best of the best people are appropriating the high rank - Salov and sulfur. Creative activity of professional musicians in the 19 th century, as a rule, not confined to performing or composing a sphere, but includes all variety of artistic forms - poetic improvisation, elocution, polished vocal technique, masterful possession of a musical instrument, the elements of theater and circus activities, which in many of the Kazakh steppe brought together artists from medieval musicians in Western Europe - jugglers, troubadours, trouveres, Meister and minnizingerami.

Kazakh Music at the Kennedy Center

In 2014, an entourage of 200 or so Kazakh musicians performed at Carnegie Hall and Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. The concert titled “Magic Songs of the Eternal Steppe”. Two ensembles — the Kurmangazy Kazakh National Orchestra of Folk Instruments and the Baikadamov Kazakh National Choir — joined multiple soloists performed a program that featured several works of 19th-century Kazakh composer Kurmangazy Sagyrbayul. Celia Wren wrote in the Washington Post, “Imprisoned during a period of political unrest,” Kurmangazy “received a visit from his mother, who was so appalled by her son’s weepy mien that she slapped him. “She said, ‘I thought that I gave birth to a warrior, but it looks like you are very weak!” Kurmangazy later drew on the mixed feelings provoked by that stinging matriarchal slap to write one of his more famous pieces, titled after his mother. [Source: Celia Wren, Washington Post, June 28, 2014]

Jim Bessman wrote in The Examiner, “Following a performance by Aigul Kossanova, who sang and played on the traditional long-necked two-string Kazakh dombra lute in full costume, Buribayav said, via a translator, that in bringing “the most outstanding performers representing the best of the best of Kazakhstan’s national music”—namely, its most distinguished Kazakh National Kurmangazy Orchestra of Folk Instruments, the Kazakh National Baikadamov Choir, and renowned operatic soloists—“we think it’s a big historical event in the life of the two countries of Kazakhstan and the United States in the way of our cultural relationship.” [Source: Jim Bessman The Examiner, June 30, 2014]

Kazakhstan’s music, Askar Buribayav, Vice Minister of Culture of the Republic of Kazakhstan, noted, ranges from the traditional folk music of ancient times to today’s classical music. “As we all know, the role of culture is impossible to underestimate,” said Buribayav. “In today’s society it is probably one of the most imporant aspects of the dialog [between countries] and that’s why we made such decisions to bring the culture of Kazakhstan and introduce Americans to our culture. I personally think that to learn about different people and nations, the best and shortest way is to learn about culture, and culture helps us understand the soul and spirit of people. That is why we brought such a huge representation of performance, that will be able to introduce Americans to all the variety of cultural possibilities and opportunities that our culture offers.”

Performers included sopranos Nurzhamal Ussenbayeva and Maira Mukhamedkyzy, and baritone Talgat Mussabayev. Also present, besides Kossanova, were vocalist/dombra player Beibit Mussayev and the great Kazakh composer/musician Yedil Khussainov, who plays various ancient Kazakh musical instruments including the zhetygen (a plucked instrument resembling a psaltery), the ocarina-like sazsyrnay, the kamys syrnay (an ancient wind instrument) and the jaw harp-like shankobyz. A highlight of the evening will be the orchestra’s rendition of Kurmangazy’s beloved piece “Saryarka (Golden Steppe).” One listener said, When she hears Kurmangazy’s music, she says, she feels swept up in “the spirit of Kazakhstan”—a spirit that is “independent, strong, powerful, free.”

The program featured “masterpieces of folk music” along with the traditional Kazakh instrumentation. The dombra, Buribayav explained, is considered “the soul of Kazakhstan.” Askd afterward of the meaning of the Magic Songs of the Eternal Steppe title of the concert, Buribayav said that “magic” referred to the fact that the songs “come from a magical country [that is] very far away” in place and time. “It’s special music of nomads that is new for American people who understand traditional music, and know about classical music,” he said, adding, “Traditional music shows our soul.” As for the “eternal steppe,” Buribayav cited the “ancient historic tradition of the Kazakhs” and noted that it had in fact passed down to him through his own father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and another 10 generations, at least.

Kazakh Music in the Soviet Era

According to the Kazakhstan government: In the 20th century “Kazakh musical culture was enriched by new forms and genres of music-making. For a small scale in the history of the length of time polyphony and the whole genre repertoire of classical European music — opera, symphony, ballet, instrumental concertos, a cantata, oratorio, ensemble, orchestral and choral performance — professional musicians created a new school, based on the writing style of creativity . Based on the organic synthesis of national and European forms of the 1930s and 40s the classics of Kazakh opera — "Kiz Zhibek" E. Brusilovsky, "Abai A. Zhubanov L. Hamidi," Birzhan and Sara M. Tulebaev were created.. Their dramatic and musical foundation became the inexhaustible riches of Kazakh folklore and oral professional music. Staging opera became an arena where before the eyes of a modern audience turns old wedding and incendiary aytys akyns between the 19th century Birzhanom and Sarah, where you can hear the full song hero's inner passions of the people's liberation revolt 19th century poet and kuishi Makhambet and sad funereal and memorial song-cry zhoktau. [Source: VisitKazakhstan.kz, Official tourism website of Kazakhstan]

“In the 1960s and 70s Kazakh music reached a peak, one of the most difficult genres of European instrumental music - a symphony in which the songs are as close in shape to lassicheskim - Symphony G. Zhubanova, K. Kuzhamyarova and AET has arisen a new genre synthesis - Symphony kyui. Big love from the national audience got the orchestral and choral interpretation of Kazakh monodicheskoy music. Especially won wide popularity of folklore-ethnographic Orchestra Otrar saz ", which consisted of old, gone from the practice of everyday existence Kazakh musical instruments, restored scientist and folklorist B. Sarybaev. In the orchestral sound Cui capture listeners gigantic power embodied Herculean images rapidity horse racing-bayga, captivating sound pictures boundless steppes and jubilation mass popular festivities. Unique face the team that created the leader and conductor, composer and dombrist N. Tlendiev.

Ahmet Zhubanov - the Great Son of Kazakh People

Ahmet Kuanovich Zhubanov (1906-1968) is an outstanding figure of Kazakh musical culture. He was an academician of the National Academy of Sciences, a well-known composer, a researcher of the Kazakh folk music and the first head and conductor of the State academic orchestra of the Kazakh national instruments after Kurmangaz. [Source: A.A. Zhubanova Al-Farabi Kazakh National University, 2010]

Zhubanov was born in western Kazakhstan. He studied in Alma Ata, Moscow and Leningrad with Rimskiy Korsakov, and A.V. Zataevich. As the head of studies at the first musical technical school in Alma Ata and created an orchestra with Kazakh instruments. The orchestra debuted in 1936 at the Big Theatre of the USSR in Moscow. At the beginning of 1945 he created a conservatory in Alma-Ata with musicians who played “Kazakh national instruments” such as the dombra, kobyz, sybyzgy on a high professional level.

Zhubanov wrote three operas - “Abai” and “Tolegen Tokhtarov” (in the co-authorship with Latiff Khamidi), “Kurmangazy” (in the co-authorship with daughter, the largest composer of Kazakhstan, the graduate of Moscow conservatory – Gaziza Zhubanova), music to films, musical plays for a piano and string instruments, romances and songs, kuis for dombra. The great friendship connected him with outstanding Kazakh scientists and writers - K.I. Satpaev, M.O. Auezov, etc. Greatest Kazakh writer Muhtar Auezov was the author of the libretto of two operas - “Abai” and “Tolegen Tokhtarov”. The opera “Abai” which premiere took place at the end of 1944, during more than 60 years opens seasons at the State Academic theatre of an opera and ballet after Abai. In December, 1958 during a Decade of the Kazakh art it has sounded on a stage of the Big theatre (Moscow).

Zhubanov wrote 10 Tadjik and 6 Kazakh dances for a piano, which are performed at many International competitions. There are their transpositions for various orchestras. The destiny of his plays “Spring”, “Romance” and the “Waltz”, written for kobyz is interesting. Their melody, both lyricism have not left indifferent as violinists, and also violoncellists, they already sounds in their performance for many years. Time is not subject above his vocal compositions. The song written more than 60 years ago “Karlygash” (Swallow) have received a new life in modern interpretation of ensemble “Dauys International” and became its visit card, and the song “Ak kogershin” (White pigeon), for the first time sounded in those days when great Picasso has written the well-known picture about the pigeon of the world, is now performed by prima of Kazakh stage Nagima Yeskalieva. Zhubanov’s daughter — Gaziza Zhubanova (1927 - 1993) — was also an outstanding composer.

Kanye West Paid $3 Million to Play at Wedding of Kazakhstan President’s Grandson

In 2013, hip hop star Kanye West was paid $3 million for performing at the wedding of the grandson of Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Adam Sherwin wrote in The Independent: “The R&B star defied international protests to deliver a special performance at the weekend wedding of Aysultan Nazarbayev, the youngest son of President Nazarbayev’s eldest daughter, held in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s former capital. Aysultan, 23, a Sandhurst military academy graduate, who now works for the country’s ministry of defence, married Alima Boranbayeva, 20, who reportedly attends the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. Her father is Kayrat Boranbayev, chairman of the joint Kazakh-Russian state oil venture KazRosGas. [Source: Adam Sherwin, The Independent, September 3, 2013 ^*^]

“President Nazarbayev has been accused of violating human rights and corruption. But West ignored international condemnation of the government led by the oil-rich autocrat to perform tracks such as Can’t Tell Me Nothing at the lavish celebrations. Photos and video of his performance posted on Twitter and Instagram suggest a listless crowd at the luxury Grand Tulip Hotel, more concerned with posing for photographs rather than enjoying the rap megastar flown in for the event. ^*^

“West’s fee was reportedly paid by a Kazakh billionaire and co-owner of one of the country’s largest banks. Human Rights Watch has singled out Kazakhstan for its “serious and deteriorating human rights situation” which includes “credible allegations of torture, the imprisonment of government critics, tight controls over the media and freedom of expression and association, limits in religious freedom, and continuing violation of workers’ rights.” ^*^

“In 2011, Sting pulled out of an arranged concert for the president over claims of human rights violations against oil workers in the Central Asian country. At the time, Sting said: “The Kazakh gas and oil workers and their families need our support and the spotlight of the international media on their situation in the hope of bringing about positive change.” The West payment was criticised by Kazakh web users. “Really stupid, we, the Kazakhs, for the money could have provided so many villagers with water, gas and etc, and taken care of children in orphanages,” wrote Anomin. "It would be better if they have repaired a highway for the money," said Renat Bennet. “Someone takes 3m dollars out of the country for his failed songs, and here I am shaking for 20,000 tenge (Kazakhstan currency) of unpaid taxes,” wrote another.” ^*^

Kazakh Dance

Lydia P. Sarynova wrote in the International Encyclopedia of Dance: “Dance has long existed in the everyday life of the people and it expresses their national identity. Traditional dances have taken many forms: representations of hunting scenes, such as a golden eagle hunting a hare ( koyan-berkut); competitive dances ( utys bi); humorous and satirical dances; imitations of animal movements, such as a jumping goat ( orteke), a galloping steed ( tepenkok), and a clumsy bear ( ayu-bi); work dances like those of the carpet weavers ( ormek-bi); dance games; dances accompanied by singing and storytelling; and imitations of ritual folk healers ( bakhsy).” [Source: International Encyclopedia of Dance, editor Jeane Cohen, six volumes, 3,959 pages, $1,250, Oxford University Press, New York]

“Kazakh dance, reflecting the life and customs of nomadic cattle breeders and the nature of vast prairie lands, embodied a variety of tastes and ideals. The dances expressed the traits of the Kazakh—bravery, emotions and optimism—and were typified by a vivid style of performances, flexibility and sharp movements of the shoulders, tension and muscular concentration of the body, and an agility that enabled the dancer to perform intricate acrobatics. Another typical feature was a combination of expressiveness and inventiveness that was especially manifested in dance competition. The dancers’ mastery of improvisation kept the dance vocabulary varied and mobile...Dances were taught by one generation to the next.In the pastoral feudal society, each clan had its own professional master who was in a retinue of the khan as jester to amuse the people.”

Theatrical dance and ballet developed under the Soviets in institution such as the Abai State Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet and a number of local theaters. Kazakhs performed classical ballets such as Swan Lake and developed their own theatrical dances which incorporated elements of ballet, modern dance, folk dance and naratives about horses and eagle hunting as well as dance and opera works inspired by Kazakh writers.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, U.S. government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated April 2016

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