Kazakh and Central Asian Music

Any music that I have been able to find through Barnes & Noble or iTunes is on Music Page 2.

The following description was previously on the Gateway to Kazakhstan site.

Vocal music is an important part of Kazakh life. Performers called aqyns carry on a tradition developed centuries ago by traveling storytelling musicians, who gave dramatic recitations of verse tales and epic poems in the form of songs. Recitals by aqyns, and contests between them, keep their popularity nowadays. Aitys - a competition of akyns in performing songs, one of traditional manifestations of Kazakh poetic tradition. Akyns often raise vital social, political and cultural issues of their homeland performing at aityses. An aitys of akyns is essentially a topmost manifestation of improvisation skills. Usually it is staged at folk festivals, fairs and the like. Initiating the singing contest its participants - akyns - must be uncommonly quick in finding witty repartees to sudden questions, in instant countering the adversary's gibes and sneers. The brighter and wittier is the improvised fireworks of words produced by the akyn, the more chances for him to come victorious out of this battle. Akyns accompany their poetic contests playing a dombra or a kobyz. Kazakhstan also has small ensembles of musicians who perform traditional Kazakh melodies using instruments such as the two-stringed dombyra (similar to a lute) and the three-stringed kobyz (like a viola).

Music from Russia and former USSR states [external [link] has two Kazakh audio files.

Web site for the Musicola [external [link] group; in Russian and English.

The Process of Formation of "Kazak National Music" (1920-1942) [external [link].

Ensemble Burler is a trio of folk singers from Kazakhstan specializing in authentic Kazakh folk and traditional music. There songs on Youtube are Ahau - arman [external [link] and Ai Karangi, tan zharyk [external [link]. If you look at the side under up next, you may find other Kazakh videos.

Face Music has ethnic music from many cultures; scroll down to Central Asia to see their current selections.

Turkic Music for sale [external [link]

Music from Mongolia [external [link].

Kazakhstan's City of Music [external [link] : A brief but exotic musical journey in central Asia.

Children's Russian Music

Music in the Afghan North 1967-1972 [external [link] has a film clip of someone playing a dombra.

Asyl Mura [external [link] Musical heritage of Kazakhstan is a project of the Ministry of Culture in Kazakhstan to preserve traditional Kazakh music.

Tolkyn Zabirova [external [link] singer from Kazakhstan.

Suggested store in Almaty: Meloman music on Zhibek Zholy.

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Kazakh Traditional Music from the Soros Foundation, 5 CD set, available at TSUM in Almaty.

Kazakh music tools [external [link]: drawings and descriptions from the Kazakhstan Children's Library.

Previously on the Kazakhstan President's website.

Nowadays they know about more than 50 varieties of Kazakh musical instruments. Each of them produces specific sounds and requires particular manner of playing it. To manufacture musical instruments they use such materials as wood, reed, cane leather, bane, horn, horse's hair. All musical imstruments may well be subdivided into several groups:

  • string ones:
    • a dombra - an instrument most widespread among the people, manufactured of one piece of wood, commonly a two-string one. There actually exist two ways of playing a dombra: by striking the strings with the fingers and by "nibbling"them separately.
    • a kobyz - an ancient Kazakh bow string musical instrument manufactured in the form of a scoup out of on piece of wood.
    • a zhetigen - a musical instrument with a stretched rectangular wooden body with seven strings made of horse's hair. Nowadays it is mostly used as a solo and accompanying instrument in folk orchestras and ensembles.
  • wind instruments:
    • a kerney
    • reed and horn syrnais
    • a sybyzgy - a musical instrument frequently used in every-day life. It is usually made of reed or wood, rarely of metal in the form of two small wooden flutes put together with hollow sides inside and fastened with a thread.
    • an adyrna - an ancient Kazakh wind musical instrument producing loud sounds. In all times it was used in campaigns and in the days of hunting as a decay for birds and animals initiating their cries.
  • reed instruments: a shankobyz
  • percussion instruments:
    • a dangyra it is in fact a rim one side of which is covered with leather, its inner surface bears metal pendants fastened thereto which produce additional sound effects when the instrument is being struck or moved.
    • a dauylpaz - a wooden instrument of cauldron-like form whose both sides are covered with leather. Playing is effected by striking it with a hand or a whip. It was normally used as a military signalling or noise-making hunting instrument.
    • a dabyl represents a wooden rim whose both sides are covered with leather. On its side it has a handle or a leather belt. It is to struck either with hands or with sticks. It was intended for giving signals and, accordingly, could vary in size considerably, sometimes being quite large to produce very loud sounds.
    • an asatayak - a Kazakh folk "noise" musical instrument. An attribute of shaman initiations. It is in fact a wooden staff or rod over one meter high. The top of the rod is supplied with a head which hears multiform metal pendants, - it is they that produce sounds by movement.
    • a shyndauyl.

AITYS - a competition of akyns in performing songs, one of traditional manifestation of oral folk poetic arts. Aitys is rooted deep in ancient times, it stems from in ritual and every-day songs, in chorus-like songs-dialogues exchanged by young boys and girls which - later on - transformed themselves into aityses of akyns ( Akyn is a poet-improvisator and a singer with Kazakhs and some other ethnoses of Central Asia). Not infrequently they raised quite topical issues of social life when staging aityses. An aitys is full of dynamics, it requires particular quickness and brightness, an uncommonly fine wit and improvisation skills.

Akyns accompany their poetic contests with their playing a dombra or a kobyz.

An aitys of akyns is essentially a topmost manifestation of improvisation skills. Usually it is staged at folk festivals, fairs and the like. Initiating the singing contest its participants - akyns - must be uncommonly quick in finding witty repartees to sudden questions, in instant countering the adversary's gibes and sneers. The brighter and wittier is the improvised fireworks of words produced by the akyn, the more chances for him to come victorious out of this battle.

From time immemorial Kazakhstan has been known for its singers - representatives of the folklore musical and poetic culture. They used to call them: an AKYN - a poet, a singer and improvisator; ZHYRAU - author and performer of epic things; an ANSHI or OLENSHI - song-performers.

There have been recorded plentiful specimens of poetic arts: terme, zyr, tolgau.

Ritual and Every-Day Songs: Traditionally they are elegiac, melancholy, lyrical, not very long but very emotional, with no clear-cut composition, sung from the first person. Major varieties thereof are as follows: a KOSHTASU - a farewell song sung to close relatives and friens; a YESTIRTU - a song breaking news of the death of one's nearest and dearest; a ZHOKTAU - a ritual lamentation; a KONIL AITU - a comforting song.

Apart from the above one may mention wedding songs: such as "Toy bastar"( "Opening of the Festivities"), "Zharzhar", "Kyzdyn Koshtasuy", "Synsu"("A Farewell Song"), "Betashar" ("Opening of the Face"). These songs may well be supplemented by songs associated with particular dates (which were quite essential in nomad's life), with labour and the like.

Need music for you Nauryz celebration? Silk Rode Caravan offers a Soundtrack for nauryz [external link].

Music in Kazakhstan [external [link] is a blog that has information about traditional and modern music in Kazakhstan.

Roksonaki [external [link] is a trio from Kazakhstan. They briefly toured the US in the spring of 2008 and in 2009. Their albums are produced by Mosaiqa Records [external [link].

Universal You [external [link] is a trio out of Scotland whose lead singer is from Kazakhstan.

Youtube Channel [external [link] which contains videos from the Kazakh National Conservatory and the Ensemble Turan.

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Page last updated on 12 January 2016.

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