Kyrgyz music

From the ancient times the Kyrgyz people were famous for their good musical abilities. The Kyrgyzians divide their music stemming from the depth of ages into songs and kyu. All of the works created for national musical instruments belong to kyu.

The most popular musical instrument is a three-string pizzicato komuz. A two-string bow kyyak and reed temir ooz komuz are also popular. A reed jigach ooz komuz, a sacred flute choor, and a sacred reed surnai are national musical instruments used by people.

The Kyrgyz people have tradition to play solo music. The performance of singers and musicians in turn as a kind of competition is very popular.

The folklore existed in past exclusively in oral form. Performers imitated music from each other by ear. In so doing, they became not only interpreters but also co-authors or even creators of a new version of a musical work the kyu were inherited by new generations and each performer introduced its own details into a song. That is why its variation ness characterizes the Kyrgyz instrumental music. The majority of the Kyrgyz kyus are of an epic and narrative character. They absorbed various themes. They are everyday life narration, description of natural phenomena and scenes from animal life. The kyus were created under influence of the epic and its motifs.

The instrumental folklore is closely connected with a vocal music and often directly depends on it. The Kyrgyz musicians frequently interpret song melodies through national instruments.

The kyus widely represent such genres as lyrical, lyric and epic, lyric and philosophic, lyric and every-day life.

Popular national musicians – classics of the 18-20 centuries who created famous works of national instrumental music are Muzooke, Mailybai, Kudaibergen, Belek, Tilen, K.Belekov, A. Beishekurov, T. Satylganov, M. Kurenkeev, A. Ogonbaev, K. Orozov, Y. Tumanov and others.

Folk songs constitute a significant part of the Kyrgyz musical works.

A song creation by akyns is a specific kind of the Kyrgyz folklore. An akyn is a folk singer - improviser. A talented akyn - virtuoso is notable for his good vocal capabilities and a rich poetic gift. The akyn performs songs accompanying his singing by playing the komuz. Improvisation, ease development of musical and poetic thoughts, intonation and rhythmic freedom, and recitative manners of performing are characteristic of akyn singing. The komuz accompaniment very often imitates an akyn’s voice, and instrumental recoupments sound in the beginning, middle, and end of couplets.

The popular akyns and singers Jenidjok, Sary-yrchy, Esenaman, K. Akiev, T. Satylgnov, Y. Shaibekov, O. Bolebalayev, A. Chorobaev, A. Usenbaev, T. Abdiev, Z. Usenbaev and others became famous.

Musical instruments
The roots of Kyrgyz culture go back to the ancient times and an important part of this culture is musical culture of Kyrgyz people.
The Kyrgyz tribes came from Yenisei and this pre-Islamic musical culture has been reflected in the musical instruments and folklore from the ancient times till present.
Inhabitants of Yenisei river area have always been famous for their throaty singing, and their music based on the interchanging of voice and instrument.
From the ancient time Kyrgyz people adapted to apply handy natural materials for manufacturing of musical instruments, the use that permitted to convey the spirit of nation.
There are many various Kyrgyz national instruments, which differ from each other by the palette and diapason of sounding.

The most important place in Kyrgyz art belongs to instrumental music. All inhabitants of a nomad group - from children to the elderly would gather together in order to listen the master instrumentalist's play. The most fascinating and interesting holidays were the times of the music competitions. Also, an instrumental ensemble was an essential element of military campaigns.

The main feature of the distinctive style of Kyrgyz music is the images it conjures in the mind. There is a very wide picturesque range: from heroics with dramatic (epic) effects, to the beauty of natural scenery (mountains, trees and streams) and domestic themes.

Komuz - crafted from a single piece of wood with three strings that are played by plucking. The modern komuz is about 85-90 cm long with strings made of kapron. A special feature of the comuz is the ability to tune the strings in variety of ways to suit the music being played. To play the komuz, the performer holds it in a horizontal position while seated or - more rarely - standing. Numerous playing techniques are possible and mastery of the right (plucking) hand technique especially allows for playing a variety of difficult and complex compositions. The komuz is a standard member of any Kyrgyz folk music group. According to legend, the first komuz was made by the hunter Kambar. He himself was a master performer (komuschi), and Kambarkan became one of the distinctive creative genres of Kyrgyz folk music.
Among the numerous national instruments the most widespread and popular, has rich repertoire. While playing it, the three strings are clasped by the left hand to the fingerboard and the right hand is used to pluck the strings in a variety of ways to draw out the sounds.

Kyyak (kyl kyyak) - a string and bow instrument 60-70 cm in length. The traditional kyyak is made from the wood of an apricot tree and has two strings of untwisted horse hair. Horse hair is also used for bow. The kyyak is played by master performer (kyyakchi) in a seated position with the instrument held vertically while the stretched hair on the bow is drawn gently across the strings. The fingers of the left hand do not press the strings to the fingerboard; they gently touch it, producing colorful, harmonic tones similar to certain techniques used in violin playing. Given two options for tuning, the upper string is melodious while the lower string is resonant. The traditional kyyak is an instrument transposing one octave down. The majority of the traditional compositions for the kyyak are very lyrical and heartfelt, which is completely in accordance with the musical nature of the instrument.

The Temir komuz has also become a musical symbol of Kyrgyz - like komuz. This instrument is extremely small. Made of iron, it is shaped in the form of a broken, stretched circle with two prongs, and attached to the center is a steel plate. The sound is made by placing the prongs between the lips and striking the steel plate - and adjusting the shape of the hollow of the mouth.



One of the popular wind instruments is the chopo-choor. It is made out of clay and has a shape that comfortably sits in palm like a putty-shaped ball with holes.

To much of the music there is a religious meaning, tightly connected with Kyrgyz shamanism. They had percussion instruments, such as the dobulbas and asa-tayak. A dobulba is a one-sided framed drum with wed tied around one end. Striking it with the hands makes the sound. The asa-tayak is made out of wood in the shape of baton. Bells and other iron objects are attached to this framework as additional sources of sounds that are generated by rocking or striking the sharp end of instrument on the ground.

The choor (pipe) is a wind instrument, from 40-100 cm long with 0 to 4 holes.  It can be made of cane, honeysuckle wood, copper, or other materials, and has a nasal, buzzing tone.  A clay ocarina shaped like a ball with three holes is also widespread, called the chopo choor (clay pipe).

The ooz komuz (mouth komuz) is a small mouth harp, made of iron, brass, bronze, or copper.  The sound comes from the twanging of a small metal tine, with overtones produced by positioning the player’s lips, mouth, and teeth.  It is quite similar to the maultrommel of Germany, the berimbao of Spain, the Jew’s harp of the United States, and about 800 other instruments around the world.


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