Music of Kyrgyzstan

The Kyrgyz and Kazaks are from the same ethnic origin (Turks & Mongols) and have shared the same lifestyle of nomadic shepherds. For millennia they have traversed the steppes and plateaus of central Asia. Surrounded by vast deserts and harsh mountain landscapes, music was a form of communication and a language that every nomad spoke. The resultant music becomes far more naturalistic and consists of pastoral, nomadic and harvest songs. The repertoire is performed by bards or bakshis and consists of epic and religious songs, they are often accompanied by solo lute (komuz or dombra) players. Also notable is the presence of female singers.

The komuz (3 stringed lute) and the dombra (2 stringed lute) are the national instruments of Kyrgyzstan/Kazakstan – they are mainly played solo. Another popular instrument is the temir komuz (jaw’s harp) which is played in an unusual manner; it combines playing a melody in the higher register and simultaneously making a buzzing sound in the lower register.

There are different types of performers, of which bakshi and akin are the most popular. Bakshis used to be shamans but shamanism was replaced by Islam and the shaman yielded his place to the mullah (or bard). The bakshi has retained only the old music and singing functions. (Shamans still exist in some of the remote regions of the Altai mountains). Akins are professional poets and musician-composers who sing their own compositions as well as music traditionally handed down.

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