Posts tagged dombra

Kurbanait Holiday Continues: Kazakh National Instruments



pc090019Last night we enjoyed being hosted to a concert of Kazakh National Instruments.  The violins were inverted and played like cellos, dombras were rhythmic and the other pieces in the orchestra were outstanding.  What was so amazing to see was the kobyz (qobuz) instrument that reminded me of the Chinese er-hu instrument.  “Er” in Chinese means two and “hu” must mean string and the bow is attached under the two strings.  This Kazakh instrument I witnessed in the middle section of the orchestra where the violas would typically play had a cavity in it, like the erhu but the bow was separate. 

Where the cellos would typically sit in the orchestra, were the inverted violins that were played like cellos.  There were actually four cellos in the back as well as BIG dombras and three bass fiddles..  The orchestra conductor had a workout in the almost two hour concert with many numbers, one Tajik, one Spanish and several Russian.  Two soloists,soprano and baritone, who each did their own numbers in a classical style but using Kazakh words.  Very impressive, also several instrumental soloists.

We were very impressed with the concert and the orchestra apparently toured in the U.S. and got a standing ovation from their American audience at Carnegie Hall.  The Kazakhs who were in attendance shouted out their approval especially when the dombra soloists did their numbers.

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The Lame Horse: Kui-Legend for the Dombra

Yesterday one of my English teaching colleagues, Ainur Baisakalov,  gave a talk about the “concept of the nature sacredness in the Kazakh traditional music.”  Ainur first started with a tongue-in-cheek phrase “the Soviet Union has an unpredictable history.” I thought it was his way of saying Kazakhstan also has an unpredictable future because of being tied in with the Soviet Union’s “playfulness” with the truth about Kazakhstan’s history.  In any case, Ainur is passionate to restore the nomadic culture and its lifestyle with its morals.  He knows that the nation can never go back to the nomad’s way of life.  What troubles Ainur is the young Kazakhs of today don’t know their own sacred nomadic heritage. 

However, Ainur lost me when he started talking about the Slaviks being agrarian based versus the Kazakh nomadic lifestyle.  The Russian farmers went by a year-by-year or linear calendar whereas the Kazakhs have a spiral upwards from birth of 6 months, then 6 years and then 12 years to make 5 rings up to 60 or 61. (the first 60 years is considered the first mashell?) He also noted that the 12 year period is a sacred number for Kazakhs and has been proven in science with Jupiter’s rotation around the Sun every 12 years.  Something about a dangerous period of the psychological state of the nation or people, I wasn’t sure what that meant.  But the nomads could tell the patterns of the stars and they would arrange their activities according to the signs in the nightsky. Our speaker claimed the Kazakh would look at the sky like a European looks at his watch!

Ainur had other Russian quotes he used which I’ll have to check with him on the correct translation.  The best part was when he showed a young man playing a dombra instrument which was an improvization of “The Lame Horse.”  To create a Kui Legend you start with a story from a sage and then a composer of music builds a tune around it, the performer tells the story first and then plays it.  Soon everyone knows the story so they don’t even need to hear the legend before it is played, in this case there are 17 versions of the same.  Then our speaker had a video of his skillfully playing on the piano the same dombra rendition.  It was successfully captured by the composer Mendykulov.  The following are the words that go with the song:

Freely lived in steppe,
The lame horse suddenly had become alerted.
Your son, disturbing
His calm,
Is lost.
To tell you this even
It is me, dombra,
Came from faraway.
All, that happened,
I will tell you.
Listen carefully to me,
Headed by the khan.

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