In general, Kyrgyz folk instrumental music, as
well as vocal one, is divided into two brunches. The first is the folk music
itself, or so called mass instrumental folklore. The second brunch is the professional
instrumental music of oral tradition. This dividing is conditional, but has
a real foundation, as in Kyrgyz instrumental music along with mass folklore
creative works, which decorate everyday life, there are a lot of highly artistic
classical examples, created by outstanding professionals as concert genres.
Performing arsenal of Kyrgyz people can be divided
into instruments that have an artistic function, applied and ritual purposes
that combine both of functions. At the same time the borders between groups
are very conventional. Already in ancient time some wind and percussion instruments
have enlarge their functions from signal to artistic. Nowadays the instruments
of applied and ritual type either vanished along with previous mode of life,
or used in concert practice, for example, bell - "konguro" or ceremonial
"musical staff"-"asa-musa". Childish "musical toys"
(chopo cho'or) became solo and ensemble instruments.
All Kyrgyz musical instruments are classified into
four main groups:
1. Stringed instruments - the source of sound is the tense string.
2. Wind instruments - the source of the sound is the column of air in the instrument.
3. Percussive instruments - the source of the sound is the tensed membrane.
4. Self - sounding instruments - the source of the sound is the instrument body.
Traditional stringed instruments of Kyrgyz people are Komuz
and Kyl-Ky'yak. The difference between them is in the way of deriving
the sound. Komuz is the pinch instrument, while Kyl-Ky'yak is the bow instrument.
Playing Komuz, musician pinch or strike the strings forcing them to vibrate,
playing Kyl-Ky-yak, musicians use a bow.
Komuz - is most popular stringed instrument. In south regions of Kyrgyzstan
it called "chertmek" from the word "chert" - snap, tap.
According to the legend, Komuz was first made by the ancient hunter Kambar,
he also became first "Komuzchu"-the person who plays Komuz.
Komuz - has three strings, while the other
Central Asian instruments of the same type have only two strings. Komyzchu -
the perfomer, holds the instrument in horizontal position and plays usually
sitting, rarely standing.
Traditional komuz has pear-shaped form and made of the entire piece of wood,
often it is apricot wood, but sometimes nut or red tree wood. On the head there
are three wooden chopping to hold the ends of the strings, the other ends are
tied to leather tailpiece. On the sounding board of Komuz there is a resonator
aperture, behind it, closer to tailpiece, there is a wooden string stand. Until
20th century the strings were made of sheep intestine, later it became possible
to use factory made strings.
The size of Komuz is depends on local traditions
and individual methodic of the maker, but generally the length of the body is
85-90 sm., width of the body is 20 sm., length of the neck is 35 sm., width
5 sm., length of the head 15 sm.
Kyl-Ky'yak- traditional stringed bow instrument,
made of apricot or nut wood. It has two strings and a bow. Kyl-Ky'yak has scoop-shaped
form and short slightly curved neck. On the oval head there are two wooden chopping.
The upper part of the body is open, while the lower part is covered by camel
leather. The length of the instrument is 60-70 sm., and width of the body is
16-20 sm. Strings were made of horse hair which were strengthen to leather tailpiece
and then over the wooden string stand tied to chopping. Arch-shaped bow was
made of mountain plant Spiraea.
Arsenal of performing receptions of "Ky'yakchy"-
the performers, is not that rich as with Komuzchy. "Ky'yakchy"- holds
the instrument in vertical position, keeping the lower part of the body on the
knee and plays sitting. The bow holds from below, unscrew the right hand palm
up. At the time of playing, the little finger slightly stretches the strings
on bow. Fingers of the left hand do not press the strings but touch it as if
extracting flageolets. Timbre of Kyl-Ky'yak is a soft and little bit hard of
Being the most ancient instruments, it have played an applied importance.
Firstly it carried signal functions (calling up the people for some public actions
or cattle moving to the pastures) and after artistic and aesthetic (rest, entertainment)
functions. Long time ago the instruments of this group were included in war
ensembles for the period of hostilities. In great epic of Kyrgyz people Manas,
are mentioned performers on wind instruments, whose performance made a great
emotional impression on audience. If the most of the instruments were used for
some celebrations or court life (Surnai, Kernei), then wind instruments were
an integral part of democratic environment.
Cho'or- Kyrgyz traditional longitudinal
aerophone, which is considered to be one of the oldest musical instruments.
Performers on cho'or are called Cho'orchu. Cho'or was widely spread on the south
of Kyrgyzstan as a pastoral instrument, while in the north it was not so popular.
Musical researchers attribute Cho'or to ancestral
instruments, which have many varieties depending on the material used for producing,
for example: "Chogoino cho'or" - made of thistle, "Kamysh cho'or"
- made of cane, "Shilbi cho'or" - made of honeysuckle, "Sary
djigach cho'or" - made of barberry, "Baltyrkan cho'or" - made
of umbellate plants, "Djez cho'or" - made of cooper. But there is
also another approach where for the base takes not the material but principles
of construction. According to the latter distinguish traditional cho'or and
So ancestral varieties of cho'or dictate the length of body (tube), which can
be 40-100 sm., and diameter 2-3 sm. This indexes also form pitch of the main
tone. The number of apertures from 0 to 4.
Timbre of cho'or and its kinds is very specific
- severally nasal, buzzing, mat, in upper tessutura - more lighter and clear.
Herewith the one can hear hissing of air directed to the instrument by the performer.
Chopo cho'or - (made of clay) - family of
Kyrgyz folk wind instruments. It was widely spread in the south agricultural
regions of Kyrgyzstan and had different names - chopo cho'or, ylai cho'or. The
form is arbitral. One of the most ancient samples from private collection is
made of white clay, in form of the small sized ball; its height is a little
more then five sm. There are three apertures in Chopo cho'or, two for playing,
and one for air, all of them are placed in some special way in order to simultaneously
cover the apertures with the lips and forefingers of both hands of the performer.
The instrument is hold with the help of thumbs.
Folk "chopo cho'or" is simple in performance
practice. Timbre is bewitching, soft and deep. Obviously that is why "chopo
cho'or" can either be the musical toy for children or serious musical instrument
in folk ensemble.
Sybyzgy - is the variety of Kyrgyz folk
wind instruments. Unlike "cho'or", this aerophone is diametrical.
Nevertheless, as well as "cho'or" it is represented with folk and
"Sybyzgy" is produced from different
materials: wood of mulberry, apricot, barberry, reed or from cooper. Wooden
instruments were secured with several metal rings. The length of the body is
not constant, but around fifty sm., diameter at least 2 sm. There are 6-7 playing
apertures in the body of traditional "sybyzgy" and around 10 in modern
one. "Sybyzgy" has whistling , more clear and various, unlike the
"cho'or", timbre and octave range of sounding in high tessuture.
One of the regional names of "sybyzgy"
- Jenai (meaning made of cooper).
Surnai - is the variety of Kyrgyz folk wind
instrument, representing trumpet with double cane, conic canal, playing apertures
and faucet. The length of the instrument is 40-65 sm., mouthpiece - 4 sm., faucet
diameter - 5-6 sm. Surnai is made of apricot or mulberry wood, or cooper. Cane
itself represent flattened stalk.
So-called "Kamysh surnai" has
more simple construction. It has only one cane, 3-4 playing apertures, and no
faucet. The length of the body is 25 sm., diameter 0,8 sm. Surnai sound is very
harsh and nasal.
In the past Surnai was used as the signal instrument,
with the help of which the people were called up for the meetings or some ceremonies.
Sometimes Surnai used in war instrumental ensembles. One professor wrote: "
Surnai, in collective of percussive-wind ensembles had participated in campaigns,
served national holidays, sport games etc. But so wide possibilities
were available only for professional musicians, more over playing surnai require
large physical effort.
Nowadays surnai is almost ceased the existence,
except for some south regions where is still possible to hear it.
Kernei - Kyrgyz wind musical instrument, which
as well as Surnai was not modernised for ensembles or orchestras and exist in
traditional form. This is especially signal or ceremonial instrument with powerful
sound of piercing timbre. There are two kinds of kernei: Muiuz Kernei (made
of horn of mountain goat), and Jez Kernei (made of cooper or brass). Both of
them are very different instruments, but they are combined by lack of playing
Muiuz Kernei - is the ancient instrument,
produced from curved horn of mountain goats. That is why the length of the instrument
might varied from 30 to 40 sm. Muiuz Kernei do not have the mouthpiece and gives
only a few sounds of thick, soft timbre.
Jez Kernei - is 1-2 m long longitudinal
trumpet with/without a mouthpiece. Faucet diameter is 20 sm. Likeness of kernei
with Uzbek and Uigur "karnai" is accounted by the territorial nearness
of South Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. The sound of Kernei is very strong, loud
and intend for outdoor areas. Some time in the past Kernei's applied function
was restricted by notification of important events, to-day it is the attribute
of national holidays.
The separate group of Kyrgyz aerophones represent the instruments, which considerably
yield the main kinds of folk wind instruments by quality of timbre and artistic
importance. They can be called as noise instruments. They were not produced
by people, they exist in the nature and produce neither musical nor artistic
sounds. They are: Chymyldak - produce squeak, Yshkyryk - whistle, Baryldak -
under tongue aerophone, Chynyrtky - hunter's quail call, Jalbyrak - "explosive"
aerophone. They are considered as
Kyrgyz folk percussive instruments create not numerous group. There
are only three membranephones: Dobulbash (in the north of Kyrgyzstan
- Dobulbas), Do'ol and Karsyldak. This instruments are carriers
of rhythm, one of the strongest means of artistic influence on man and animals.
In musical practice of 20th century, Kyrgyz percussive
instruments were not used, and exist as museum exhibits.
Dobulbash - one-sided framed drum, covered
with camel leather. The height of the body is 50-60 sm., membrane diameter is
25-30 sm. The frame was made of the juniper wood, while the membrane was made
of the camel leather. The sounds were extracted blowing the membrane with the
handle of whip or palm. To-day the musicians use the drum sticks with soft tips.
The sound of Dobulbash is strong, clear and long if the membrane is thick, and
can be served as war or sacral signal.
Do'ol - small wooden or metallic membranephone.
In present time exist two kinds of Do'ol: traditional and reconstructed one.
The first represent helmet-shaped drum with squeezed membrane. Membrane was
made of camel or ox leather and had a diameter of 30 sm., the height of the
body is 20 sm. Strong and low sound was extracted with a help of wooden stick
(called Tokmok or Tayak) thicken on the tip. Leather bands on both sides of
the instrument allowed to fix it to the saddle in front of the rider-performer.
Do'ol was used on the national holidays and at the time of hunting, also it
was very popular among Shamans - ancient wizards, for ousting evil spirits.
Karsyldak - a pair of wooden spoon-shaped
slightly open boxes fastened below the handles. The width of the single "spoon"
is 10 sm., length - 20 sm. The "spoons" are not exactly similar, and
having different sizes, they give clicking sounds of different pitch.
Self - sounding instruments
As known, self-sounding instruments (idiophones) are the instruments
in which the source of oscillation is the body or its part, but not strings,
membrane or air pressure. To such instruments in Kyrgyz musical culture concern
so called lip (mouth) komuz of several kinds, tambourines, bells and the other
instruments making cracking sounds. In this group of the instruments, more then
in others, presents the natural beginning. Before the human life depended on
the surrounding environment and such musical instruments were used not only
as the sources of music, but also as amulets, periapts, attributes of ammunition,
equipment, costumes. By the same reasons them were attributed some magic features.
The instruments also were widely used in customs and traditions.
Most of this instruments were made of metal or
had metallic parts in its constructions. The metal parts were done by "Temir
Usta" - metal foremen and blacksmiths, whose main occupation was production
of agricultural tools, home utensils and horse harnesses.
Temir o'oz komuz - (shortly Temir Komuz or O'oz komuz,
from "temir"-metallic and "o'oz"- mouth) is the metallic
lips (mouth) nipping instrument. It has arch-shaped body with the length of
6-7 sm., stretched in the middle and narrowed at the end. Temir komuz was made
of iron, brass, bronze or cooper (djez komuz). The components of the instrument
are pan (chara in Kyrgyz), to it adjoin cone-shaped fork (djaak) and thin elastic
steel string (til), one end of the tongue soldered to the lower part of the
pan, and another one bend perpendicularly under right angle. Timbre of the instrument
is mild, silvery, with airy flageolet shade.
Performers on Temir komuz called "temir komuzchu"
or "o'oz komuzchu". Traditional performers were women and children,
but after 1930, it became more popular among the males.
Temir komuz - is one of the most ancient instruments.
It is known in every corner of Kyrgyzstan. It also has the "relatives"
(around 800 kinds) in other countries of the world. In Russia, it is called
Vargan, in Germany - Maultrommel, in Italy Scaccia-pensieri, in France - Guimbarde,
in Spain - Birimbao, in Ukrainia - Drymba, in Moldavia - Drombule, in Kazakhstan
- Shan kabyz, in Uzbekistan - changkobuz etc.
Play on Temir komuz - is the fingering of overtones
in a spectrum (raised by a finger) of the metal string - regulating by forms
and value of resonance area of the mouth, where the performers place the instrument
holding it with the teeth. Certain position of performing apparatus corresponds
to every sound, including: lips, mouth, larynx and lungs. That is why very often
phonemes of Kyrgyz language are heard in sounds of Temir Komuz.
Pitching the string (pizzicato) is usually performed
by forefinger of the right hand, rarely by middle or thumb. Doing this, performer
can make effective figured hand movements, making impression on audience.
Djigach o'oz komuz - (wooden lip or mouth
komuz) - the closest variety of Temir o'oz komuz widely spread on South of Kyrgyzstan.
Djigach o'oz komuz is a wooden plate with the narrowed end. The length of the
instrument in its varieties is from 13 to 20 sm., the width of the narrow part
is about 1 sm., wide part - 2 sm. For the string serves vibrating thin plate
cut from the instrument's body. For production of Djigach o'oz komuz was used
barberry or honeysuckle wood.
Before the play, Djigach o'oz komuz is pressed
to the mouth by the left hand. Instrument is placed between the lips, by the
movements of which regulates resonance area of the mouth according to high pitches
parameters of strum. The right hand strongly and clearly pulls the string with
the help of 30 sm., long thread fastened to its right end. Oscillation of the
string gives the sound that becomes stronger due to the aerial resonance of
the mouth. As the sound of this instrument quickly fades (wood is not so elastic
as steel string), for tunes of djigach o'oz komuz typical the liveliness sound.
Usually Djigach o'oz komuz is played by women,
but nowadays it became more popular among men.
Timbre of djigach o'oz komuz is less clear then timbre of temir komuz, but deep.
Djylaajyn - is one of the hardly met instruments.
It is the idiophone representing small single or double tambourine shaking for
playing. Inside the instrument there is a small metallic ball. Diameter of the
instrument is 2-3 sm.
Djylaajyn was mainly used in everyday life: from
one side as musical instrument and as signal instrument from another. It informed
the hunter about the present location of his hunting eagle or hawk with the
prey. It was fastened to the bird's foot, and helped the hunter to take his
bearings in mountain forest or in bushes. Sometimes the instrument was used
for decoration women's head-dress or plaits. It used to be widely spread thanks
to its high-pitched, silvery and attractive sound, which however quickly fades.
For producing djylaajyn Kyrgyz foremen used iron,
cooper, bronze and very often silver which they counted as the best material
for that instrument. With changing of social conditions and evolution of mode
of life, traditional djylaajyn became very rare.
Konguro'o - is a small bell, which as well
as Djalaajyn firstly had the utilitarian purposes and only after artistic ones.
Konguro'o sounded by the time of moving to the new places, being fastened to
the horse harness it created very specific "smart" sound background.
Konguro'o also hanged on the neck of leader goat, which leads the flock of sheep
in some definite direction. That is why in folk memory almost magic sound of
konguro'o was associated with nomadic mode of life.
To make this instrument Kyrgyz foremen used cooper,
bronze, iron and brass. They also decorated it with artistic carving and covered
with silver. Sizes of the instruments might vary in considerable limits, what
depended on its function. Every bell had its own timbre.
Shaldyrak - the rattle, consisted of metallic
bar (diameter 1,5 sm., length 43 sm.) with a handle, three big iron rings of
different diameter (around 8 sm.) and small rings (diameter 2,8 sm.), stringed
on big ones. The sound was extracting while shaking the rattle. This rhythmically-noisy
idiophone used to be widely spread all over Kyrgyzstan, but nowadays hardly
can be seen anywhere except the museums.
Asa-Tayak (Asa-Musa) - braced or stick idiophone.
The source of the sound here are the various pendants - self-sounding bodies
which set in motion by striking the instrument on the ground, floor, or while
Traditional Asa-Tayak - is the wooden stick of irregular shape with the length
of 50 sm. In its upper part are fixed various self-sounding bodies and decorations
- metallic disks with diameter of 3 sm., buttons, lamb bones (used for games),
wooden bars, scraps of fabric, horse hairs. Asa-Tayak concerns as mixed idiophone.
For Kyrgyz Shamans (bakshi) and dervishes (duvana) Asa-Tayak served as the tool
with the help of which they carried out their curative seances. Magic influence
of the sounds on the mind of sick person conditioned, apparently, not only by
sounds but also by the whole complex of actions of shaman.
Dilderek - also very rare metallic idiophone,
consisted of two round plates with diameter of 5-7 sm., and width of 1 mm. Dilderek
was fastened on the neck of goats, sheep or cows in signal purposes. Plates
stroked due to the wind or moving of animal and utter slight sound. That instrument
carried not only artistic or musical functions but also it served as amulet,
protected the cattle from accidents and diseases.
Zu'uldak - is more musical toy then an instrument.
Before it was produced from the stalk of cane, to-day is used wooden detail
or button. It untwist on two weaken 20-30 sm., sewing in one side and then on
stretched ones in another side. The sound lasting a few seconds, remind hissing
Kyrgyz national musical tooling vary by constructive
features and by artistic abilities. Scientists distinguish four types of the
instruments having originality of social, esthetic and practice functions. It
is significant that in modern folk instrumental practice goes visible process
of developing musical instruments on the one hand, by the way of keeping main
principles of national traditions, and on the another hand by the way of refreshing
constructions of musical instruments and its expressiveness.
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