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    Anthology of Kazakh music


    Republic of Kazakhstan

    "Cultural heritage"







    Explanatory note to the series

    «Anthology of Kazakh music» in 5 volumes


    In the frame of the State Program "Cultural heritage" first in the history of Kazakh music studies "Anthology of Kazakh music" in 5 volumes has been prepared for publication.

    Aim of this project includes the following:

    - Collection of note patterns of traditional culture of Kazakh people from ancient time till the beginning of XX century;

    - Identification of the unique monuments of music culture of folklore, folklore-professional song-instrumental heritage of Kazakh people in the works of Russian and foreign travelers, ethnographers and researchers;

    - Systemizing and arranging the material into catalogues;

    - Classification of the outlined rare folklore patterns according to the regional-local, music-style and genre principles.

    - Proposed "Anthology of Kazakh music" is a musical monument of the epochs and centuries, valuable treasury of classic patterns taken from history of music culture and it will reflect general picture of national spiritual identity, representing artistic reflection of the nomadic civilization. Anthology will include archaic forms of music of proto-Kazakhs, musical patterns including common Turkic roots, patterns of the ritual-usual life folklore, early types of instrumental music, musical expression of epic culture, melodies of akyn art, classic masterpieces of the folklore and folklore-professional composers of oral tradition (Birzhan-sal, Madi, Akan-sere, Abay, Kurmangazy, Dauletkerei, Kazangap, Tattimbet, Dina and others).


    Summary (Volume1)


    The centuries-old art culture of Kazakhstan at present accumulated a richer treasury, in composition which the best examples of folk-applied, imitative, theatrical and musical-poetic art enter. Representing the advanced forms and variety of verbal tradition folklore, kept extending for several centuries: such as stable (initial) art - style, local (regional) and typical - national features, the spiritual culture of the kazakhs to the beginning of third millennium appears as unique field of universal civilization.

    In conditions of the new historical reality - acquisition by Kazakhstan of Independence, the problems of regeneration, preservation and evolutions of art legacy, in particular, of musical culture has the exclusive importance and actuality.

    For the first time carry outing in Kazakh musicology the Anthology of the kazakh music, in submitted volume and scientific classification, being by a musical memorial of epochs and centuries of the kazakh people, contains the classical examples from history of centuries-old spirituality, reflects general tendency of national self-identity, thus, carrying out the significant historical role. It is some of this sort a memory of ancestors both vote of epoch and centuries. The first volume of the present edition contains spread and compactly the ancient forms of kazakh music, the musical paradigms having a common-turkic roots, samples of ritual-being folklore, types and genres of song and instrumental music - saryns of shamans, social and author's ancient tunes and aged kyi. 

    The conception and structure of the Anthology includes the musical and textual literature, since primary examples of earlier-folklore music and scopes the period almost for twenty centuries. In it the colorful panorama of forming, existence and development of diverse shapes, genres and styles of national musical art is reflected.

    The Anthology is opened by a prayer tunes from the "Codex Cumanicus", it is a memorial of literature of XIII-XIV centuries. This most ancient example for the first time described by the professor Erzakovich B.G., at the end of 70 years of the last century hypothetically predetermines sources of the kazakh musical language.

    Compiling of the five-volume Anthology of the kazakh music - is the difficult and multistage task. The regeneration of national musical culture in a context of human values of XXI-century will determine the new stages of spiritual revival of nation and becomes the important condition of mentalities preservation of the kazakh people. The Anthology of the kazakh music which is carried out on the Governmental program, under the personal initiative and idea of the President of RK Nursultan Nazarbayev, is called to promote expansion of cultural - information field of Kazakhstan in a worldwide space. This is an original dialogue with the past and spiritual precept to the future generation, and also opening of new sides of unique, centuries-old culture of the Kazakh people.




    This edition is the continuation of the series implemented within State Program "Cultural Heritage" initiated and supported by N.A.Nazarbaev the President of Kazakhstan. If the first release of the Anthology of Kazakh music was dedicated to the ancient music, the second volume  of this project includes patterns of musical folklore of the medieval period. According to the existing historical-scientific concept that was developed earlier, the material of this book is systemized on two sections. This is the field of song and instrumental culture. First of them consists of the Introduction, introductory article, work songs, lyric, national folklore types, songs of "konyr", "tolgau", "terme",  songs-advice,  songs- puzzles type. Further follow historical songs, religious melodies, epos music and akyn contests songs.

    The second section includes patterns of traditional instrumental folklore such as dombra and kobyz kyis- ritual-life, lyrical, historical, epic, kyis-dedications and zhyr-kyis. All of them are arranged into the contemporary note system and have performance features. The edition is concluded by the notes to the note materials with additional comments, data on the collectors- folklore specialists also brief data on the participants of this project, the list of used publications. The book includes summary in Russian and English.

    Traditional music of the Kazakh people is a rich treasury of spiritual heritage. Existing in oral form, narrated from one generation to another, carefully preserved, dynamically developing and enriching on the edge of the new millennium.   It has acquired great historical importance and artistic value as during centuries the life of the Great Steppe  was inspirited with poesy,  philosophic songs, and temperament kyis. The proud and free spirit zhyrau, akyns, olenshi, kyishi, anshi and many other representatives of "nomadic civilization" had bequeathed them to the descendents  (L.N.Gumilev). The great Russian scientists named by S.Ualikhanov "Gerodot of Kazakh steppe" A.I.Levshin has precisely mentioned  about the talent of the steppe people: "Kyrgyz people (Kazakh people -S.K.)  present new evidence of the fact that human is born either poet or musician"[1].

    A.Eihgorn also proved the above mentioned in the Introduction to his work about Kazakh music saying: "Sometimes naïve-children and joyful as the foals  on the green pastures, sometimes strong and cheerful, powerful and free as an eagle flying in the blue sky in the steppe, Kyrgyz (Kazakh- S.K.) songs performed by all people, boys and old men, girls and old women are its inviolable property,  almost exact copy of the nation!"[2].

    The whole life of a Kazakh person - his philosophy,  attitude to the environment, national psychology, customs, traditions, history and every day life are colorfully described in the songs, legends, epic pictures and instrumental compositions. For example, multi-genre, various topic musical folklore, unique form and composition of the artistic system that are diversely  presented in this Anthology.

    Paradigms of the musical-poetic heritage of Kazakh people have much in common with the culture of different nations of the world. Those analogies are displayed in the thematic and figurative sphere of folklore patterns, their cheerful tonus and humanistic tendencies, glorification  of kindness and  light, peace and prosperity. It is known that great people of the Planet such as A.Zataevich, M.Gorky, R.Rollan, V. Bartok, A. Eihgorn, B.Afanasiev and many others have admired  Kazakh folklore.   

    Creating  many century panorama of music culture of Kazakhstan is a noble and crucial activity. Wisdom  of the fathers, voices of the centuries will have their continuation also in the further editions of this many volume project. Rich heritage of the artistic genius of the people is addressed to the Future.


    [1] A.I.Levshin. Description of Kyrgyz-Kazakh or Kyrgyz-Kaisats ordas and steppes (under general edition of M.K.Kozybaev). - Almaty: Sanat, 1966.- 656 p., p.351.

    [2] A.Eihgorn. Music of Kyrgyz people. Music folklore science in Uzbekistan.  (first records). Music-ethnographic materials. Translation from german B.L.Sobinov. - Tashkent: Publishing house of Uzbekistan Academy of Science. 1963. - 195 p., p.27.




    In the context  of dominating directions- political, economic and social that have developed during Independence period of Kazakhstan, the issue of conservation, revival and development of cultural-spiritual heritage was identified as priority. In this aspect special historical role has the State program "Cultural heritage" that is successfully developed in many fields of spiritual and material spheres- national history, archeology, ancient written language, folk craft etc.

    Wide range  of the  objectives includes also the aim of assimilation of many centuries old art experience of Kazakh people, which organic part is traditional music folklore. Multi- functionally existing in the life of steppe people, reflecting free spirit, corresponding to his philosophy, esthetic and spiritual condition, song and instrumental music in the beginning of XVIII century was presented by various types, forms and genres. Great steppe lived with rich creative genies of people.  Russian and foreign ethnographers, scientists and oriental studies specialists who have visited Kazakhstan with different purposes have admired  the richest musical-poetic life of Kazakh people.  Among them  Savva Bolshoi, priest P.Tikhov, geographer I.G.Georgi, professor R.A. Pfennig, captain I.G.Andreyev, folklore studies specialists A.E.Alektorov, M.B.Gotovitsky, researcher A.Levshin, French researchers and travelers G.Kapu and G.Bonvalo. Some of them tried to refer Kazakh people to the number of naturally talented peoples, others tried to find explanation  and motives of this phenomenon. With purpose of solving this phenomenon they have considered free way of life, close communication with nature, life specifics etc. They have specially noted the rich musical and poetic aura that appeared at all life situations such as birth of a child, funeral ritual, wedding ritual etc. For example, Doctor Savva Bolshoi wrote that even in solving disputable issues of life situations, that have been  discussed on public meetings, Kazakh people could interrupt conflict speech and without preparation start singing, communicating through improvisation about the  essence of the difficult problem. He said that the person who was talking at the meeting "interrupts his long and emotional speech by a song or a good singer could insert a long speech or selected poems into his song  which he sings or speaks without any preparation" (1,10). Being representatives of a different culture they  always admired and were surprised by the unusual poetic, prosaic and musical talent of the people, beautiful and unique songs, underlined their image feature, flexibility and diversity of folklore forms and types, their internal logical arrangement and accord, that were based on the specific features of national psychology and way of life.

    The prominent scientist - Encyclopedia compiler  S.Valikhanov was the first who provided  accurate and scientifically sound answers to all questions that arose during explanation of spiritual life of people, who wrote that Kazakh people "have their own literature and tales-written or oral. Ability of composing poems especially ability to improvise is a distinctive feature of nomadic people" (2, 304). Further  Shokan continues: "Either the influence of calm nomadic life or constant observation of nature, always open starry sky and unlimited green steppes have served as a basis  for poetic and philosophic spirit of steppe nomads..." (3, 305).

    The content of this edition tells about this, and it consists of two big sections as the previous ones. First section includes folk songs of   various   themes, genres and forms. Here lyric songs are widely presented, several patterns of pray songs (Allah zhar), simple songs (auez), songs like kara and konyr olen, songs about past young years ("Zhyirma bes"). The relict and educating songs are of special interest (teaching alphabet- "Alip-bi"), philosophic character ("Otti-au, dunie, zamanim"). Besides the above mentioned patterns of song folklore, third volume includes first author songs that have been conserved by people.  Although the text part is absent that is the consequence of their specific feature  of existing in oral form, their music material presents exclusive interest in regard of formation and identification of the genesis of national music language and also  the purpose of revival of the names of original people who have been conserved in the memory of people. First song section ends with songs performed at akyns contests.

    Content of second part of this edition includes instrumental music-dombra, kobyz, sybyzgi music and kuis for sherter. It also colourfully describes the range of folklore music art.  In them kuis of folklore origin form a big part and are presented in such genre and type formations as "Akzhelen", "Akku", "Nauai", "Konyr", "Kosbasar", kuis-songs, kuis of remembrance character. Compilers of the volume III of the Anthology have maximally tried to identify and include rare materials from various sources- personal archives, foundation of conservatory folklore room, Institute of literature and art,  collections published in Kazakhstan and abroad- in Mongolia and China.

    Artistic value of this volume is concluded in inclusion of rare note records that were not mentioned earlier such as kuis for ancient instrument sherter that were kindly presented by Z.Shakerim the well known musician of folklore music, honored figure of Kazakhstan. The theme, structure and genre characteristic of those kuis have distinctive character.

    Sherter is one of the most ancient musical instruments in the culture of Kazakh people. Its form, appearance, tembre ....... And legends and other musical features prove this fact. First documental evidences  about this instrument are mentioned in the works of foreign and Russian travelers and researchers of XVIII-XIX centuries such as A.Alektorov, G.Issaev, P.Udin, S.Bolotov, B.Zalessky and others.

    According to one  folklore legend, sherter has appeared long before kobyz and dombra and later served as a basis for their structures. In fact in the structure of sherter there are many similarities. For example, during past centuries the strings of sherter were made of horse hair, resonator was covered with leather and the body was similar to kobyz. Analogy with dombra is noted in play method and instrument sound.

    During centuries the sherter was used mainly in the life of herdsmen that served as a basis for realization of genre diversity, in transfer of nature images, thoughts about life etc. The Anthology includes: kui devoted to people meetings, on which the chiefs and elder people of the clans were considering vitally important issues ("Kenes"), lyric images of the girls ("Kerbez kyz", "Fatima"), close to ritual sad songs ("Kyz muni"),  devoted to animals ("Zhorga aju", "Boken zhargak", "Aksak aju"), images of eternal satellite of nomads- horses described in kuis "Sal kuren" and "Kok tobel", about quick pace of life tells philosophic kui "Arbijan konyr", kui "Kabanbai" is devoted to the memory of legendary people's hero.

    Works of the collector and restorer Bolat Sarybayev (1927-1984) tell about the history of sherter that began during the epoch of Turkic Kaganate and blossoming of it's music was in the beginning of XIX century. One of the foreign researchers -B.Zalessky when met a sherter among Mangistau  Kazakh people, draw  it and published in his book-album "Life of Kazakh steppe" (Paris, 1865). B.Sarybayev has restored this ancient  instrument by using its  photo. Among performers who played sherter there are such names as Nurgali Kadirbekuly, Kulinshak, Baitoleu Nurgaliuly, Shakir Abenov, Saparzhan Torsikbayev and others.

    For the first time in national ethno-folklore studies, in note and text sections of this edition the names of the talented people who were forgotten and earlier prohibited due to ideological reasons, kui and dombra players such as Aryngazy, Baizhuma, Arbijan, Idiris and others  have been revived. 

    The unique part of the  instrumental masterpieces of the Anthology are the kuis of a poet-warrior Makhambet Otemisuly (1804-1846). Many well known representatives of music art such as people's artist of RK K.Akhmediarov, honored figure of RK K.Sakharbayev  have  identified them and made their note records. The character and content of the song-instrumental compositions of Makhambet describe the life of the son of Kazakh people, brave, heroic, courageous, devoted, tragic and lonely life. Like other folk compositions, kuis of Makhambet have autobiographic character, their names speak about this: "Zhumir kylish", "Zhaiyik asu", "Zhauga shapkan", "Zhorik", "Issataidin aktabani-ai". Music of the poet-warrior has organically reflected his emotional poems. Makhambet's kuis, terme, tolgau  became a favorite basis for composing of opera-symphonic and vocal-orchestra  works (N.Tlendiev- symphonic kui "Makhambet", G.Zhubanova- opera "Kurmangazi", B.Zhumaniyazov- opera "Makhambet"). In these music works Makhambet is presented as a brave son of nation, musician-improviser, extraordinary individual, very energetic person with brave heart, very smart person, he was described as a symbol of freedom and greatness of  spirit.

     So the materials of the volume III of the Anthology are opening new pages of the very rich spiritual heritage of Kazakh people. They include the colorful reflection of people's life, their old traditions of poetic, prosaic, music creativity and  a multicolor panorama of the real artistic  values of national culture.


    Summary for the  IV, V volume of Anthology of Kazakh music


    The edition is dedicated to the creative work of the folk-professional composers of traditional culture. It includes the best samples of song and instrumental heritage of the outstanding representatives of the national art on the edge of XVIII and beginning of XIX centuries. In the history of Kazakh music this period was called "Golden Age" and it's a sort of Renaissance of national spirituality. Works of the composers of oral school having  continued and developed the art of baksy, zhyrau, akyns, are forming the institute of sal, seri, anshi, kuishi. Being a quintessence of the many century artistic traditions of Kazakh people during this epoch they gain enormous flourishing  and are included into the valuable treasury. At present time the performance art such as songs, dombra and kobyz play are at the very high level. Alongside with folklore-poetic and music creative work, national culture is enriched by many style trends and peculiarities of the regional schools such as West-Kazakhstan, Arka, East-Kazakhstan and Zhetisu. They are represented by the outstanding musicians, poets, singers and instrument players such as Mukhit, Aitmagambet, Aukhat, Abay, Birzhan sal, Shakarim, Ibiray, Baluan-Sholak, Aset, Iman-Zhusip, Madi, Dauren sal, Issa Tergeusizuly, Pishan Zhalmendeuly, Kurmangzy, Tattimbet, Dauletkerei, Toka, Ikilas and many others.

    Works of the outstanding folk composers are distinctive with variety of topics, plots and types. They are full of social issues, widely reflect the environment and reality. Sharp forms and style, genre variety, combination of the melody and verse, extension of expressive means and performance methods, novelty of accord-intonation and melodic formations, flexibility of metrics and rhythm, bright national color define artistic perfection  of their classic works. The above mentioned tendencies completely refer to the song and instrumental music of the folklore-professional composers.

    In the Pleiades  of the folk talents the special place take the outstanding figures of Abay Kunanbaev (1845-1904) and Kurmangazy Sagyrbaev (1818-1824). In the creative works of the giants of Kazakh music the power and might of national spirit have been strongly expressed, human values have been sang, many centuries artistic traditions have been summarized and realized, their skills and creative inspiration have been improved. Being heralds  of their epoch, Abay and Kurmangazy each in his sphere of activity have indicated novelty ways of further development of music culture of the native people. Ikilas Dukenov (1843-1916) belongs to the number of outstanding musicians of the past epoch,  his creative work has accumulated traditions of kylkobyz. Continuing and developing syncretic art of the legendary Korkyt-Ata, he has opened new horizons of this unique layer of traditional music. Creative heritage of the folk-professional composers has classical value and is a property   of the generation of the XIX century.

    Songs and kuis of folk composers-professionals alongside with the well known carriers of traditional culture, are realized and gain revival  in the work and repertoire of the contemporary performers, gaining new interpretation, performance methods and arrangement, are being enriched and renovated being subject to transformation by inserting style novelties  of the technical tools of popular   and rock  music.