SOAS University of London

Department of Music, School of Arts

3. Qasqyrdyn uluy

Southern and Central Kazakhstan

Qobyz performance

The recording begins in the southern and central regions of Kazakhstan, historically linked to performance on the qobyz, a fiddle with two horsehair strings, with which the Kazakhs associate the beginnings of their music. Although known across Kazakhstan, the instrument is believed to have emerged on the shores of the Syr-Darya River with the first legendary Kazakh shaman and musician, Qorqyt, who created it to escape death by means of its magical sounds. Originally used by shamans (baqsy) and epic bards (jyrau) to call ancestral spirits, the qobyz was brought into art music by the master of instrumental pieces, küis, Yqylas Dükenūly (1843–1916), while retaining its sacred significance. Following suppression and modernisation during the Soviet period, the original instrument and its repertoire were revived in the late twentieth century.

Aqnar Shäripbaeva, a direct descendant of Yqylas who studied under Äbdimanap Jūmabekov, a pupil of Yqylas’s successor Däulet Myqtybaev, performs a küi ascribed to Qorqyt (Track 1), two onomatopoeic folk küis (Tracks 2–3) reminiscent of shamanic music-making in which spirit-protectors were invoked through imitation of totemic animals and birds, and pieces by Yqylas (Tracks 4–6). Her interpretations bring out the extraordinary expressive versatility of the qobyz, whose raspy sound enriched with harmonics derives from elaborate techniques of finger stopping and bowing the horsehair strings.

3. Qasqyrdyŋ ūluy (Wolves’ Howling), folk küi

The music of the küi imitates the howling of wolves preparing to hunt. It is said that, when Yqylas Dükenūly played this küi, dogs, taking the qobyz sounds for the howling of real wolves, would raise the alarm, barking and running around the settlement (auyl) (Jūbanov ibid., 284).