SOAS University of London

Department of Music, School of Arts

14. Aq Bayan

Jetigen and saz-syrnai

The plucked zither, jetigen, and the clay ocarina, saz-syrnai, are old instruments that, like the sybyzghy, died out before the twentieth century but were revived and re-introduced in the 1960s. In contrast to the open-ended flute, neither was retained among diasporic communities outside Kazakhstan and they were largely restored on the basis of organological evidence, ethnographic descriptions and analogous practices among other Turkic and Mongol peoples. The original jetigen had seven metal strings running over moveable sheep’s knucklebone bridges attached to a rectangular soundbox (hence, the name jetigen interpreted either as ‘seven singing strings’ or as a derivative from jatqan, ‘lying’). The saz-syrnai (saz meaning clay and syrnai being a generic name for wind instruments), an ocarina with two to four playing holes, was re-discovered in 1971 at the site of the medieval city of Otrar in southern Kazakhstan. As a melodic and imitative instrument with a voice-like timbre it was, by some accounts, used to attract birds. Subsequent models of the two instruments have varied in construction, acoustic properties and tonal range.

On this CD, Ghainijamal Bekniyaz, a member of the folk ensemble Aq Orda, performs a solo küi on a zither close to the early type, with twelve metal strings and moveable knucklebone bridges, plucking and stopping the strings on opposite sides of the soundboard, and in the ensemble with the saz-syrnai she changes to a modernised seventeen-stringed instrument with fixed wooden bridges and mainly nylon strings, played on both sides of the soundboard. She is joined by fellow Aq Orda member Lyazzat Kubenova, who performs on a saz-syrnai with seven playing holes and an octave range. Much of the repertoire for these revived instruments comprises arrangements of songs and küis deriving from eastern and central Kazakhstan and Altai. This recording includes a jetigen arrangement of a dombra küi by Qabykei Aqmerūly (Track 13) and two ensemble versions of folksongs from Sary-Arqa (Tracks 14–15).

14. Aq Bayan, folk song, arrangement Nūrlan Khamzin

This is a farewell song of a young bride called Bayan, who leaves her home and sends her blessings to the native land extolling its beauty: “Be happy, Bayan’s homeland left behind! And you – Arqa’s soft wind – be happy! Aq Bayan, my pure heart is known to many. Cackling of geese, resounding voices of swans, pearl pure and shoreless lake.”