SOAS University of London

Department of Music, School of Arts

16. Manghystau

Western Kazakhstan

Singing tradition

Our journey through Kazakh music lastly arrives at the western frontiers of the Kazakh steppe, the Manghystau peninsula, the regions of Atyrau and Ural. Here one encounters a distinct range of styles, though encompassing similar genres of epic and lyric songs and instrumental pieces. The singing tradition of Manghystau, connected across the Aral Sea with that of Syr-Darya, arose at a meeting-point between epic and lyric performance, represented by the bards Närik, Sügir, and the art singers Qaiyp, Tastemir, Jylkeldi, Tūrsyn, Dosat, Sholtaman and Ädil, known as jeti qaiqy or ‘seven musician artists’, qaiqy being the local equivalent of sal-seri. Songs by the jeti qaiqy are all imbued with sorrowful images conveyed by means of descending melodies, modal shifts and fluctuating metres. By contrast, the style of lyric singing (änshilik) in the northern part of the region, notably that of Mūkhit Meralyūly (1841–1918) from Ural, draws upon the art of poet-improvisers (aqyndyq). This can be felt in a number of Mūkhit’s songs, where the extended vocal tone is set against impetuous strumming on the dombra.

Possessing a dramatic voice of extraordinary range, Aigül Qosanova comes originally from the Manghystau region and trained under Säule Janpeisova, a representative of the school of Mūkhit Meralyūly and Gharifolla Qūrmanghaliev, the ‘Second Mūkhit’, also celebrated as an operatic singer. Here, she gives a flavour of western Kazakhstan vocal styles by performing songs from Manghystau (Tracks 16–19) and a song by Mūkhit (Track 20).

16. Manghystau, Tastemir Shyrshyghūlūly

My name is Tastemir, my brother is Nūrym.
In the crowd before us not a soul speaks.
Sprung from the Adai, I was a racer,
A vestige of the ancient pedigree left in the memory.

Manghystau, your lowlands are deep, your mountains are high.
Going around you, I could not leave the homelands
Manghystau, after I abandoned you,
Tears welled up in my eyes.