Folk Music from Kazakhstan

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Folk Music from Kazakhstan

Raushan Orazbaeva plays Swan Song on the Kobyz.

The Kobyz or kyl-kobyz is an ancient Kazakh string instrument. It has two strings made of horsehair. The resonating cavity is usually covered with goat leather.

Traditionally kobyzes were sacred instruments, owned by shamans and bakses (traditional spiritual medics). According to legends, the kobyz and its music could banish evil spirits, sicknesses and death.

In the 1930s, when the first folk instrument orchestras were established in the Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, a new kind of kobyz came into existence. It now had four metallic strings and thus became closer to a violin. Such a modernized kobyz can be used to play both Kazakh music and the most complicated works of violin literature. One of the few western musicians to use the kobyz is Trefor Goronwy.

Kazakhstan is a country in Eurasia ranked as the ninth largest country in the world. It is also the world’s largest landlocked country. Its territory of 2,727,300 km² is greater than Western Europe. It is neighbored clockwise from the north by Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and also borders on a significant part of the Caspian Sea. The capital was moved in 1997 from Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, to Astana.

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