Speech by Ernis Turnuov, Distinguished Poet of the Kyrgyz Republic

Date: 05 October 2011

Like the dombra of the Kazakhs, the dutar of the Uzbeks, the rubab of the Tajiks, the guitar of the Spanish, and the balalayka of the Russians, the komuz is a symbol of the Kyrgyz culture. It is an ancient instrument of our ancestors who lived a nomadic life. Komuz music is the spiritual treasure containing the history, language, customs, the soul and spirit of the Kyrgyz people. If enemies want to purge the Kyrgyz, they must first eliminate their language, komuz, their epic “Manas,” boz üy, the yurt and their white kalpak. The Kyrgyz people will live on as long as they have their language, traditions and music.

The Kyrgyz are one of the ancient nomadic peoples of the world. According to scholars’ classification, there are two groups of classical nomadic peoples: one is the nomad who practices a horizontal movement on the steppe and desert, and the other who practices a vertical movement in the mountains. The music of the Kazakhs, who practiced a horizontal movement, steers toward a broad and expansive sound that is festive and happy. By contrast, the music and songs of the nomadic Kyrgyz, who moved vertically in tall mountains through high alpine passes and/or across fast running rivers, tend to have high texture and an extended pitch range that reaches all the way to the valleys.

The nomadic Kyrgyz lived in the high mountains of the Pamir, Alay, Ala-Too, and Tien-Shan which are located four to five thousand metres above sea level. Through these rich histories of küüs, we learn the historic path of the Kyrgyz, their worldview, hopes, psychology, economy, socio-political conditions, nomadic life, and other cultural aspects. The narrative histories of these küüs offers an aesthetic pleasure to the reader.

This fundamental two-volume work presents information on all Kyrgyz traditional instruments, classification of all küüs and their genres, descriptions of various komuz players and regional komuz schools, various themes as well as narrative histories of old and popular folk melodies. It contains narratives of each komuz melody including major historical events and well-known personalities. Both volumes contain the lists of all küüs recorded in the musical sound archive “Golden Fund” (Altyn Kazïna/Zolotoi Fond), of the Kyrgyz National Television and Radio Company.

People say that the origin of the küü is Kambarkan, and this book contains kambarkans, as well as shïngïramas, nasïykats, sanats, termes, botoys, kerbezs and their variations, and many other beautiful küüs starting with the ancient Manas küüs, Turan küüs, Nayman küüs reflecting the old times in past centuries.

We move through the times of Atilla, Tomiris, Chingiz Khan, Tamerlane, Junghars, and the Russian colonial and Soviet periods. We re-live the fascinating stories of historical personalities (such as Alash Khan, Oguz Khan, Adïl Khan, Barsbek, Kultegin, Tonukök, Chingiz Khan, Temirlan, and others).

The few scholars who collected the rich oral traditions of the Kyrgyz have provided a valuable collection of written material on cultural heritage. They were Kayum Miftakov, Buudaybek Sabyr uulu, and our author Asan Kaybylda uulu. Trained as a Kyrgyz philologist and teacher, he was also a skilled komuz player. As a great fan and enthusiast of komuz music, he spent more than 20 years of his life on the study of komuz music. He gathered ethnographic and oral material on the history of Kyrgyz melodies in various regions of Kyrgyzstan, beginning in the 1970s.

I want to emphasize the dedicated efforts of Dr Elmira Köchümkulova, a cultural anthropologist and Senior Research Fellow at UCA, who coordinated the publication of this work from beginning to end. She is a dedicated scholar who cares deeply for Kyrgyz cultural heritage. After the author passed away last year, she carried out the most tedious work of compiling the Index and Bibliography for the two volumes. By doing this, Dr Köchümkulova has greatly contributed to the scholarly value of the books.

When he was alive, the author had kindly asked me to read and edit his manuscript. I could not say no. Despite the fact that I was not feeling well, I spent the entire winter of 2010, editing his two-volume manuscript and I greatly enjoyed reading his descriptions and narratives of komuz melodies. I also would like to express my deep gratitude to the University of Central Asia and its Director General, Dr Bohdan Krawchenko and Deputy Director, Dr Nasreen Dhanani. The high quality of the publication both in content and form shows the work’s great value. The book is indeed a valuable cultural and aesthetic treasure.

We know that Kyrgyz melodies were put in folk orchestra ensembles and travelled to many countries around the world where they were greatly received by other peoples. After the Russian composer Shubin, the Kyrgyz composer Asankan Jumakmatov adapted more than fifty melodies of well known Kyrgyz komuz players to orchestra music. Kyrgyz traditional melodies also served as a light motif for opera, ballet, drama, and symphony music for many Kyrgyz composers.

Today, we are witnessing this exciting book launch of the most valuable fundamental work containing the rich cultural and musical heritage of the Kyrgyz. I would like to once again, thank Bohdan Krawchenko, Nasreen Dhanani, Elmira Kochumkulova, the author’s wife, Totu Sydykova and the people who worked with the author at the Kyrgyz National TV and Radio Company - T. Kazakov, K. Omurkulov, K. Sydykova, and B. Sutenova.

Thank you.

Ernis Tursunov
Distinguished Poet of Kyrgyzstan

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