Music of Kazakhstan

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Music of Kazakhstan refers to a wide range of musical styles and genres deriving from Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan is home to the Kazakh State Kurmangazy Orchestra of Folk Instruments, the Kazakh State Philharmonic Orchestra, the Kazakh National Opera and the Kazakh State Chamber Orchestra. The folk instrument orchestra was named after Kurmangazy Sagyrbayuly, a well-known composer and dombra player from the 19th century.

Kazakhstan transcontinental republic in Asia and Europe

Kazakhstan, officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is the world's largest landlocked country, and the ninth largest country in the world, with an area of 2,724,900 square kilometres (1,052,100 sq mi). It is a transcontinental country largely located in Asia; the most western parts are in Europe. Kazakhstan is the dominant nation of Central Asia economically, generating 60% of the region's GDP, primarily through its oil and gas industry. It also has vast mineral resources.

Dombra musical string instrument

The dombra, also known as dombyra is a long-necked Kazakh lute and a musical string instrument. The dombyra shares certain characteristics with the komuz and dutar, such as its long, thin neck and oblong body shape. It is a popular instrument among Turkic communities in Central Asian countries such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, as well as Mongolia.


Traditional music

Traditional music in Kazakhstan often refers to music of the following genres:

Russian and Soviet-era music

Postage stamp depicting a dombra, the most popular traditional musical instrument of Kazakhstan Dombra.png
Postage stamp depicting a dombra, the most popular traditional musical instrument of Kazakhstan

The Russian influence on the music life in Kazakhstan can be seen in two spheres:

Controlled by the Russian Empire and then the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan's folk and classical traditions became connected with ethnic Russian music and Western European music. Prior to the 20th century, Kazakh folk music was collected and studied by ethnographic research teams including composers, music critics and musicologists. In the first part of the 19th century, Kazakh music was transcribed in linear notation. Some composers of this era set Kazakh folk songs to Russian-style European classical music.

Russian Empire former country, 1721–1917

The Russian Empire was an empire that extended across Eurasia and North America from 1721, following the end of the Great Northern War, until the Republic was proclaimed by the Provisional Government that took power after the February Revolution of 1917.

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a federal sovereign state in northern Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centers were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Tashkent, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometers (6,200 mi) east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometers (4,500 mi) north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

Ethnography is the systematic study of people and cultures. It is designed to explore cultural phenomena where the researcher observes society from the point of view of the subject of the study. An ethnography is a means to represent graphically and in writing the culture of a group. The word can thus be said to have a double meaning, which partly depends on whether it is used as a count noun or uncountable. The resulting field study or a case report reflects the knowledge and the system of meanings in the lives of a cultural group.

Kazakh musicians themselves, however, did not write their own music with notation until 1931. Later, as part of the Soviet Union, certain Kazakh folk culture was encouraged to avoid political and social unrest. The result was a derivative of Kazakh folk music. In 1920, Aleksandr Zatayevich, a Russian official, created major works of art music with melodies and other elements from Kazakh folk music. Beginning in 1928 and accelerating in the 1930s, he also adapted traditional Kazakh instruments for use in Russian-style ensembles (such as increasing the number of frets and strings). Soon, these styles of modern orchestral playing became the only way for musicians to officially play; Kazakh folk was turned into patriotic, professional and socialist endeavors. [1]

Aleksandr Zatayevich Russian ethnographer

Aleksandr Viktorovich Zatayevich was a Russian music ethnographer and exponent of Central Asian folk music.

Fret musical instrument part

A fret is a raised element on the neck of a stringed instrument. Frets usually extend across the full width of the neck. On most modern western fretted instruments, frets are metal strips inserted into the fingerboard. On some historical instruments and non-European instruments, frets are made of pieces of string tied around the neck.

Musical institutions

The Musical-Dramatic Training College, founded in 1931, was the first institute of higher education for music in Kazakhstan. Two years later, the Orchestra of Kazakh Folk Musical Instruments was formed [1] The Foundation Asyl Mura is archives and publishes historical recordings of Kazakh music both traditional and classical. The Qurmanghazy Conservatoire is considered one of the leading conservatoires in Almaty.

Musical traditional instruments

Traditional instruments of Kazakhstan 1990 CPA 6247.jpg
Traditional instruments of Kazakhstan

The most popular traditional instruments are string instruments. First of them is the dombra (домбыра), the most popular and the oldest Kazakh music instrument. Some argue that nomads have used similar two-string instruments more than two thousand years ago. [2] The dombra is a long-necked lute with two strings tuned in the interval of a fourth or sometimes a fifth. The strings are plucked or strummed by the right hand without a plectrum.

The other instrument playing an important role is the Qobyz, which is a bowed instrument held between the legs. It is made of carved wood for the body, animal skin for the resonator, and horse hair for the strings, and the bow. The Qobyz is said to have been invented by the legendary shaman Qorqyt, long before the medieval ages. The "Zhetigen" ("Seven strings") could be seen as a member of the cither family, finding equivalents in China, with the strings being divided each in two parts of different lengths, the bridge being movable and consisting of small bone. There is also a plucked lute called sherter (шертер).

List of Kazakh traditional instruments

Current status

Traditional Kazakh instruments are often used in contemporary music and play a big role in Kazakh music. Traditional orchestras include "Otryrar Sazy", "Kurmangazy Orchestra", "Al-Faraby sazy", and a number of others. Kazakh instruments are used not only by artists but also are an integral part of the life of almost every Kazakh.

Contemporary genres

Kazakhstani hip hop

Kazakhstani hip hop and rap scene was starting to emerge in the country after the Dissolution of the Soviet Union. [3] Hip-hop were easily flourished in Kazakhstan due to the use of Russian language in its songs, which makes it easier for Kazakh rappers to achieve popularity in other Russian-speaking countries. [3] Hip-hop is arguably the most popular contemporary music genre in Kazakhstan, especially among the youth. [4] [5] In 2013, American rapper Kanye West was privately invited by President Nursultan Nazarbayev to perform at his grandson's wedding. [6] Kazakh hip-hop would later in 2010s influences the development of Q-pop music genre. [7] Well-known Kazakh rappers are Jah Khalib, Natan and Scriptonite.

Kazakhstani rock

Kazakhstani rock is a form of rock music in Kazakhstan, with lyrics written and performed both in Kazakh and Russian. [8] Rock music has been popular in Kazakhstan, especially in Karaganda Region, since the 1960s, when it was popularized by The Beatles. [9] [10] During the Soviet era, Kazakhstan was exposed to both American and Russian rock. [9] Well-known Kazakh rock bands are Adaptatsiya, Ulytau, and Urker.


Q-pop or Qazaq pop is a comparatively new musical genre of Kazakhstan. The term was first coined in 2015. Q-pop originates from Western pop, hip-hop, J-Pop and K-Pop respectively. Kazakhstani entertainment company Juz Entertainment has been credited as the pioneer of the genre, with its boy group Ninety One debuting in 2015. [11] [4] Artists like Ziruza, Mad Men, Moonlight, Newton, Juzim, and CrystalZ also contribute to the genre.


Toi (Той; literally means public gathering) refers to easy-listening folk music with catchy rhythm, usually performed in weddings and festives. [4] This genre is also popular in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan. [12] Well-known Kazakh toi singers are Qairat Nurtas, Abdijappar Alqoja, Madina Saduakasova and Jazira Baiyrbekova.

Related Research Articles

Balalaika Russian stringed musical instrument

The balalaika is a Russian stringed musical instrument with a characteristic triangular wooden, hollow body, fretted neck and three strings. Two strings are usually tuned to the same note and the third string is a perfect fourth higher. The higher-pitched balalaikas are used to play melodies and chords.The instrument generally has a short sustain, necessitating rapid strumming or plucking when it is used to play melodies. Balalaikas are often used for Russian folk music and dancing.

Kurmangazy Sagyrbaev Kazakhstani musician

Kurmangazy Sagyrbaev was a Kazakh composer, instrumentalist, and folk artist. He was born in 1818 in the Bukey Horde. He is buried in the Astrakhan region of Lower Volga in today's Russian Federation.

Kyrgyz music is nomadic and rural, and is closely related to Turkmen and Kazakh folk forms. Kyrgyz folk music is characterized by the use of long, sustained pitches, with Russian elements also prominent.

Music of Mongolia

Music is an integral part of Mongolian culture. Among the unique contributions of Mongolia to the world's musical culture are the long songs, overtone singing and morin khuur, the horse-headed fiddle. The music of Mongolia is also rich with varieties related to the various ethnic groups of the country: Oirats, Hotogoid, Tuvans, Darhad, Buryats, Tsaatan, Dariganga, Uzemchins, Barga, Kazakhs and Khalha.

Komuz musical instrument

The komuz or qomuz, Azerbaijani Qopuz, Turkish Kopuz, is an ancient fretless string instrument used in Central Asian music, related to certain other Turkic string instruments and the lute.


The kobza, also called bandurka is a Ukrainian folk music instrument of the lute family, a relative of the Central European mandora. The term kobza however, has also been applied to a number of other Eastern European instruments distinct from the Ukrainian kobza.

Domra long-necked Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian folk string instrument of the lute family

The domra is a long-necked Russian folk string instrument of the lute family with a round body and three or four metal strings.

The music of Central Asia is as vast and unique as the many cultures and peoples who inhabit the region. Principal instrument types are two- or three-stringed lutes, the necks either fretted or fretless; fiddles made of horsehair; flutes, mostly open at both ends and either end-blown or side-blown; and jew harps, mostly metal. Percussion instruments include frame drums, tambourines, and kettledrums. Instrumental polyphony is achieved primarily by lutes and fiddles.

Culture of Kazakhstan culture of an area

Kazakhstan has a well-articulated culture based on the nomadic pastoral economy of the inhabitants. Islam was introduced to Kazakhstan in the 7th to 12th centuries. Besides lamb, many other traditional foods retain symbolic value in Kazakh culture. Kazakh culture is largely influenced by the Turkic nomadic lifestyle. Kazakh culture seems also to be strongly influenced by the nomadic Scythians.

Kobyz Kazakh string instrument

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.

Ulytau, literally meaning "the great mountain", is a popular Turkic neopagan instrumental folk metal trio from Kazakhstan. Their music combines the sound of the violin and electric guitar with the dombra, a traditional two stringed instrument from their country.

Fuat Mansurov Russian conductor

Fuat Mansurov was a Soviet and Russian conductor.

Yevgeny Brusilovsky Russian composer

Yevgeny Grigorievich Brusilovsky was a Soviet and Russian composer who settled in Kazakhstan. He wrote the first Kazakh opera, co-wrote the music for the Anthem of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic, and was a People's Artist of the Kazakh SSR.

Turan ensemble Kazakh band of kazakhstan, playing shamanic turkic music

Turan Ensemble is a Kazakh folk music band, which was created in 2008 by several students of Kazakh National Conservatory named after Kurmangazy.

Dina Nurpeisova or Nurpeissova was a composer from the Western part of Kazakhstan in the Uralsk area. She was also a noted dombyra player. For her musical accomplishments, she was recognized as the National Artist of Kazakhstan. An orchestra, the Academic Folk Orchestra of Dina Nurpeisova, is named after her, as well as a small village, Dina Nurpeisova. On the 150th anniversary of her birth, in 2011, a postage stamp was issued to commemorate her.

A dauylpaz is a percussion instrument used by the Kazakh people. The drum-like instrument was originally used to convey signals during battle, and later became commonplace in Kazakh culture. The instrument fell out of widespread use in the 20th century.


  1. 1 2 "From Folklore to Soviet National Culture- The Process of Formation of "Kazak National Music" (1920-1942)". Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  2. "Музыкальное наследие Казахстана | Musical Heritage of Kazakhstan". Archived from the original on 2009-08-14. Retrieved 2015-11-29.
  3. 1 2 "Music review | Straight outta Kazakhstan, rapping in Russian | Eurasianet". Retrieved 2018-11-23.
  4. 1 2 3 "Kazakh Pop Music Experiencing Heyday". The Astana Times. 2016-03-26. Retrieved 2018-11-23.
  5. "Kazakhstan Rapper Scriptonite's Unique Laidback Lo-Fi Sounds Going Worldwide". The Source. 2018-03-23. Retrieved 2018-11-23.
  6. migration (2013-09-02). "Kanye West 'paid $4m' to play at wedding of Kazakh leader's grandson". The Straits Times. Retrieved 2018-11-23.
  7. Goldsmith, Melissa Ursula Dawn; Fonseca, Anthony J. (2018-12-31). Hip Hop around the World: An Encyclopedia [2 volumes]. ABC-CLIO. ISBN   9780313357596.
  8. Abazov, Rafis (2007). Culture and Customs of the Central Asian Republics. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN   9780313336560.
  9. 1 2 "Classic Rock Rocks Kazakh Fans - The Astana Times". The Astana Times. 2015-03-11. Retrieved 2018-11-19.
  10. Planet, Lonely; Elliott, Mark; Masters, Tom; Mayhew, Bradley; Noble, John (2014-04-01). Lonely Planet Central Asia. Lonely Planet. ISBN   9781743000786.
  11. "Q-pop strengthens the consciousness of Kazakhstan – The International Massmedia Agency". Retrieved 2018-11-19.
  12. Broughton, Simon; Ellingham, Mark; Trillo, Richard; Duane, Orla; McConnachie, James (1999). World Music: Latin & North America, Caribbean, India, Asia and Pacific. Rough Guides. ISBN   9781858286365.