Discovery Kyrgyzstan
Discovery Kyrgyzstan travel guide #10/2008

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Love as a mirror of the Kyrgyz folklore

by Asel Ubaldakanova
The Kyrgyz folklore is abundant in lyrical songs, the leitmotif of which is love. And it is quite inherent in the people living in this country. It seems as if everything here has been specially created for love, and the authors derive their inspiration for creating love songs from the beauty of the mountain land they are native to. After all, the mountains and the Kyrgyz people are inseparable.

The beauty of mountains generates and shapes the beauty of feelings. Just step on a Kyrgyz mountain path, and you will hear: silver murmur of a brook, rustle of blossoming grass, tender whisper of wind. Once you mount higher, horse neighing is wafted to your ears, as well as echoes of shepherds' voices, resounding chimes of birds' singing, and rumble of waterfalls. Through scrubs, your eye catches twinkling glints from a brook, the wind from jailoo brings along scents of fresh milk and kumys, fragrant with mountain grasses and fireplace smokes. Your lungs, as well as your brain and the whole body, are imbued with that exciting feeling whose name is love.

And the love inherent in the Kyrgyz people is so strong that even the Nature, Her Majesty, bows down before it. Many legends tell about that. The most known is the legend about the "Broken Heart" mountain near the Issyk Kul lake. It tells us that once upon a time there lived a cruel, rich, old khan. He had many wives. One day, while hunting, he saw a fine young girl with long black hair, graceful gait of swan and eyes of wild roedeer. Right on setting his eyes on her, there and then, he decided to take to wife the girl. The girl was of poor family and, besides, betrothed to her childhood sweetheart. As soon as they became aware of the khan's intentions, they decided to flee and immediately they set off, but the khan ordered his soldiers to run them down. Far in mountains the pursuers caught the lovers. The soldiers killed the young man, and the girl was taken away against her will. She could not outlive the death of her beloved, her heart was broken, and she died on the way back. At that moment the Nature shuddered, and right in that place there appeared a mountain in the shape of a broken heart in memory of that fine love of bygone days.
A great number of beautiful love songs are very popular among the people and are passed on by word of mouth, from generation to generation. Nowadays, the most known performer of lyrical folk songs is Bakyt Shatenov. The prominent creator preserves and develops merits and values of folk songs. For his talent, he was awarded Grand Prix at the Talas Tanshyit international festival, in 2001, and he is a winner of many other popular festivals and contests. Bakyt Shatenov is one of the founders of the very first folk band "Kambarkan". Bakyt is not simply skillfully, but masterly performs ancient classical melodies on national instruments, such as komuz, kyl-kyiak, zhyghach ooz-komuz, temir ooz-komuz.
Komuz is fabled to be made by Kambar, an ancient hunter; it was he who became the first komuzist. Komuz is a three-stringed instrument. A komuzchu (performer) holds it in a horizontal position. Its base is made of a single-piece block of wood, usually uryuk or archa, or, less often, walnut or redwood. Its sound is sonorous, emphatic, or, on the contrary, gentle and refined.
Kyl-kyiak is a stringed bow instrument. It is made of the same sorts of wood as komuz. It has two strings and a bow - dzhaa. The shape of kyiak is scoop-like, the upper half of the base is open, and the lower half is covered with a camel skin. The strings are made of untwisted horsehair. The timbre of kyiak is muffled, gentle. On this instrument, it is possible to imitate intonations of a human voice.

Temir-komuz is a metallic instrument played by plucking, the material is brass, bronze, or copper (temir means "iron"). The instrument is held near the mouth that serves as a natural resonator. For every sound there is a special position of the 'performing set' that includes lips, mouth, throat, lungs, and, certainly, hands of the musician. The sound of the instrument is mild, silvery, with an aerial shade.
We would like to offer you the text of a typical song performed by Bakyt Shatenov, giving the idea of how lyrical, multiaspectual, and allegorical the Kyrgyz love is.

    I am a nightingale singing at dawn,
    And you are a fragrant mountain flower
    You are a heavenly star
    With a moonlike enchanting face.

To get vivid, objective, and visual idea of genuine life of the Kyrgyz people, you can go to one of Nelya Barakanova's folklore soiree. She is the director of a high school in Cholpon-Ata, Issyk Kul region, and conducts a folk group that she founded in 1999. The specificity of the group is that it immerses the spectator into a fantastic ancient world of traditions, customs, rites, life stories of the Kyrgyz, through songs, legends, dances, national dishes, and taking walks in the most picturesque places of Kyrgyzstan.
Many ancient traditions bear in themselves a profound philosophical core and take a form of some ritual. One of such rituals is drinking kumys a horsemilk drink.
If you are invited for a bowl of kumys, you will enjoy the company of those who are close to you, while being released from daily cares. The core idea of kumys-drinking is to achieve peace through a bowl of the magic sparkling drink.
Offered with all due deference and respectfully accepted, the bowl of kumys slakes your thirst and gives you spiritual strength. The ceremony of kumys-drinking rests upon harmony in relationships between people and the nature. It is a kind of respect paid to all and sundry. It arises from sincere gratitude for existence as such. And, to crown it all, kumys-drinking is purity, both physical and spiritual. The very peace of mind that comes unconsciously and unintentionally; that is, in fact, the very reason why kumys is made.

Nelya Djaparovna is a devoted popularizer of the Kyrgyz folklore. Her contribution was highly estimated even by the great writer Chinghiz Aitmatov, as well as by the first lady Mairam Akayeva and great number of other prominent people from Kyrgyzstan and abroad.
Since the earliest times, the Kyrgyz people have been setting a high value on love, relationships, intimate contact with each other; hence, there comes hospitality that runs in the veins of the people.
Perhaps, this is the main feeling that arises in and delights all guests of Kyrgyzstan. Socializing with the hearty people and exceptionally beautiful nature leaves indelible impressions on you. And you are cordially invited by the tourist company "Asian Roads" to get acquainted with all magnificence of the Kyrgyz people's cultural heritage.

Discovery Kyrgyzstan #3

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