The English author GK Chesterton may have
thought that "music with dinner is an insult to both the cook and the
violinist", but in many restaurants in the Kyrgyz Republic you will
encounter music either live performances, or the "canned" variety. Some
performers concentrate on classical or "easy listening" music, whilst
others specialize in jazz, rock or "pop" music. It is also possible to
find groups performing traditional music song and dance. With over 80
different nationalities represented in its population, the Kyrgyz
Republic has a wide range of ensembles, or troupes, which can offer
performances, often complete with national costume, to enrich a visit
to this remote mountainous country. Several of the ensembles have
recorded their own CD's and these offer the chance to take home audio
memories of a visit to Kyrgyzstan. Many of them have also travelled
abroad and performed in various festivals. One such group is "Jetigen"
an ensemble of children, (aged between 12 and 18), based at Music
School number 7 in Southern Bishkek. Having won many competitions, they
were invited in 2006 to take part, representing Kyrgyzstan, in the
International Festival "Children Against Terrorism" in Moscow joining
with over 3500 other young performers from over 50 different countries.
They have been invited back in 2007. There are also a number of other
ensembles, (amateur, semi-professional or professional), such as: Do'or
(an ensemble based in the Philharmonia in Bishkek); Ordo Sakhna;
Muundan Muunga ("From Generation to Generation"); Enesai; and the
Cossak ensemble "Kazachya Piesnya". Performances may feature a variety
of traditional instruments such as the Komuz (a versatile three
stringed lute, or mandolin, made usually from apricot wood and with a
variety of tonal qualities), the temir komuz (or Jew's Harp), and the
haunting Chopo Choor, (as well as less traditional
instruments, such as the accordian, flute, and even synthesizer) and
both singing and dancing.
special feature for a performance could be an appearance of a manaschi
someone who has memorized and recites passages from the epic poem which
tells of the life and adventures of the legendary hero of the Kyrgyz,
Manas. The Manas epic is part of a wider tradition or storytelling
being passed from one generation to the next orally and which were only
written down at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Most of the Community Based Groups around the country can arrange for a
musician or group of musicians to visit a homestay, or yurt.
Performances in domestic surroundings can give a level of intimacy
allowing the audience to get a closer acquantance with the instruments
and costumes, to ask questions and perhaps, even, to try their hand
playing some of them.
Also, traditional Kyrgyz music, complete with a performance by a
manaschi and competitions between akyns, (a form of traditional bard),
are often a feature of the many festivals which take place throughout
the summer. One thing that all the performers seem to have in common,
whether professional or amateur, youth group or adult ensemble, is an
infectious enthusiasm for their music ... an enthusiasm which is
invariably transferred to their audiences.
For those interested in erxperiencing some of the traditional culture
of the region then concerts of traditional folk music, (a common
feature of tours all over the world), then tour companies can arrange
concert performances with or without dinner.