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About Kazakhstan / Arts / Music / Aitys

Aitys (singing poetic competition)

In Kazakh culture, “yelendip” (song writer) deserved the title of “akyn” after participation in several competitions - aitys and after defeating one of the famous akyns (akyn is an improviser, the bearer of elevated high poetry). A real akyn was considered the one who defeated the rivals with artistic resourceful, witty improvisations.

Kazakh oral-poetic fund contains the various types of aitys:

  1. Traditional zhar-zhar. Wedding song performed in turn by the chorus of young people and girls when a bride enters the house of her groom.
  2. Spell “badik”. It is performed by the men’s and women’s choruses in order to expulse the spirit of the disease “badik”, as well as “badik-aitys” directly when girls and boys use the form of the spell “badik” for joyful song-poetic competitions.
  3. “Kiym aitys” when the competing young boy and girl use the existing poems improvising the last lines.
  4. Aitys of a boy and a girl, which has two types: kaiym aitys and aitys when the competing people improvise the text completely.
  5. Riddle Aitys improvised with verse.
  6. Competition in the performance of musical plays – kyuis (kyui tartys) or epos.
  7. Aitys of the orator-sheshens and biis when solving various tribe disputes.
  8. “Tak, pak, tas” when each participant tries to continue the verse pronounced by other participants of this poetic play trying to select the most successful rhyme and to complete the line.
  9. Aitys of akyns, which requires high professionalism in poetic improvisation and extremely high level of the development of poetic tradition.

Aitys genre continues to live in Kazakh culture in our days. In all the times, Kazakh traditions of oral competitions reflected the reality, artistically reproduced the historical essence characteristic for this social and cultural situation. And in our days aitys traditions are the actualized culture of the past as it “mobilizes” the experience of the past for the sake of the present.

Competitions of akyn-improvisers are characterized by the width of not only voice (singing) but by the speech (language) diapason. The most prominent akyns received the titles “sal” and “sery” (Birzhan sal, Akan sery). Sals and serys were the performers and the bearers of the oral folk creativity of the nomad civilization and had the high status in the traditional Kazakh society. They were different from others not only by wearing different clothes but also by the unique behaviour in the society. Sals and serys were always surrounded by the poet-improvisers, legend-tellers, wrestlers and musicians. The most prominent sals and serys with their retinues were always travelling along the steppe taking part in the people’s feasts. Thus, when coming to an aul, sals and serys were like peace bringers.

Taking into consideration all the mentioned features of aitys, which specify its uniqueness, we can refer aitys to the unique, authentic and the most dynamic types of Kazakh folk creativity. In principle, no other cultures have anything similar to aitys and this shows its uniqueness as a cultural phenomenon and confirms the contribution of the Kazakh tradition into the treasury of the global civilization.

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