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About Kazakhstan / Arts / Music / Folklore

Since ancient times, poetic creativity entered the life mode of the Kazakh people. The works of the early and middle-age Turk literature referred to VIII-XI centuries are the evidence of the presence of the formed poetic traditions of Turk-speaking people who lived on the territory of Kazakhstan and Central Asia.

The most important feature of Kazakh oral creativity is improvisation. It was characteristic not only to the works of famous folk poets, but it also had wide population.

Kazakh folklore reflects the rich and many-sided experience of the people. Oral poetic creativity reflected the social consciousness of Kazakhs, their social and family mode of life in the conditions of the nomad patriarchal feudal society.

Unique genres of Kazakh oral poetry are in close connection with life of the people. Along with the fairy-tales, proverbs and riddles, significant place in Kazakh folklore before the twenties of XX century was occupied by the heroic and social epos, poetic competitions and various ritual songs.

Traditions and way of life of Kazakhs are reflected in the ritual songs, which would always accompany all the significant events in the life of the people: feasts, matchmaking and wedding, funeral and commemoration. Such ritual songs as toy bastar, zhar-zhar, bet-ashar were very popular.

Toy Bastar is the song announcing the start of the feast.

Zhar-Zhar is the wedding song performed by boys and girls. A bride sings about her destiny, that she now has to stay in someone’s family, away from her native aul. Men (her bridegroom and his relatives) are striving in their counter song to persuade the bride in the necessity of the marriage, soothing her that in the groom’s aul she will find the new family, and the husband’s parents will replace her father and mother.

Bet-Ashar is the song accompanying the ritual of introducing a young bride to the relatives and friends of her husband. Its main content is the instructions to the bride who (in the conditions of the patriarchal feudal laws) had to obey to her husband, his elder relatives.

The song yestirtu was performed when informing about the sad news (about death), and the song zhoktau is the song-mourning.

Ritual songs forming the necessary ceremonial link praised the personal qualities and merits of people, their humanity, honesty and labour.

Kazakh fairy-tales often include such magic characters as one-eye giant, seven-head dragon, old she-ogre who would swallow people; zhez tyrnak is she-creature who would kill people with her metal claws. They were representing evil that would hinder people to achieve their goals and that would make problems for people. But eventually people would win – some fighter for justice and truth. Some magic creatures were helping the people in the fight against evil: tausogar is the one who moves mountains; kolzhutar is the one who can swallow the sea, sakkulak is the one who can hear other ends of the world, zhelayak is the one who can cover long distances. Animals with supernatural properties were friends and assistants of people. Magic horse Ker-kula that would cover long distances had the ability to talk. Positive characters were also sheep, goat, camel and cow.

Along with fairy-tales about the animals there were fairy-tales about the everyday life, which contained not magic creatures but characters from the actual reality. Thus, the character in the fairy-tale “Ayaz Bii”, which is popular amongth the people, was the poor man who was smarter and wittier than khan and all his viziers and who became the khan himself thanks to his personal qualities.

Many legends are connected with the names of nifty Zhirenshe and his wife Karlygash who would always win the khans with their quick wits, irresistible logics of their thoughts, and there are legends about Aldar-kose who thanks to his rich imagination, slyness and cunningness easily defeats those who have power and authority.

As we have already mentioned, the ideology of Kazakhs in different epochs, the fight for justice and good were reflected in many fairy-tales – magic fairy-tales and fairy-tales about the everyday life, diary-tales about animals – horse, sheep, camel, which are the friends of the people.

Traditional and characteristic form of Kazakh folklore was aitys – the song dialogue, competition of folk poets in improvisation. The best songs created during these competitions were transferred from one generation to another.

The unique unrepeatable genre of Kazakh folklore is lyrical song, improvised song filled in with the feelings praising love, the beauty of a girl etc.

Many talented akyns (poets-improvisers) would not only create songs and music but they were also the experts of eposes, legends, songs and traditions.

Nowadays great attention is paid to preserving and reviving Kazakh folklore, local and foreign scientists conduct its study, fixation and publication.

Maintaining traditions of akyns’ professionalism, their concert activity, teaching students and conducting research studies on this topic is one of the directions in the international cooperation of foreign companies, in particular, the representative offices of UNESCO in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

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