Instruments from Kazakhstan


On the occasion of Kazakhstan's 30th anniversary of independence, the embassy of this Central Asian republic made a gift to the mim of three instruments representative of Kazakh music: a dömbra lute (inv. 2021.0012.001), a qobuz fiddle (inv. 2021.0012.002) and a sybyzgy flute (inv. 2021.0012.003). This donation is very welcome as the cultures of Central Asia are still poorly represented in the museum's permanent collections. As a vast region inhabited for a long time by nomadic pastoralists, Central Asia links the civilisations of Asia: the musical instruments found there are related to instruments found in large parts of the continent and even beyond.

Qobuz, inv. 2021.0012.002

The qobuz (fig.1) is a two-stringed fiddle carved from thick wood with a soundbox partially covered with skin. The typical shapes of the instrument, with the protruding upper part of the body, can be found from one specimen to another, but the proportions, size and construction of the qobuz vary from one instrument to another.

Qobuz player in Orenburg, MIMICO_ACP062r

The qobuz is an instrument deeply linked to Central Asian shamanism, and it is played as an accompaniment to epic tales or as a solo instrument in purely instrumental pieces. During the Soviet period, the qobuz, like many other instruments, was modified to meet new needs: a four-stringed qobuz was created whose shape was inspired by that of the violin. The instrument of the mim has a traditional shape and is made in the present day, carved from a block made of several pieces of wood, the pegs are on the sides, the strings and the bow are made of horsehair.

Dömbra, inv. 2021.0012.001

The dömbra is an elegant, long-necked, two-stringed lute typical of Asian music, particularly that of the Turkish and Iranian peoples. It is often used to accompany epic tales and folk songs. The dömbra the mim received is pear-shaped (typical of western Kazakhstan), the neck has 18 frets, the frets and strings are made of nylon, the pegs are dorsal. The soundboard is decorated with marquetry and the back is made of seven ribs.

Sybyzgy, inv. 2021.0012.003

The sybyzgy flute is a traditional shepherd's instrument. It is a flute with a terminal mouthpiece played by blowing on the edge of the tube. This kind of instrument, whose principle is simple, is found in different forms in Asia and Africa. The best known in Europe is probably the nay. The sybyzgi that the mim received, of current manufacture, is formed with a thin sheet of wood rolled up to form a cylinder of 2 cm in diameter and 80 cm in length. This sybysgy has six finger holes and one thumb hole.

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