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KYL KOBYZ

 

The KYL KOBYZ sounds quite different than all other string-instruments we know. The two strings and the bow are madeof horsehair, which produces a wide range of sounds with a deep and mystical character. It is the most ancient musical instrument of the Kazakh people and over the centuries was mostly played by Shamans of the Asian steppe. The very roots of the instrument lead us back to the ninth century to KORKYT ATA, an Elder with profound wisdom, with a deep Love for all of creation and the special gift to enchant all beings with the sound of his music. Kazakh legends tell, that KORKYT ATA, in search for immortality, flew arround the four sides of the world on his winged camel Zhelmaya, but Death was already awaiting him everywhere. So KORKYT ATA came back to the Centre of the world, to the banks of the river Syr-Darya. 

 

While sleeping, he once saw an Angel in his dreams, who told him to build an instrument similar to a human’s voice to protect him against death. For a long time he worked very hard on it, but could not finish the instrument. So the Angel appeared again and told him exactly, what to do: “Korkyt, your Kobyz is like a six-year old castrated camel’s shin. Cover it with the leather of a Dromedar, make a rack of dark-red goat horns and pull the strings of non-woven horsehair of a five-year old stallion and you will have a wonderful instrument.” When he woke up, he hurried to build it right away and this time succeeded. While playing on his KYL KOBYZ, KORKYT felt the protective power of the instrument. He became a strong spirit and believed in eternal life on earth and finally decided to live at the water, where he played continuously day and night, sitting on a carpet at the river. And while he was playing, Death was powerless and could not get him out of this world. One day KORKYT became tired and fell asleep, so Death came in disguise of a snake and bit him, and he became “neither alive nor dead”.

 

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Later on KYL KOBYZ was considered as the main instrument to connect people with the “Higher Powers”– with Aruhas (spirits) and with Tengri, and it was passed on to Shamans, to fulfill KORKYT ATA’s dream to help people by playing on the KYL KOBYZ. Kazakh people were able to survive under the harsh living conditions of the Steppe. By knowing and feeling deeply, that Nature, People and Space were one, they were able to protect the large country from external enemies. For their support they used the KYL KOBYZ, a legacy from KORKYT ATA, to help all beings. The instrument was considered to have the power to cure ailments, sorrows and even death, so the legend of Korkyt became an important part of the spiritual heritage of Kazakh people and their philosophical and aesthetic values.

 

Spreading across the world over centuries the KYL KOBYZ changed and became a basis for the bowed instruments of many nations around the world, including European instruments such as violin, viola, cello and contrabass, which became concert musical instruments. But only among Turkic nations it was preserved until the 20th century to serve its initial sacred purposes.