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Kui (instrumental musical composition)

Kui is an instrumental musical composition with 1,5-4 minutes length. This type of composition is met in musical culture of almost all Kipchak peoples, including Kazakhs and Kyrgyzs. Kui is performed with different national plucked, bow and wind instruments such as Dombyra, Qobyz, Syrnai, etc. Mostly Kuis are performed with plucked instruments: Dombyra of Kazakhs and Komuz of Kyrgyzs. In 20-ies centuries Kazakh soviet musicians experimented with chorus performance of Kuis.


In Kazakh culture Kuis were learned by heart and passed from generation to generation without written fixation. For example Kazakh folk Kui “aqsaq qulan”(lame onager) is dated 13 century. Authors of many famous Kazakh Kuis lived in Middle Ages. But the pick of the culture comes to 19 and 20 centuries. Kui tradition included also verbal part that explained in detail the story for the Kui composition, personalities, reasons and legends of it. So before performing the Kui the performer used to give a story about the composition to play, so the auditory could get proper feelings from that. But by the time the verbal tradition for Kuis was finally separated from instrumental performances and only few Kuishi (performer of Kui) still keep this verbal part of Kazakh instrumental Kui tradition.

Ancient composers of Kuis

Dombyra Kuis were formed in the result centuries-old folk instrumental performance tradition. The are many outstanding middle age musicians in Kazakh history: Sypyra-Zhyrau (14 century), Qaztugan or Abulqadir (15 century), Asanqaigy (14-15 centuries), Baizhigit (15-16 centuries). But the culmination of the culture was achieved by the middle of 19 century . Then very many famous composers lived and created famous Kuis: Qurmangazy Sagyrbai (1823-1889), Mahambet Otemisuly (Utemisov, 1803-1846), Dauletkerei Shygauly (Shygaev, 1821-1875 ), Tattimbet Qazangapuly (Kazangapov, 1817-1862), Abyl Taraquly, (Taraqov, 1820-1892), Esbai (1810-1901), Qazangap, 1854-1921), Toqa Shonmanuly (Shonmanov), 1830-1904), and others. The famous composer woman Dina Nurpeisqyzy, or Dina Nurpisova (1861-1955) also began then her career. We can’t miss from the list Sugir Aliuly, or Sugur Aliev (1882-1961) and many others.

Types of Kui

There are folks Kuis and Kuis composed by Authors. It said that folks Kui may take their beginning from ritual worship acts of nomad tribes. Ever famous Kuishy (Performer of Kui) had his own unique techniques and features.
The themes of Kuis are very fifferent: from philosophic thoughts to the wildness of nature. For example Dauletkerei’s Kui, «Zhiger» that means “energy to live” or Qazangap’s Kui “Kokil” that means “melody of my soul”; Osen Tore’s Kui, “ottin dunie, kettin dunie” that means “my days have past”. Other Kuis represent detailed psychological portraits of individuals (Qurmangazy’s Kui “Toremurat”-the name of a male person; Mamen’s Kui “Aqsholpan” which is the name of a woman; Dina’s “Asem qonyr”. Other Kuis are about mother land-vast fields of Steppe: Qurmangazy’s Kui «Sary Arqa» that means “Golden Steppe”; Tattimbet’s Kui “Sarzhailau”-Golden Plateau; Bogda’s Kui “Zhem Suynyn tasqyny” means “flood of the Zhem River”.

The other part of Kuis are dedicated to some events in the lives of Kuishis or composers. (Qurmangazy’s Kui “Aman bol sheshem, aman bol” means Take care, Mama, Take care; Tattimbet’s Kui “Kokei kesti” internal disturbance; Dina’s “Qaraqasqa at” means a dark horse with white spot on its head.
Another group of Kuis is formed with Kuis dedicated to the birds and animals: folks’ “Bozingen” means white female camel, Telkqonyr-which is the name of a horse; Ashimtai’s “Qonyr qaz” means “brown goose”; Sugir’s Kui “Aqqu” means “white swan”. So we can say that nomads expressed very thoroughly the environment of their daily life through Kuis.


Kui tradition

There are two musical types of Kuis; tokpe kuis (prevail in Western Kazakhstan) and shertpe kuis (Eastern, Southern and Central Kazakhstan). Shertpe kui differs from Tokpe kui in the sense of the theme, forms, and performance. Western tokpe Kuis reflect dramatic events, give very strong aggressive associations. These Kuis are composed according to its rules –certain sequence of tone sets on the Dombyra neck.
Shertpe Kuis do not have such rules for composing. The are very melodic and seem to be a sound truck for songs. The are free in the style. They give very deep, gentle and soft associations.
Most prominent composers of Tokpe Kuis are Qurmangazy, Dauletkerey, Qazangap, Abyl, Esir, Esbay, Dina, Seitek, etc. The biggest figure in Kui tradition is undoughtly Qurmangazy from western school of Kui tradition. He created the biggest hits among Kui compositions. Shertpe tradition is represented by Baizhigit, Tattimbet, Toqa, Dairabai, Sugur, Ryzdyq, Abiken, Tolegen and many others.
From the National Library of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Books in Russian.

1. Akishev K.A.  "Kurgan of Issyk". — Moscow, 1978.

2. Alekseeva L. А., Nazhmedenov Zh. "Uniqueness of the Kazakh dombyra sound and tuning//Kazakh Culture:reseaches. Scientific articles brochure, Almaty, 2000.

3. Alekseeva L. А., Nazhmedenov Zh. Features of Kazakh Dombyra.// My i vselennaya journal. 2001.№ 1(6), p52-54.

4. Amanov B. Terms of compositions for dombyra Kui. Alma-Ata, 1982.

5. Aravin P.V. Steppe's stars. — Alma-ata, 1979.

6. Aravin P.V. Great Kuishi Dauletkerei.-Alma-ata, 1964.

7. Asafjef B.V. About Kazakh folk music.//Musical culture of Kazakhstan.-Alma-Ata, 1955.

8. Baramankulov M. Turkic space.-Almaty, 1996.

9. Vyzgo T. Musical instrumentsof the Central Asia.-Moscow, 1980.

10. Gizatov B.. Social and esthetic basics of Kazakh folk instrumental music.-Alma-Ata, 1989.

11. Zhubanov A.K. Dombyra-Kazakh national instrument.//Muzykoznanie journal.-Alma-Ata, 1976. p.8-10.

12. Stakhov V. Arts od violin master. — Leningrad, 1988.

13. Nazhmedenov Zh. Acoustic features of Kazakh Dombyra. Aktobe, 2003.

14. Utegalieva S.I. Dombyra tradition in Mangystau. Almaty, 1997.

·    National library of the Republic of Kazakhstan [1]
·    Assyl Mura ethnic heritance project [2]

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