On my second last day in Almaty I visited the fantastic „Museum of National Musical Instruments“. It is located very nicely in the Panfilov park and already the building itself is worth seeing. It was built beginning of the 20th century out of wood same as the Ascension Cathedral which can be found in the direct neighbourhood of the museum in the same park.
The extensive exhibition which mainly shows historical instruments by prominent Kazakh artists, is well lit and also inscribed in English. So you get the full information even without knowledge of Russian or Kazakh language. The subtle background music matching the exhibition and completes the pleasant atmosphere of the museum.
Among the most important Kazakh musical instruments are the two-stringed plucked Dombra and the also two-stringed very ancient Kobyz. The Kobyz is a shamanistic instrument which is played with a bow. Both the strings and the bow are made of horse hair.
Another important Kazakh instrument is the traditionally seven stringed Zhetigen. The legend says that in warlike times a man had seven sons. When the first son fell in the war the father started to build this instrument with one string. After the death of the last son it had seven strings. In Kazakh language „Zheti“ means seven. The instrument can have 7 to 23 strings. Nowadays ensembles and orchestras usually use instruments with 23 strings.
Also I want to mention the Orteke. The capricorn on top is by strings connected with the finger of a Dombra player. When he plays the capricorn starts to jumb. On the pictures you can see an old Orteke with three capricorns. Today I learned that the knowledge to built Orteke with three animals got lost. Nowadays there is just one master who still builts Ortekes with one animal.
In an additional hall the museum exhibits musical instruments from other nations belonging to the Turkish/Mongolian culture. Here you can see the exhibition of Uzbek musical instruments including Karalpak ones. The culture of the Karalpak people living in the Autonomous Republic of Karalpakstan which can be found in the west of Uzbekistan is very close to the Kazakh culture. That’s why you can find similar instruments there like the Kobyz which is not used by the Uzbek people.
While leaving the museum there were already dark clouds in the air and I hardly managed to get back to my apartment without getting wet.