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Kazakh folk customs are discovered in the wedding ritual. The attitude of the bride’s parents to the bridegroom was free from many customs dictated by islam. After the engagement and the first payment of kalym the bridegroom had a right to visit the bride “secretly”, usually at the brother’s place or at the house of the bride’s relatives. The second visit was open. When islam didn’t have great influence on the family life of Kazakh people the family ties were secured by the people’s common approving, singing chorus songs “zhar-zhar” performed at the wedding celebration. “Zhar-zhar” is a song-competition. It is usually sung by two groups of young people. The men’s group is headed by the bridegroom and the women’s one by the bride. The tradition demanded that the bride accompanied by her friends and singing a farewell song should visit every yurta od aul and the neighbouring ones.
In the bridegroom’s aul the bride was greeted by traditional singing, which was called “bet ashar” (opening of the bride’s face). Besides kalym the bridegroom’s relatives prepared different presents for bird’s relatives. The bird’s parents were not in debt either. During the engagement they had to give the pledge of the engagement’s validity and presents for proposing people. The bride’s thousseau cost very dear, sometimes exceeding the cost of the kalym.
Folk celebrations. Folk celebrations played a great role in the cultural life of Kazakh people and they were dedicated to the most important events in life – wedding, birth of a child, funeral. At the celebrations different games were arranged: horse races – baige, wrestling – kures, fighting of the horsemen who had to throw each other down from horses – saiys, or snatch the goat’s carcass one from another – kokpar. Valuable prizes were prepared for the participants of these games.
A “Yurt” is a traditional Kazakh structure for a home. Since the Kazakhs were originally a nomadic people, they had homes that could easily be set up, taken down and moved from one place to another. These yurts, therefore, are made from long curved pieces of wood that are tied together to create the skeleton for this round house. Large pieces of felt are placed over the wood and rugs re laced inside the yurt on the floor, to provide warmth and protection from the elements of nature. If you were to enter a yurt you would see many colorful and beautifully hand – crafted articles such as rugs and blankets. As a quest you set at a round low table and eat such Kazakh delicacies as “karta”, “kazy” (round pieces of dried horse meat) and “beshbarmak”. Beshbarmak literally means “five fingers” in Kazakh and it is a disk made with noodles onions and sheep’s meat. This meal is traditionally served with a sheep’s head which is set at the “piece of honor” – the head of the table. An elder usually has the task of cutting the sheep’s head and saying a blessing or a comment while giving each part of the head to a different person. Meal is accompanied by “baursak” – small round pieces of dough. At the end of the meal you may sit and have tea, perhaps while listening to the musicians tune up a “dombra” is a two – stringed instrument. Many Kazakhs have a deep love for music and singing, one listens to a concert of traditional Kazakh tunes with topics such as love and war.
Ancient Kazakh games are in progress, men ride about on their horses. Game competitions are the following:
-who can ride the fastest
-who is the first to catch a maiden and kiss her
-who is the most agile at leaning down to pick up an article before the others can reach him and etc.
Almost all games are fast and entertaining and they focus on the men and their ability to master their horses. Even today many Kazakh men need to have strong, fast horses who will obey their commands while herding sheep across the great plains of Kazakhstan. Aside from traditional foods, games, songs the other major feature of Kazakh culture is the traditional costumes that men and women wear. The most impressing are bride and groom costumes. The groom wears the Chopin (the long robe) and extremely, beautiful hat. The bride puts on the multi-layered white gown with a long vest, her hat is tall with a long flowing veil. If the veil is behind the bride’s head, the woman has already “opened her face” and the wedding ceremony has been completed.
The New Year Day – Nauryz – was celebrated by the Kazakhs as a beginning of spring. During the celebration of Nauryz relatives made up at the festive table, exchanged presents and wished prosperity to each other. The main ritual dish of this ancient holiday is Nauryz Kozhe. It includes 7 compulsory elements, each standing for a vital beginning: water, meat, flour, millet (rice, wheat), milk, salt, butter. These components symbolize happiness, luck, youth, health, wealth, guick growth, the heaven’s patronage. In spring people try to get renewed physically and spiritually – give debts, throw away old things, brush clothes, housing, canals. They apologize to their close people for the past sins, make up with neighbours, invite guests, prepare presents for the relatives. Everybody should visit seven houses and accept seven guest.
Nowadays Naurryz is celebrated in the street, avenues, stadiums. People watch oral competitions of akyns – poets, contests in national kinds of sport. Every such celebration is accompanied by such games as “ket beri” – a grey wolf, “kyz beri” – a wolf-girl. The mass character is a feature of the sports game zharys – a horse competition. The more important kind of sports contests is altyn tabak – shooting into a golden disc. All these holidays and knowledge of customs and traditions make people closer to each other, teach them to respect national culture and native land.
Nauryz ia an ancient Turkic holiday of the New Year. Nauryz comes from Persian “nau – new, ruz – year” Before that New year was called “Ulys Kuni” meaning tribe day. Nayryz comes on march 22, a day of spring equinox. It is celebrated by all Turkic people – Kazakh, Uzbek, Tadgic and others. The main ritual of the festival is nayryz – kozheh. It concludes seven ingredients signifying the seven life beginnings – water, meat, salt, fat, flour, cereal (Rise, corn, wheat) and milk. They symbolize joy, luck, wisdom, health, speed growth and Heavenly protection. In spring people are in a hurry to revive themselves both physically and spiritually, liquidate their debts, get rid of old things, repair clothes, the house, waiter canals and wells, ask for forgiveness for past wrings, reconcile with neighbors, invite guests and present relatives with gifts! “Koktem tudy” (Spring is born) say Kazakhs today and meet Nayryz. People witness sharp verbal competitions of akyns, contests in national sports – Kazakhsha – kures, toguz-kumalak, horse competitions like kuz – kuu, Baiga, Nauryz has become the holiday of all multi – national people of Kazakhstan.
The life of nomads was always accompanied by music. They were creative people and used every material in making instruments. There was enough of such material in the steppe – reed, wood, leather. Also bones of animals, cattle’s horns and hoofs, simple clay were used. Among folk musical instruments which were especially popular dombra, kobyz, sybyzgy, dayylkaz, syrnai should be named. The music was divided into songs and instrumental one (kyuis). The kyuis usually accompanied the beginning of the meetings of the kins heads. The shepherds accompanied herds of sheep performing kyuis on sybyzgy (a kind of wind-instruments, like a flute). The warriors entered the battle to the sounds of dauylkaz (a beat-instrument).
The songs sounded in campaigns, at weddings and parties of young people. Akyns (singing poets) performed songs to the accompaniment of a two-string dombra. There were often contents (aityses) at the family or kin events, celebrations. Different perfomers participated in them: akyn (poet), zhyrau or zhyrshy (epos or legend teller), anshi and olenshi (singer), kyuishi (instrumentalis) , yertekshi (a fairy tale teller), ku and sykkakoi ( humourist, imitator). The contents between the professional artsmen obliged them to improve the performing mastership systematically. They had to be in the centre of events in order to react to the important themes in people’s life. People added honourable prefixes “sal” and “sere” to the names of the most popular authors. One of the famous kyuishes (the kyuis performer) of the XIX century was Kurmangazy Sagyrbayev (1818-1889). A famous composer, founder of the national instrumental music, he was characterized by his unique, bright, creative play on dombra. While working at the performing mastership he reached the highest levels in art. His kyuis reflect steppe sounds, smells and colours. His famous kyui “Sary Akra” performed at the international contest by the Kazakh Academic orchestra of folk instruments was awarded with a reward and glorified the name of Kurmangazy and all Kazakh people. Akhmet Zhubanov (1906-1968) continued Kurmangazy’s work. His best works are “Abai” symphony, “Kurmangazy” opera. He collected and carefully kept Kazakh folk melodies and songs. One of A.Zhubanov’s pupils is Nurgisah Tlendiyev (1925-1998). It is a bright name in the modern musical life of Kazakhstan. At the age of 14 Nurgisah became a conductor of an orchestra. Since that time he has made 400 orchestra preludes, plays, music for 20 films.
Among the famous singers of Kazakhstan the first and still shining name is Kulyash Baiseyitova (1912-1957). She was the country’s pride and fime, won common recognition. She was called a nightingale of the Kazakh folk. She was awarded the state reward for playing the part of Sarah in the opera “Birzhan Sarah” by M.Tulebayev.
Another famous modern actress and singer whose name is connected with classical music is Bibigul Tulegenova. Her splendid mastership of voice, charm, ability to change immediately have been attracting spectators for many years. The inimitable talent won all the people’s recognition.