Olympic Focus: Kazakhstan

On Sunday, Kazakhstan won its second gold medal of the 2012 London Olympics. Records were broken. Physical boundaries were pushed. Kilograms in amounts unfathomable to us Americans – don’t worry, I’ll convert for you – were lifted. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, Kazakhstan won the Women’s Weightlifting 53kg (117lbs) division. Keep reading to find about this nineteen-year-old gold-medalist (and to learn a bit about music from her home country).

Zulfiya Chinshanlo

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You may be wondering what this athletic profile is doing on our “Classical Musings” blog. Good question.

WDAV is trying to add a melodic twist to this year’s Olympic coverage. And of course, Chinshanlo’s victory got us thinking about what else but the music of Kazakhstan. Check out the country’s national anthem as you get in the mood to learn more about Kazakhstan’s rich music culture.

Music in Kazakhstan

Nearly every large city in Kazakhstan has a philharmonic society consisting of chamber ensembles, orchestras that use traditional instruments, and symphony orchestras that use instruments with which the Western world is most familiar. Operas and ballets are continually being revamped or newly composed. Fusion music has even found its niche in Kazakhstan; one can hear pieces that combine traditional instrumental and vocal genres with the genres of pop, jazz, and rock.

Having grown steadily since the country’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Kazakh music culture remains rooted in the Kazakhstan’s sense of national and global identity. The nomadic life that ancient Kazakhs once lived is represented in common melodic motives of landscapes and nature as well as in the strongly developed genres of solo vocal and instrumental music.

Take, for example, the narrative pieces called kui, which can be translated as “frame of mind” or “mood.” Kuis tell stories or symbolize feelings and images by using only melody and rhythm – no vocals. These pieces are usually played on Kazakhstan’s national instrument the dombra, a long-necked, two-stringed, fretted lute.

Enjoy this traditional piece - a la YouTube - performed by the Kazakh Orchestra of Folk Instruments:

 

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