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Komuz | The Kyrgyz Guitar

The traditional Kyrgyz komuz is a three-stringed instrument, with an elongated pear-shaped body.  Usually a komuz is crafted from one piece of wood - apricot or walnut being the most common.  In the past, the strings were formed from the intestinal sinews of sheep or goat, but today synthetic strings are the norm on most instruments.  The komuz is lightweight, born on the meadows of mountains into the nomadic lifestyle of Kyrgyz shepherds.  The sounds of the komuz, to the Kyrgyz ear, reflect the sounds of nature and recall scenes of lonesome mountain life.  Most songs are either extolling the praises of a beloved beauty, or pining for the days of jailoo.  

The komuz does not have frets, and therefore notes and finger placement are deeply connected to the player’s sense of pitch and dedication to practice.  Usually held horizontally on one knee, performance on the komuz is as much about the sounds, tones, and rhythms as it is the choreography and showmanship.  Players learn to “dance” with their wrists, elbows, and fingers while they strum, thrum, and pluck the strings.  Experienced players demonstrate their mastery by moving the komuz into different positions while continuing to play, sometimes on the shoulder, upside down, or even behind their head! 

Komuz classes are still an integral part of a school’s curriculum, though continued development by dedicated students is pursued through specialized music schools and teachers.  School programs for various holidays will inevitable include a group performance of students on the komuz, impressive to behold with its synchronization of sound and movement.  Professional players are still brought together for national events, and renown “komuzchu” (komuz masters) are sought after as teachers, ensuring that the musical traditions of Kyrgyzstan continue to be shared through each generation. 

A thousand komuz players performed Mash Botoi at the opening ceremony of the Nomad Games.


Ruby Mitchell

Online Content Editor @ White Leopard Travel Co.


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