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Komuz – This is the most popular and widespread stringed instrument. It is also known as the “chertmek”, (from the word “chertuu” – which literally means “clicking, striking”). There are a number of legends about the origin of the komuz. One tells of a Kyrgyz hunter, Kambarkan, who knew the “language” of many birds and wild animals, so that he could recognize them each by their voice. Once, when he was in the forest, he heard a new and wonderful sound. He was so taken by this incredible new sound that he could not leave the forest until he had discovered its source, and so he looked around to see if he could find where it was coming from. He climbed a tree to get a better vantage point, and there he saw two branches of a neighbouring tree connected by the dried intestine of a squirrel. The sound seemed to emanate from that “string”. “Perhaps,” he thought to himself, “she had tried jumping from one branch of the tree to another, but cut herself open”. Anyway, he took the string and a piece of wood from the tree and fashioned for himself a musical instrument – and became known as the Father of Melody.  
Another legend tells how an old komuzist befriended a nightingale … that was entranced by his playing that she asked him to teach her to sing like the komuz – giving rise to a saying that the instrument taught even the nightingale how to sing.  
The Komuz is a three-stringed instrument, unlike the similar instruments of other Central Asian peoples which have just two strings. The Komuzchu (the komuzist – the person who plays the Komuz), holds the instrument in a horizontal position, usually, while sitting – although occasionally they will perform when standing. Below you can see a short video clip demonstrating how to play komuz (performed by Asylbek Nasirdinov, composer and professional musician. The melody is called "Chabarman" and is written by himself).

Recorded by: Olga Zaichenko, Sands Design studio

Length: 1 min 05 sec

Format: Wmf (Winamp Media File)

File size: About 12,3 Mb


Traditionaly, the komuz is pear-shaped with the case, neck and head made from one single piece of wood, usually apricot, archa (juniper), and more rarely of walnut or redwood. Before the 20th Century strings were made from sheep gut, but then it became possible to use plastic. The size of the komuz depends upon local traditions and the individual craftsman. For example, the komuzist Toktogul Satylganov, a representative of the South-western tradition, favoured a smaller diameter for the case of the instrument. There are many outstanding performers who played the komuz of their own work, such as Murataaly, Karamoldo and Toktogul. People who made komuz are often talented players as well. To meet the demand for instruments the Industrial Combine of the Republican Theatrical Society established a special workshop to manufacture them according to standards set by the State Standards Agency, and this continues today in a workshop of the Kyrgyz State Philharmonic Society.

Famous Komuzists include:

Karamoldo – the komuzist who "played all day";
Atai Ogonbaev – who "soothed" the heart of a dictator;
Toktogul Satylganov – the most famous akyn of the twentieth century.

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