Hear the Sounds of the Silk Route: Music of the Karakalpaks (VIDEO)
In the remote desert region of western Uzbekistan lies the small city of Nukus. It’s here that you’ll find the famous Savitsky Art Museum, which houses a massive collection of once banned Russian avant-garde art.
It’s also the capital of the autonomous region of Karakalpakstan, home to the Karakalpaks, a Turkic people more closely related to Kazakhs than Uzbeks. Though they only comprise about a third of the area’s population, they take immense pride in their history and culture, a trait reflected most notably in their vibrant musical traditions.
The first half of the clip features a type of bard known as a jiraw. Jiraws are masters of throat-singing and typically choose epics that portray the courageous deeds of a well-known hero. They often play on an upright fiddle known as a qobiz, which is meant to imitate and complement the unique sounds of throat singing.
The second half shows another type of musician, known as a baqsi. A baqsi sings more lyrical epics, illustrating love stories, historical accounts, or favorite Karakalpak myths. The instrument of choice for the baqsi is a duwtar, a two-stringed lute with a long neck. Though they usually play solo, baqsis may also perform with an ensemble; in the video, for example, the male baqsi is joined by a woman on the girdjek, a fiddle that rests on a long spike.
Karakalpaks had no written language until the early 20th century, so history, myth and knowledge were passed down orally through epic tales and poetry. Musicians memorized these poems and developed individual performance styles, composing original pieces and adding lyrical embellishments or expressive facial movements to entertain their listeners.
Travel to Uzbekistan with MIR
MIR has 30 years of travel experience in Central Asia and has an affiliate office in Uzbekistan. We have a roster of contacts that can take you to places that you didn’t even know you wanted to go. Our full service, dedication, commitment to quality, and destination expertise have twice earned us a place on National Geographic Adventure’s list of “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth.”
You can see a traditional Karakalpak music performance at the Savitsky Art Museum on MIR’s small group tour, Silk Route Odyssey: Caravan Across Uzbekistan. Or we can arrange a private performance on a custom journey based on your interests and schedule.
Top photo: Three Uzbek musicians pose for a photo after a private performance. Photo credit: Lindsay Fincher
PUBLISHED: July 21, 2016