Kazakh traditional musical instruments and ethnic music

Kazakh traditional music can be divided into two genres: instrumental music and vocal music. Instrumental music is called Kuy and performed by soloists using Kazakh traditional musical instruments, e.g. dombra, kobyz, etc. Among the most famous kuy composers are Kurmangazy, Dina, Dauletkerey, Tattimbet, etc.


Dombra is probably the most popular Kazakh musical instrument. The uniqueness is that its gentle, soft and velvety melodious sound is produced by only two strings.

Nowadays some dombra kuys are arranged and performed in rock or modern pop style, e.g. by Ulytau, Asylbek Ensepov, and even classical music is performed by traditional Kazakh instruments, which give them new sounding.

Here is an example of a Kazakh kuy played on dombra:


According to archeologists, along with dombra, a kobyz was also one of the most common musical instruments of early nomads. Kobyz is a bowed string instrument, mainly used in religious and magical rituals by baqsi (shamans), as well as folk singers. Kobyz served as a means of communication with the spirits. Imitation of nature sounds are distinctive to kobyz kuys, e.g. howling of wolves, cry of swans, running horse, or the sound of a released arrow.

Zhetygen is an ancient Kazakh and Turkic stringed musical instrument resembling a lying harp. Classic zhetygen has seven strings while modern renovated one has 15 strings.