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International Music Resources by Country: Kazakhstan

International Music Resources offers an array of online and physical resources both freely available and/or offered by the George F. DeVine Music Library. The information included in these guides may serve as a starting point for the study and research of

Almaty, Kazakhstan Panorama photo

Citation (1)

Facts in Brief

Flag of Kazakhstan


Capital: Nur-Sultan

Official Language:  Kazakh; Russian is employed officially in state and local government bodies.

Current Population: 18,879,552

Area: 2,724,900 sq km

Climate: The climate is of a strongly continental type, with the northern regions being markedly colder than the south. The average January temperature is −12°C (10°F), while July temperatures average 23°C (73°F).

Main Religions: Islam, Russian Orthodox Church

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Music of Kazakhstan

 Nomadic Musical Culture

Until the gradual annexation to Russia, completed by the mid-19th century, Kazakh musical culture was that of nomadic pastoralists, who migrated widely across steppeland in seasonal movements. Their music was influenced by the structure of society and by their religious complexes. Despite sparse settlement in different regions of the country, Kazakhs share common linguistic, cultural and material characteristics. Traditional vocal genres may be divided into women's music, which is closely linked to ceremonies and rituals, and performed unaccompanied, and men's music, which is accompanied by the performer's own instrument. The master–apprentice training system, performance skills and high social status of the male musician-singer or instrumentalists indicates the professionalism of oral culture. 

Women's Vocal Repertories

Women perform songs during ceremonies and in non-formal situations. They do not usually use instrumental accompaniment. Ceremonial songs are not conceptualized as ‘song’ but are specified according to function. They include wedding songs (tanysu), such as the popular ‘Zhar-Zhar’ (performed antiphonally by a male and female chorus); brides' laments (synsu); farewell songs (koshtasu); ritual songs, such as those performed to begin a festival (toi bastar) or to unveil the face of the bride (betashar); laments at funerals and annual funeral remembrances (as-joktaudaus), messenger-songs of death (yestirtu) and condolence (konil-aitujubatu); and calendar songs such as carols (jarapapzan) or songs performed during the fasting at Ramadan.

Men's Vocal Repertories

For Kazakhs, epics comprise their history, literature and philosophy. Traditionally the zhyrau, or epic bard, had special social status: he was a consultant to the khan, a keeper of the people's history, and he took over certain functions of the shaman, such as the establishment of relations between generations and the expression of ethnic identity. Epics transmitted information about the history of the ethnic group, its cultural traditions and social structure in a ritual and emotionally-charged context. Lengthy heroic epics (batyrlar zhyry) such as ‘Kyor-ogly’, ‘Alpamïs’ and ‘Yedigye’ form the core of the epic tradition, versions of which are famous all over the Turkic-speaking world. Also part of the tradition are sung tales such as ‘Oraq-Mamai’, ‘Qarasai-Qazi’ and ‘Shora batyr’. These are full of legendary figures and their deeds, and often include extensive family genealogies, which are carefully passed down from generation to generation, and stories about particular families. Epics usually contain three main sections: a preface or ‘initial’ section (bastau); a central recitation, based on a measured rhythmic intonation which tends to multiple repetitions (uzyn sanar, meaning literally a ‘long pursuit’ or ‘hunt’); and a conclusion (qaiyrma or ‘turning point’, i.e. the conclusive break when recitation of a text is replaced by jubilation without a text). 

Read more about Kazakh music at Grove Online

Citation (4)

Composer Highlight: Gaziza Zhubanova

Gaziza Zhubanova

Gaziza Zhubanova


 Kazakh composer. She was the daughter of the composer and scholar Akhmet Zhubanov, who was the organizer and conductor of the Kazakh Instruments Orchestra. She studied composition with Gnesin and Streicher at the Gnesin Institute, Moscow, and with Shaporin at the Moscow Conservatory, from which she graduated in 1954, continuing with postgraduate work until 1957. Between 1962 and 1968 she was chairwoman of the Kazakh Composers’ Union. She taught composition at the Alma-Ata Conservatory from 1967 and was its director from 1975 to 1987.

A significant part of Zhubanova's output consisted of large-scale works, in which a blurring of generic boundaries is evident: traits of oratorio appear in her operas, such as Enlik-Kebek and Dvadtsat′ vosem′ (‘Twenty-Eight’), as do operatic traits in oratorios, including Pesnya Tat′yanï (‘Tat′yana’s Song’). She perpetuated the Eastern tradition of writing dedications; for example her ‘Zhiger’ Symphony is dedicated to the folk composer Dauletkerei, and the opera Kurmangazï to a famous exponent of the Kazakh instrumental genre, the küi


(1): "Al'-Farabi" by "Aygocious

(2): Location, Climate, Language, Religion, Flag, Capital (Kazakhstan), in Europa World online. London, Routledge. University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Retrieved 17 December 2021 from

(3): Country Map (Kazakhstan), in Europa World online. London, Routledge. University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Retrieved 17 December 2021 from

(4): Kunanbayeva, A., & Elemanova, S.  Kazakhstan. Grove Music Online. Retrieved 17 Dec. 2021, from