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World Music CD Reviews Europe


By Paul-Émile Comeau
Published January 20, 2006


Orazbaeva is an original musician from Kazakhstan and indubitably the world’s foremost master of the kyl-kobiz, an unusual cello-like instrument that can produce shimmering overtones with only two strings made of horsehair. The fact that Orazbaeva is a woman makes her even more remarkable, women having been denied the instrument until recent years. Although the kyl-kobiz was almost forgotten during the Soviet era, the instrument is steeped in mythology and closely associated with shamanic practices. It’s even believed to have been invented by Korkyt, a mythical figure who is said to have discovered music in the region. Although the album features a few modern compositions, including one devoted to the Aral Sea’s ecological disaster, most of the material consists of kuys, short pieces that convey legends, animals, insights, events or emotional states. A couple of onomatopoeic tracks are especially gripping. “Kaskyr” depicts a hunting wolf while “Akku” is an epic evocation of an orphan boy and his encounter with swans, which are sacred birds for the Kazakhs. A 15-minute video is an added bonus.