Monday, January 21, 2013

Music - Ulytau

American pop music is very popular in Kazakhstan. Everyone, especially teenagers, knows Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, and Beyoncé. Even Shakira, which was a blast at the discotheques, though she's not technically American. However, one of my favorite things was learning more about local music. These endeavors included, yes, a failed attempt to learn the dombra, a two-stringed lute-like instrument (which I would love to take up again, but they're extremely hard to find here in the States). During a cultural training session, our teachers introduced us to this band: Ulytau.

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The word in Kazakh means "great mountain," which I freely admit that I found out from their official website, because I was a Russian speaker. There is also a literal Ulytau, which is an area in the central part of the country. Though a handful of volunteers were near there, I never had the opportunity to visit. Ulytau the band plays folk-metal, combining electric guitars with the national instrument of Kazakhstan, the dombra. This is a dombra:

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They play traditional folk music as well as the music of classical composers such as Vivaldi, Bach, and Mozart, but they do it all with a heavy-metal twist. Their album Two Warriors is available for MP3 download on Amazon.

Standout Track: "Ata Tolgauy." (This may surprise you, but English/Kazakh dictionaries are hard to find online. I believe "ata" means "father." I cannot find a translation for "tolgauy.") This is a tune I heard often at festivals and concerts, often played by larger, traditional ensembles. Like the rest of the tracks on Two Warriors, "Ata Tolgauy" is a fun take on a traditional song with a main hook that will keep you humming all day long.

All in all, this music is a lot of fun if you're looking for familiar music arranged in a new way. Because of the fusion of Western and Eastern music, you'll also enjoy it if you're looking for something you might not have otherwise come across on your own.

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day . . . I worked mandatory overtime. Not the most celebratory of activities, and I wish I had something more exciting to share. Instead, I will end with a quote. In the spirit of the recent National Day of Service:

“Everybody can be great . . . because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

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