Discover Kyrgyzstan’s Folk Music Scene

Discover Kyrgyzstan’s thriving folk music scene, from the traditional instruments to the modern interpretations of the genre.


Kyrgyzstan is a Central Asian country of mountains, nomadic culture and proud heritage. It’s also home to a burgeoning folk music scene that is rapidly gaining recognition both at home and abroad.

Kyrgyz folk music is rich and varied, drawing on the country’s diverse history and geography. Central Asian musical traditions are blended with influences from the Caucasus, Russia and China, resulting in a unique sound that is both unfamiliar and yet strangely familiar.

The best place to experience Kyrgyzstan’s folk music scene is at the annual World Nomad Games, held each year in the capital city of Bishkek. The games are a celebration of nomadic culture, and traditional music and dance play a large role in the festivities. Visitors to Kyrgyzstan can also catch a performance at one of the many bars and clubs that feature folk music on their rosters.

If you’re interested in discovering Kyrgyzstan’s folk music scene, there are plenty of ways to get involved. Attend a concert or festival, go to a club or bar that features live music, or simply take a walk through Bishkek’s vibrant streets – you’re sure to hear something you’ll enjoy.

What is Kyrgyz folk music?

Kyrgyz folk music is a vibrant and important part of the country’s cultural heritage. Kyrgyzstan’s rich musical traditions include a wide variety of styles and genres, from traditional folk songs to modern pop music.

Kyrgyz folk music has its origins in the music of the nomadic people of Central Asia. The first Kyrgyz musicians were probably travelling troubadours who played a mixture of local folk songs and popular tunes from Persia and China. Over time, the Kyrgyz developed their own distinctive style of music, which combines elements of Central Asian folk music with influences from Russia and the West.

Today, Kyrgyzstan is home to a thriving folk music scene, with many young musicians keeping alive the country’s traditional musical traditions. Kyrgyz folk music is characterized by its use of traditional instruments such as the komuz (a three-stringed lute), the shanzha (a type of flute) and the dap (a large drum). The melodies and rhythms of Kyrgyz folk music are often repetitive and hypnotic, reflecting the daily life of the nomadic people who created it.

If you’re interested in experiencing Kyrgyzstan’s vibrant folk music scene, there are many ways to do so. You can attend a concert or festival, or go on a musical tour of the country with a local guide. There are also many CD’s and DVD’s available that showcase Kyrgyzstan’s traditional and modern folk music.

The instruments of Kyrgyz folk music

The komuz is one of the most popular instruments in Kyrgyz folk music. It is a three-stringed instrument played with a bow, and it has a resonating chamber made from a hollowed-out Calabash gourd. The komuz is used to play both solo and accompaniment roles, and it is often used to woke up shepherds in the morning.

The sybyzgy is another popular instrument in Kyrgyz folk music. It is a two-stringed lute played with a plectrum, and it has a rectangular body with a long neck. The sybyzgy is used to play fast-paced, rhythmic songs, and it is often used to provide accompaniment for dances.

The chauvyrchyk is a four-stringed instrument played with the fingers or a plectrum. It has a trapezoidal body with two sound holes, and it is usually decorated with carved images of animals or people. The chauvyrchyk is used to play slow, melodic songs, and it sometimes accompanies singers or instrumentalists.

The history of Kyrgyz folk music

The music of Kyrgyzstan has been shaped by the country’s history and its geographical position. Kyrgyz music is characterized by the use of traditional instruments, such as the komuz and the shlrpachai, and by the prominence of singing in groups.

Kyrgyz folk music has its roots in the music of Central Asia, which has been influenced by Chinese, Russian, and Turkic traditions. Kyrgyz music is also closely related to the music of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

Kyrgyz folk songs often tell stories about nature, love, and loss. They are typically sung in a minor key, and many use a call-and-response format.

The komuz is a three-stringed instrument that is thought to have originated in Central Asia. It is widely used in Kyrgyz folk music, and is considered to be the national instrument of Kyrgyzstan.

The shlrpachai is a type of fiddle that is also used in Kyrgyz folk music. It has two strings, which are traditionally made from horsehair.

Kyrgyz folk music often features singing in groups. This form of singing is known as kuiuii zhylpyngyldauuu (pronounced “koo-yoo-ee zhee-loo-ping-gildow”), which means “group song with response”.

The different genres of Kyrgyz folk music

Kyrgyz folk music can be split into several different genres, each with their own history, instruments and styles.

Syrdalyk is the most well-known and popular type of Kyrgyz folk music. It is often performed at weddings and other celebrations, and is characterized by its fast tempo and joyful sound. The most important instrument in Syrdalyk music is the komuz, a three-stringed lute.

Other genres of Kyrgyz folk music include kui, pentatonic singing traditionally performed by women; aytysh, a slow and emotional type of singing; boz-uk, a form of epic storytelling set to music; and skazka, a kind of lyrical poetry often accompanied by the komuz.

The Kyrgyz folk music scene today

Kyrgyzstan’s folk music scene is thriving, with a number of local bands and artists performing at concerts and festivals around the country. The most popular genres are traditional Kyrgyz music, as well as modern pop and rock.

Traditional Kyrgyz music is based on the music of the nomadic people of the Central Asian steppes. It is characterized by Yakuti songs, which are sung in a high-pitched voice, as well as epics and ballads that tell stories of love, loss, and heroism. Instruments used in traditional Kyrgyz music include the komuz (a three-stringed lute), the shoor (a type of flute), and the dombra (a two-stringed lute).

Modern pop and rock music in Kyrgyzstan is heavily influenced by Western culture, particularly from Russia and the United States. Many Kyrgyz bands sing in both Kyrgyz and Russian, and some have even gained popularity beyond Kyrgyzstan’s borders.


Kyrgyzstan’s folk music scene is lively and vibrant, with a number of different styles and genres represented. If you’re interested in exploring this musical world, there are a few key places to start. In Bishkek, the Kyrgyz National Conservatory offers classes and performances in traditional Kyrgyz music, while the Ala Too International Music Festival showcases a range of world-renowned talent. In Osh, on the other side of the country, the United World Music Festival showcases performers from across Central Asia. Whatever your interest, Kyrgyzstan’s folk music scene has something to offer everyone.

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