Dombra Day in Kazakhstan Date in the current year: July 7, 2024

Dombra Day in Kazakhstan Dombra Day is an annual holiday celebrating the national musical instrument of Kazakhstan. It is observed annually on the second Sunday of July.

The dombra is a pear-shaped, long-necked plucked string instrument that resembles a lute. It is a popular instrument among the Kazakhs, Kalmyks, and Nogais, but other Turkic communities in Central Asia have similar instruments: the dumbyra in Bashkortostan, the dumbra in Tatarstan, the komuz in Kyrgyzstan, the dutar in Turkmenistan, etc. Interestingly, there is a similar Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian folk instrument named domra.

Archaeological research has shown that two-stringed musical instruments that could have been the prototype for the dombra existed more than two thousand years ago. The first written records of the dombra date back to the Middle Ages.

In Kazakhstan, there are several legends about the origin of the dombra. One of them tells about the khan, whose eldest and most beloved son died tragically while hunting. None of the khan’s subjects dared to break the news, since he would severely punish anyone who brought bad news by ordering to pour molten lead down their throat.

It was an old musician and craftsman of string instruments who found the solution. In just three days, he made a musical instrument, and then came to the khan and played a heartbreaking melody, which told the khan about his son’s death. Since the musician did not utter a single word, the grief-stricken khan ordered to punish the dombra and pour molten led into its sound hole to silence the instrument forever.

The body of the dombra is usually made of hard wood, such as pine, oak, or maple. In ancient times, the instrument’s strings were made from goat or lamb intestines, but today, they are usually made from synthetic materials, such as nylon. There are various kinds of the dombra that differ in the number of frets, which can vary from 8-9 to over 20, and range. For example, a dombra with nineteen frets has a range of two full octaves, from D3 to D5.

A traditional Kazakh musical composition performed with the dombra is named kui. Many Kazakh kuis are a musical reflection of famous epics, legends, and fairy tales. They used to be learned by heart and passed from generation to generation for centuries. Musicians that perform kuis are called kuishi. Famous Kazakh kuishi include Qurmangazy Sagyrbaev, Dauletkerei Shygauly, Tattimbet Qazangapuly, and many others.

Improvising poets called akyns use the dombra to accompany themselves while reciting their poems, which glorify heroes and expose social vices. Famous Kazakh akyns who played the dombra include Zhambyl Zhabayuly, Suyunbay Aronuly, Birzhan-sal, Zhayau Musa Bayzhanuly, and others.

The first Sunday of July was officially proclaimed Dombra Day by President Nursultan Nazarvayev in June 2018, and the first celebration took place on July 1, 2018. The holiday is marked by concerts, musical contests, kuishi and akyn competitions, awards ceremonies, and other cultural events that celebrate the national musical instrument of Kazakhstan.

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