In talking about Kazakhstan’s riches, many forget about all but oil and natural gas, completely disregarding the country’s culture. One of these overlooked treasures is a monument in the Kyzylorda region called Korkyt Ata.
The monument was erected in 1980 in the Karmakchin district. It was dedicated to the famous Turkic akyn (poet and folk singer) and creator of the musical instrument kobyz, Korkyt Ata. The historical monument is the centre of many legends that have survived to this day. Thousands of tourists visit the monument each year.
“Some believe Korkyt Ata lived for 195 years, however, the markers found at the site today state that his life ended at around 95 years of age in the eighth or ninth century A.D.,” Vyacheslav Kim, Almaty-based architect, adventurer and explorer said. “Legend has it that Korkyt was seeking immortality and felt like life was too short. He was said to see death in everything he did. So he retired to the woods and made a wooden instrument and pulled strings over it; and the modern kobyz was born.
Korkyt Ata sang in loneliness about his sorrowful fate; his music was heard by others around the world. They were mesmerised by his tunes and fame followed shortly after. To this day, his songs instill patriotism in Kazakhs,” Kim said.
According to one of many legends, Korkyt Ata requested that a kobyz be bestowed upon his grave so that kobyz tunes can be heard in the wind at all times.
“This monument was built of Syrtseva brick and has a round dome in the shape of six pyramids to reproduce the essential features of the inside of a yurt. There are four kobyz-shaped figures, on the outside and there is a metallic bolt and four holes. The four kobyz-shaped figures make a slight vibration and a constant humming when the wind blows – music of the wind so to speak,” he added.
“Famous Kazakh architect Bek Ibraev planned the monument,” the 31-year-old architect noted.
The Korkyt Toube Mausoleum (or singing tubes in the Kazakh language) was constructed in the 10th or11th century near the Korkyt burial site on the Syrdarya embankment. As the centuries passed, the site deteriorated. However, in 1997, it was restored by the local municipality along with a new hotel and other modern accommodations for tourists.
Since 2006, the Ministry of Culture of Kazakhstan and the Akimat (city administration) of Kyzylorda have held an international festival called the Korkyt and the Music of the Steppe.