The Music of Central Asia

The Music of Central Asia

Edited by Theodore Levin, Saida Daukeyeva and Elmira Köchümkulova
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 12/05/2016
Format: Hardback 456 color illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-01751-2
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Winner, 2018 RUSA Darmouth Medal for Excellence in Reference

Winner of the 2017 Public Outreach Award, Central Eurasian Studies Society

This beautiful and informative book offers a detailed introduction to the musical heritage of Central Asia for readers and listeners worldwide. Music of Central Asia balances "insider" and "outsider" perspectives with contributions by 27 authors from 14 countries. A companion website ( provides access to some 189 audio and video examples, listening guides and study questions, and transliterations and translations of the performed texts. This generously illustrated book is supplemented with boxes and sidebars, musician profiles, and an illustrated glossary of musical instruments, making it an indispensable resource for both general readers and specialists. In addition, the enhanced ebook edition, which is so comprehensive it had to be split into two ebooks, contains 180 audio and video examples of Central Asian music and culture. A follow-along feature highlights the song lyrics in the text, as the audio samples play.

Author Bio

Theodore Levin is Arthur R. Virgin Professor of Music at Dartmouth College and Senior Project Consultant to the Aga Khan Music Initiative. He is the author of Where Rivers and Mountains Sing: Sound, Music, and Nomadism in Tuva and Beyond (IUP, 2006) and The Hundred Thousand Fools of God: Musical Travels in Central Asia (and Queens, New York) (IUP, 1996).

Saida Daukeyeva is a Georg Forster Research Fellow (HERMES) at Humboldt University in Berlin. She is author of Philosophy of Music by Abu Nasr Muhammad al-Farabi.

Elmira Köchümkulova is Senior Research Fellow at the University of Central Asia in Bishkek. She is author of Respect Graces the Living, Lamentation Graces the Dead: Kyrgyz Funeral Lamentations (in Kyrgyz), and Kyrgyz Herders of Soviet Uzbekistan: Historical and Ethnographic Narratives (in Kyrgyz and English).


“The Music of Central Asia is an encyclopedic page turner! This is essential reading for all performers, composers, ethnomusicologists, students, scholars and culturally engaged people everywhere. There has never before been one book that so expertly, vividly, and deeply unites the past, present, and potential future of an entire swath of the world's musical landscape.”
 — David Harrington, Kronos Quartet

“The Music of Central Asia is like its subject: vast, variegated, resonant, and rich in musical traditions that have remained all too closed to outsiders for centuries. The book is both authoritative and innovative, ringing with regional voices and dozens of well-chosen examples of cultural riches to be sampled and savored by both specialists and students.”
 — Mark Slobin, Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music, Wesleyan University

“This beautiful and informative book offers a detailed introduction to the musical heritage of Central Asia for readers and listeners worldwide, balancing “insider” and “outsider” perspectives with contributions by 27 authors from 14 countries.”

“This magnificent book has been many years in gestation, but it has been worth the wait. . . . No prior knowledge is required to enjoy it. And enjoy is the word. The chapters are short, vivid, and packed with human interest.”
 — BBC Music Magazine

“"I foresee a next generation of enthusiastic young scholars encouraged to pursue research in part due to an initial encounter with Central Asian music through this volume."”
 — Notes

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Table of Contents

Accessing Music Examples Online
A Note on Music Terminology
Guide to Transliteration
Timeline of Central Asian History

Part I: Music and Culture in Central Asia
1. Music in Central Asia: An Overview / Theodore Levin
2. Musical Instruments in Central Asia / Theodore Levin
Part II: The Nomadic World
Prologue: Who Are the Nomads of Central Asia? / Theodore Levin
3. Introduction to Oral Epic / Elmira Köchümkulova
4. The Epic Manas / Elmira Köchümkulova
5. Oral Epic in Kazakhstan: Körughly and a Dynasty of Great Jyraus / Uljan Baibosynova
6. Music of the Karakalpaks
Part I: The Epic World of the Karakalpaks: Jyrau and Baqsy / Frédéric Léotar
Part II: Qyssakhan: Performer of Written and Oral Literature / Kalmurza Kurbanov and Saida Daukeyeva
7. The Art of the Turkmen Bagshy / Jamilya Gurbanova
8. The Turkmen Dutar / David Fossum
9. Kyrgyz Wisdom Songs: Terme Yrlary / Elmira Köchümkulova
10. Aqyns and Improvised-Poetry Competitions among the Kazakhs and Kyrgyz / Elmira Köchümkulova and Jangül Qojakhmetova
11. Singing Traditions of the Kazakhs / Alma Kunanbeava
12. Kyrgyz Funeral Laments / Elmira Köchümkulova
13. Kyrgyz Wedding Songs / Elmira Köchümkulova
14. Narrative Instrumental Music: Kazakh Küi and Kyrgyz Küü / Sayra Raymbergenova and Nurlanbek Nyshanov
Profile: Abdulhait Raiymbergenov / Theodore Levin
Profile: Nurak Abdyrakhmanov / Elmira Köchümkulova
15. Kyrgyz Jaw Harps / Nurlanbek Nyshanov
16. The Kazakh Qobyz: Between Tradition and Modernity / Saida Daukeyeva
17. Dombyra Performance, Migration, and Memory among Mongolian Kazakhs / Saida Daukeyeva
Part III: The World of Sedentary-Dwellers
Prologue: Patterns of Culture: Sedentary-Dwellers / Theodore Levin
18. Maqom Traditions of the Tajiks and Uzbeks / William Sumits and Theodore Levin
Profile: The Academy of Maqom / Abduvali Abdurashidov
Profile: Turgun Alimatov / Theodore Levin<

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