Kazakh composer Qurmangazy, the wizard of the steppes

Aug 04, 2019
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Kazakh composer Qurmangazy, the wizard of the steppes

The prominent Kazakh composer and musician Qurmangazy Sagyrbaiuly is remembered among the people of Kazakhstan as “the wizard of the steppes” due to his strong musical heritage and captivating motives.

[caption id=”attachment_9875” align=”alignleft” width=”201”] Qurmangazy monument in Almaty; photo source: alnaz.ru[/caption]

He was born in 1823 to a poor, nomadic family of the Bukey Horde, which is known today as Zhanakala District in the West Kazakhstan Region.

From early childhood, Qurmangazy started playing dombra, a traditional Kazakh string instrument. His father didn’t approve his early passion for music. Qurmangazy’s mother Alka, on the contrary, supported her son and shared his love for music. At the age of 6 years, Qurmangazy started working as a shepherd to help his father provide for the family.

However, the young aspiring musician did not give up on his dream. Whenever Qurmangazy had a chance, he would go listening to kuyshs (Kazakh musicians that play kuy, a variation of dombra, a traditional Kazakh string instrument). One of his favorite kuyshs was Kuyushi Uzak, who predicted a great future for Qurmangazy as a musician.

[caption id=”attachment_9872” align=”aligncenter” width=”736”] Qurmangazy image was used on the 5 Tenge banknote in 1993; photo source: Wikimedia Commons[/caption]

At the age of 18, Qurmangazy left his native village and began the wandering life of the kuysh performing in all corners of the steppe. Together with Uzak, he participated in various competitions, nurtured his passion and was promoted to the ranks of the acclaimed Kuysh.


One of his most famous works is “Sary-Arka.” It is filled with light tonality, which depicts the vast Kazakh steppe.

[caption id=”attachment_9871” align=”aligncenter” width=”800”] Qurmangazy mausoleum in Astrakhan; photo source: autotravel.ru[/caption]

In 1880, Kurmangazy settled in the town of Sakhma near Astrakhan, Russia, where he died in 1896. He was buried 60 km (37 miles) away from Astrakhan in Russia. Later, a white-stoned mausoleum was built on the site of his grave.

His work had a great influence on the development of Kazakh culture and traditions.

Sources: e-history.kz, travel.rambler.ru, alnaz.ru

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