Meeting with Manas reciters

On May 19, 2013 a meeting with Manas reciters took place in a restaurant in Bishkek.

The Goal of the meeting was to bring to light important questions on the reciting practice and the current state of epic knowledge from the reciters’ point of view.

Sixteen reciters came from different regions of the country to take part in the meeting.  One large advantage of the meeting was the participation of a famous reciter from Kazakhstan, Bayangaly Alymjanov, and a novice reciter, Asanaly Kalyi uulu, from China.

At the beginning of the conversation a question arose about the versions that are being reproduced by contemporary reciters. Is it necessary to produce some common version in which all the key episodes, heroes and situations match? The opinions of the reciters about common or individual versions varied. Some of the reciters said that it is important to standardize the organization of the main episodes and transitions, as well as the names for a coordinated promotion of the epic.  Some other reciters said that a manaschy is like a “free bird”, you can’t force them to change their story during the performance. One of the young reciters pointed out that the problem is that contemporary reciters don’t have spiritual masters and teachers. He insisted that in the world of reciters there should be a traditional leadership based on age. All of the reciters agreed that they have spiritual and artistic developmental problems. Every manaschy confessed that they need individual self-development, but it is possible only through close interrelationship with each other.   One of the reciters pointed out that “today’s manaschys should be two to three times more expressive than Sagymbai or Sayakbai because internet and television distract people’s attention from traditional heritage.” Many of the manaschys were self-critical and highlighted that they are not doing enough to reinforce the epic and its influence on people.

Another issue was the lack of solidarity among manaschys from different regions. Some of them think that they need unity. Others think that manaschys are relatively more cohesive than other Kyrgyz traditional practitioners. A manaschy from the South pointed out the importance of developing the epic in that part of the country, taking into account its geopolitical disposition and multi-ethnicity. He sees the epic as a tool that can unite people who have lived in the Fergana valley since ancient times.

A Kazakh reciter pointed out several ideas on strengthening interconnection between the reciters as well as between reciters and listeners.

The meeting finalized with a reciting from the epic, a blessing and the reading of a sura from the Koran.