Training on playing komuz using Nurak Abrakhmanov’s “En Belghi” system

The spring session

Date: May, 17-22, 2011

Venue: Aigine CRC, Bishkek

Language: kyrgyz

This seminar is a practical continuation of “Transmission of traditional music” project that had been conducted in 2009-2010.

The goals of the seminar are learning about spiritual world of komuz and mastering of Nurak Abrakhmanov’s “En Belghi” authorial system with the aim of preserving and developing traditional music.

The spring session’s goal is exchange of experience in the world of komuz and introduction to Nurak Abrakhmanov’s “En Belghi” authorial system.

The spring session of the “Training on playing komuz using “En Belghi” system” seminar was conducted on May, 17-22.  A prominent musician, thinker and national artist of the Kyrgyz Republic – Nurak Abdrakhmanov – was a trainer on this training.  It took 35 years of professional questing, constant diligence and hard work to create this system. “En Belghi” is not only a system of learning how to play komuz but also a system which helps to immerse deeper into the spiritual realm of folk culture.

Seminar’s period is one year and it consists of spring, summer and fall sessions. By the end of the year, the participants who have completed the course will receive certificates and a right to implement Nurak Abrakhmanov’s “En Belghi” system in their teaching practice.

16 teachers of state secondary, high and musical schools from all over the country participated in the spring session. All of them went through a competitive selection process. The selection criteria were basic musical education, current teaching position at state secondary, high or musical school and willingness of the educational institution, represented by a participant, to embed the system in the teaching process. During the selection process, representation of all regions at the seminar was taken into account.

The majority of the participants confessed that they had not expected that the trainer would be Nurak Abdrakhmanov himself. They were impressed by the opportunity to get acquainted with this system under a supervision of the author. All participants without an exception approached the training with great responsibility and enthusiasm.  All of them were teachers; somebody taught music while somebody taught how to play komuz. All participants had different educational backgrounds and experience. Some of them learned how to play komuz from Nurak Abrakhmanov himself when they were children while some of them could not even read the musical score and played komuz because they had natural talent to it.  However, despite such big differences between the participants, they managed to find common grounds, share experience and help each other.

Training was based on the Nurak Abdrakhmanov’s book, published by Aigine CRC with financial support of Christensen Fund, USA. The session’s theoretical part included explanation of arbitrary signs and rules of their reading and playing of elementary melodies. Both participants and organizers ascertained that the “En Belghi” system was easy to learn because almost all the participants managed to go through first few lessons without difficulties while it is not common in learning to play komuz using musical score (European) system. Besides melodies included into the program, N. Abdrakhmanov put into his system some additional melodies which were requested by the participants in order to allow the latter to learn new material together.

However, those of the participants who played  komuz using tuneful ear only had some difficulties such as mixing up the arbitrary signs in learning more complicated melodies. Naturally, two subgroups arose during the training: the group of “seniors” which was learning the system easier and the group of “juniors” which had some difficulties in learning it. The participants came up with an initiative to help each other in learning the system, thus, the “senior” group was helping the “junior” group. This made Nurak Abdrakhmanov’s work easier and enhanced the “team spirit». The participants got so high on work that they sometimes would forget about break and lunch time. At the beginning of every day participants were tested on learned melodies and would get marks for it. Such practice was efficient because it made the participants to review the covered material in the evenings in order to pass the test in the next morning.

After completion of the course the participants were to teach at least two students to play komuz using “En Belghi” system. This provided additional motivation for the participants to put a lot of effort in learning the system and the new material themselves. All the participants were emphasizing that with the help of this system many children and adults, having difficulties with learning to play komuz using musical score (European) system, would be able to learn playing komuz easily.

One of the spring session’s goals was the exchange of spiritual experience related to komuz. Therefore, the program contained session devoted to healing capabilities of the folk music, familiarization with sacred sites and interconnection between the great “Manas” epic and the world of komuz. These sessions were filled with discussions. Another long term goal of and expectation from the seminar was teaching the new generation of komuz players using “En Belghi” system. Therefore, a separate session devoted to qualities and capabilities of a master and an apprentice was included into the program. Nurak Abdrakhmanov himself was an example of a master because he has risen several generations of apprentices. He willingly shared his experience with the participants. One of the most prominent Manas reciters of modern time, Asankan Jumanaliev, who has more than 100 apprentices, also shared his experience and along with his apprentices recited an episode from the epic.

Other the Christensen Fund grant receivers such as Central Asia-Art Management PF, Taalim Forum, Peace Keeping Center were invited to observe the seminar in order to unite TCF efforts to preserve and develop folk music. Keneshbek Almakuchukov’s presentation about the creation of the anthology of kyrgyz folk music raised a great deal of interest. During the discussions the participants proposed to get involved into the expertise of the anthology on a voluntary basis.

According to the opinions of the participants and observations of the organizers, the combination of komuz playing, Manas reciting and rich spiritual information made a great impression on the participants and was like a gulp of fresh air.

One of the constructive proposals made by the participants was the idea of creating a music sheet for “En Belghi” system which would became an indispensable tool for teaching students to play komuz. This proposal was taken into consideration and nowadays the project to implement this idea is being developed. Aigine CRChopes that people learning how to play komuz using “En Belghi” will be able to use this note sheet very soon.

Upon the completion of the spring session Aigine CRC sign an agreement with each participant on provisions of participation in the summer and fall sessions and receiving a certificate. Besides learning and dissemination of “En Belghi” system, the participants were to gather information about komuz,  traditional music and traditional knowledge in general in their local areas. This gathered material will be used for updating Aigine’s website on traditional knowledge.

During the last session the participants made an evaluation of the spring session and agreed on putting more stress on reviewing the covered material and working in small groups.