Turkmen Musical Instruments

Turkmen Musical Instruments

The beginning of the formation of Turkmen music concerns to 6-7 centuries, when the first heart of the Turkmen folk origins was forming. History has preserved the name of the folk singer and storyteller Babagambara (7 century), who was one of the first folk professional musicians, predecessors of modern bakhshi. Certain information about Turkmen instruments and Turkmen music are in the works of al-Farabi, al-Kandi, Ibn Sina, Safi ad-Din al-Urmavi (9 – 13 centuries).


The dutar is also one of the most common lute instruments used in Turkmenistan and it is found in all of the main genres of Turkmen music. It is a two-stringed guitar with a rounded body, is the most important musical instrument of Turkmenistan, providing the musical accompaniment to the epic sung poetry known as destans, which are the stock-in-trade of Turkmenistan’s traditional singers, or bagshies. The dutar typically has a body made of mulberry wood, or occasionally walnut, its neck of apricot wood. It appears that the dutar and similar plucked stringed instruments were known in ancient times. Archaeological finds in Merv such as the “wandering bakhsbi” or the Toprak-kala manuscript with the picture of a girl musician (111-IV century) with two-stringed instruments are confirmation of this. The teaching of the dutar has become a major focus of post-independence musical education, and it is now common in Turkmenistan to see schoolchildren clutching the instrument, protected in a velvet carrying-case.


The gyjak is a three or four stringed instrument, played with a bow whose string is made of hair from a horse’s tail. The instrument is stood upright, resting on a little peg at its base, and produces a sound which might evoke for you the ever-changing landscapes of the desert of the KaraKum. Or it might just remind you of a long screech. The gyjak, which is also usually made from a mixture of mulberry and apricot woods, is typically used to accompany the dutar.


Gargy tuyduk was famous long BC. Being widely spread among the oriental nations, gargy tuyduk reached our days in its primordial view. Gargy tuyduk is cut from reed. There are 5-6 tune holes on it. It is the wind instrument. Not all examples are equal by size. Their sizes depend on vocal features of bakhshi. Some instruments are used only for a solo play, others for accompaniment. It produces a wonderful, melancholic sound. This really will evoke the sound of the wind blowing across the desert.


The gopuz is a small metal instrument, which in other parts of the world is known as a Jew’s harp. It is placed in the mouth, from which a protruding stainless steel reed is strummed by a quickly moving hand. The mouth serves as a sound chamber, and the breath varies the pitch. The gopuz is mostly played by women, and produces a distinctive twanging sound.

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