1000 Years on the Silk Road: Epic Poetry and Music from Kyrgyzstan

Rysbai Isakov, Epic Singer
Thursday, March 9, 2006
Kellogg Center, 15th floor International Affairs Building

Rysbai Isakov, Epic Singer

Akylbek Kasabolotov, Musician

Dr. Helen Faller, Anthropologist

A unique opportunity to learn about Central Asian culture directly from two immensely talented Kyrgyz performers, who have traveled to the US expressly for the purpose of participating in the Central Asian University Residencies Program.

Rysbai Isakov, a laureate epic singer, will perform episodes from the Kyrgyz national epic Manas, the longest in the world at over half a million lines. Akylbek Kasabolotov, a member of Kyrgyzstan’s Tengir Too Ensemble, will share his country’s unique nomadic musical traditions. Dr. Helen Faller, an anthropologist specializing in Central Asia, provides cultural background and contextualization.

Two renowned performers from the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan will treat you to episodes from the magnificent Kyrgyz national epic Manas. A trilogy said to be over a thousand years old, Manas contains over a half a million lines and is considered the longest recorded epic in the world. It focuses on the lives – from miraculous birth to glorious death – of three generations of ancient heroes: Manas, his son Semetey, and Semetey’s son Seytek. Episodes of Manas colorfully depict the valiant exploits of these and other brave warriors – their magnificent feasts, weddings, and of course countless glorious raging battles.

Watching an epic singer of Manas – or manaschy – perform is an unparalleled spectacle. A manaschy does not just recite the stories from the epic. Rather, he or she goes into a trance and momentarily lives with the characters, acting out their triumphs and tragedies while sharing them with the audience.

Kyrgyz Cultural Performances further enriches the mystical experience of seeing Manas presented in a concert setting. While Manas is traditionally performed without accompaniment, our production innovatively incorporates a Kyrgyz folk musician. As the manaschy recites, employing a catalogue of gestures and facial expressions to emphasize certain moments of the epic, the musician improvises upon Kyrgyz musical themes, changing instruments and timbres according to what the actions occurring in the epic evoke for him.

The two performers will be accompanied by Dr. Helen M. Faller, an anthropologist who specializes in Central Asian culture. Dr. Faller will present the program and facilitate a brief question-and-answer session at the end of the performance.