The Music of China's Nomads

eaving the large apartment towers and relative affluence of the cities, and entering the grasslands and their rural communities, the sound of the dömbra grows louder, more vibrant, alive. In the future, as these rural communities inevitably become influenced by the trends flowing out of urban centers, traditional culture, including the music of the dömbra, will face a serious struggle for survival. How to preserve the sounds, knowledge, craft and emotions of existing masters of the dömbra is a pressing question – one not yet fully answered by the government-run Song and Dance Troupes.

This photo essay looks at life in Tekesi County in Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture, where dömbra master and teacher Hakima speaks of the instrument’s narrative strength and introduces listeners to the Kui, or instrumental pieces that are meant to relate an emotion, event or idea through the expressive force of the dömbra. The photo essay also explores the music scene in Qiaolatekerike, a simple village on the edge of vast grazing grounds. Here the sound of Kazakh traditional music is alive and evolving. The music is still central to village life and is used as a tool to express the shifting moods of players and to recount the stories of the village.

"The Music of China's Nomads" is a production of with funding provided by the Open Society Institute.
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