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  • Dr Köchümkulova inspires students with her komuz introducing traditional Kyrgyz songs and her own compositions.
Central Asia musical traditions
Course on Central Asia musical traditions teaches and inspires

“When she sang, a sense of peace overcame the classroom. It felt like a light, a warm wind. Her voice was strong, bright, light and free. It made me forget about my problems,” said undergraduate Gulzira Kamytzhanova when Dr Elmira Köchümkulova performed on the Kyrgyz komuz in a new course on Central Asian music offered by the University of Central Asia (UCA).

The 15-week certificate course was based on the pilot edition of the textbook Music of Central Asia: An Introduction published by the UCA Cultural Heritage Book Series and edited by Senior Research fellows Dr Köchümkulova and Dr Theodore Levin. Dr Levin is a senior project consultant for the Aga Khan Music Initiative (AKMI). The textbook is a joint initiative of UCA and AKMI.

It included a regional overview and ethnographic study on musical repertoires, genres and instruments and musicians from nomadic and sedentary communities, and examined the effects of globalisation on Central Asian music.

The course was taught in 2012 and 2013 at UCA’s Aga Khan Humanities Project in Dushanbe, the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek and the Kurmanghazy Kazakh National Conservatory in Almaty, by Research Fellows Dr Will Sumits, Dr Köchümkulova and Dr Saida Daukeyeva, respectively. The textbook was also used by Dr Levin at Dartmouth College in the United States.

“Guest musicians gave students the opportunity to hear music in a more personal and intimate context. This provided powerful exposure which had a strong impact on the students and their perceptions of traditional music and musicians,” said Dr Sumits.

With articles commissioned by 21 Central Asian, European and American scholars, “Our aim was to present multiple viewpoints and styles of music scholarship and show their value,” said Dr Levin.

Dr Sumits added, “Developing an appreciation of traditional music from all countries as a living art form helped break down boundaries and encouraged students to appreciate regional traditions other than their own.”

The textbook and course will be revised and offered for broader instruction.

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