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Book of Abai’s songs in English launched in UK

4 December 2020 17:47
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Book of Abai’s songs in English launched in UK

LONDON. KAZINFORM - The Embassy of Kazakhstan in the United Kingdom hosted an online concert to mark the launch of Abai. Book of Songs, the first ever collection of songs by Abai in English. The publication of the book and the concert were part of a series of events dedicated to the 175th anniversary of the birth of the great Kazakh poet and enlightener Abai, Kazinform has learnt from the press service of the Kazakh MFA.

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The book was published by the Embassy with the support of Kazakhstan’s National Bureau of Translations and includes 23 songs and 3 musical compositions (kùj) attributed to Abai, as well as scores and lyrics available in English for the first time. The book also refers the reader via QR codes to performed Kazakh versions of Abai’s works at www.kitap.kz.

Professor John Burnside, a celebrated Scottish poet and winner of numerous awards, including the prestigious Forward Prize for Poetry and T. S. Eliot Prize, offers the English versions of poems that not only render the meaning of Abai’s lyrics, but also capture the original Kazakh metre as close as possible. Professor Simon Wills of the prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama contributed to the book with his insightful foreword on the spirit of Kazakh music.

Opening the online concert, Kazakhstan’s Ambassador to the UK Erlan Idrissov noted that along with Abai’s literary work, Kazakh culture inherited his rich and diverse musical heritage, which has become an integral part of the Kazakh cultural identity. According to him, the book will open a new and significant facet of Abai’s work to the English-speaking audience.

During the concert, the Rector of the Kazakh National University of Arts and world-famous virtuoso violinist Aiman Musakhajayeva and the Kazakh State Symphony Orchestra presented a medley of Abai’s musical compositions. Famous Kazakh performer and winner of the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2019 Yerzhan Maxim performed Желсіз түнде жарық ай (The Moon) to the piano accompaniment of his mentor Gulmira Akhmedyarova.

A rising UK pop star Smilee performed The Apple of My Eye (Көзімнің қарасы), while English Soprano Josephine Hawthorn presented Blessings on You (Айттым сәлем қалам қас) to the accompaniment of Turkish pianist and composer İlayda Deniz Oğuz.

Masters of Kazakh folk music Yerlan Ryskali and Perizat Turarova presented classical versions of the songs Өлсем орным қара жер сыз болмай ма (If I should Die) and Есіңде бар ма жас күнің (Remembering Youth) accompanied by dombyra, a traditional Kazakh plucked instrument.

British country-rock singer-songwriter Annabel Pattinson presented her interpretation of The Moon (Желсіз түнде жарық ай), and kùjšì Rustem Nurkenov performed Toržorġa kùj on a three-string dombyra – an ancient instrument traditionally used for performing Abai’s kùjs.

Professor Burnside and Professor Wills presented their visions of the poetic and musical aspects of Abai’s work. According to Burnside, working on the translations of the Kazakh philosopher was rather interesting and challenging due to the diversity, depth, and rhythmic complexity of his poetry. He highlighted that Abai communicated with the listeners through his songs in a simple, open form about the complex topics of love, friendship, suffering, pain of loss, joy, and other emotional states.

Professor Wills focused on the peculiarities of Kazakh music and its fundamental differences from European classical music. He drew the audience’s attention to the fact that Abai’s works and Kazakh music in general largely rely on improvisation and do not have an established set of instructions. That is why, he said, English-speaking readers should open to the culture of improvisation while trying to perform the songs in the book.

The concert was broadcast on the Embassy website, as well as on the official Facebook page.



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