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Wednesday, April 6, 2022 7pm

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The Turkic-Muslim Kazakhs in western Mongolia commemorate the past and express their senses of belonging and identity in musical narratives (küi) performed on the dombyra two-stringed lute. Commonly compared to Kazakh clan genealogies (shejire), dombyra küis chronicle the migratory history of Mongolia’s Kazakhs from the flight of nomads from eastern Kazakhstan to northwestern China in the eighteenth century to the recent repatriation of some community members to Kazakhstan. While the küi stories recount the migrants’ historical experiences, their music reveals shifts in the community’s perceptions of their past and notions of themselves in relation to their hostland and historic homeland. In this talk, I explore the impact on narrative instrumental performance of cross-border mobility and the changing status of Mongolia’s Kazakhs from the late nineteenth century to the present. I examine transformations in the dombyra morphology and performance style, asking: How have evolving political situations affected the nature of musical remembrance among the borderland community? What can the transnational circulation of sounds and related discourses of identity tell us about the trajectories of national revival in the diaspora and homeland?

Saida Daukeyeva is Assistant Professor of Music at Wesleyan University. Her research explores the intersection of sound with social and political geographies in Central Asia, focusing on Kazakh music and expressive culture across borders. She is the author of Philosophy of Music by Abu Nasr Muhammad Al-Farabi (Soros Foundation 2002, in Russian) and co-editor of The Music of Central Asia (Indiana University Press 2016). Her current book project based on fieldwork in Kazakhstan and Mongolia examines the impact of migration, socialist cultural policy, and national revival on dombyra performance among Mongolia’s Kazakhs.

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