Folk (Musical Instruments)
As mentioned before, many folk instruments have disappeared in Kalmykia being either relegated to museum shelves or left only as pictures on the pages of historical documents. As a result, today the number of instruments in active use is minimal, with dombra being the most popular. Dombra, a long-necked string instrument, is kept in many Kalmyk families and is used as a solo as well as an ensemble instrument. Khuur, a fiddle instrument, is used less often.
In Kalmykia the revival of musical instruments began in the 1980s. In the Elista School of Arts of Chonkushov a class was opened to teach people how to play traditional instruments, including dombra, yochin (dulcimer), yatkh (zither), khuchir (bowed musical instrument), morin khuur (horsehead fiddle), and limb (flute). The end of the 1980s also saw the establishment of famous orchestras and ensembles such as the National Orchestra of Kalmykia, Tyulpan, Oirat, and Jangar, which are still active.
Alena Lidzhieva, Dombra Melodies
The concert shown in this video is performed by the Kalmyk National Symphonic Orchestra. The soloist is Arslan Shavgurov, an Honored Artist of Kalmykia. The composer and director is Savr Kataev. The concert consists of three parts. Part One is dedicated to the heroic deeds of the Kalmyk people. Part Two shows the time of repressions and the deportation of the Kalmyk people. Part Three is a dance finale reminding the present generation about the importance of safeguarding the cultural treasures of the Kalmyk nation and about the upcoming bright future. Part Two and Three are accompanied by a dombra.
Arslan Shavgurov, A Dombra Concert
Arslan plays several melodies on a dombra, including Dargin, Chechen, Adygei, and Kalmyk melodies.
Arslan relays that according to a legend, the Russian balalaika originates from the Kalmyk dombra. One day Peter the Great organized a public event and invited musicians from all corners of the country, including the Kalmyks. In the beginning, the balalaika had two strings. Later Andreev added one more string and turned the balalaika into a three-stringed instrument.
Arslan Shavgurov, Dombra Melodies
Dmitriy Sharaev, Different Dombra Melodies of the Torghut, the Derbet, the Buzava, and the Khoshud
According to Konstantin, dombra is not only a musical instrument, but its structure contains information on the history of the Kalmyks. For example, a hole in the middle represents Lake Baikal in Siberia; marks underneath the two strings show the number of battles fought by the Kalmyks on their way from Dzungaria to Kalmykia; the first string symbolizes the route of the Kalmyks to Kalmykia, south of Russia, while the second string symbolizes the exodus of half of the Kalmyk population back to Dzungaria in 1771; the upper part of the instrument’s body represents Kalmykia.