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Kazakh dombra
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The Dombra, also known as Dombyra (Kazakh: домбыра), (Persian: دمبوره) is a long-necked musical string instrument used by the Kazakhs, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Nogais, Bashkirs, and Tatars in their traditional folk music.[1][2] The Dombura shares certain characteristics with the komuz and dutar instruments, such as its long, thin neck and oblong body shape. It is a popular instrument mostly among Turkic communities in Central Asian countries.


The instrument differs slightly in different regions. The Kazakh dombyra has frets and is played by strumming with the hand or plucking each string individually, with an occasional tap on the main surface of the instrument. While the strings are traditionally made of sinew, modern dombras are usually produced using nylon strings. One of the greatest dombra players was the Kazakh folk musician and composer Kurmangazy Sagyrbayuly, who had a major influence on the development of Kazakh musical culture, including music for the dombra; his musical composition "Adai" is popular in Kazakhstan and abroad.

In 2012, the elektrodombyra was created.[3]

The Hazara, Turkestani, and Badakhshani damburas, commonly found in Afghanistan, are fretless[4] with a body and neck carved from a single block of wood, usually mulberry or apricot. The dambura is played with much banging and scratching on the instrument to help give a percussive sound. The two strings are made of nylon (in modern times) or gut. They cross a short bridge to a pin at the other end of the body. There is a tiny sound hole in the back of the instrument, while the top is thick wood. It is not finished with any varnish, filing/sanding of any kind, and as with all other Turkic instruments there is some decoration.

A performer strikes all the strings at the same time. The upper string performs the bourdon tone and the lower string performs the melody. A dumbura is used as a solo as well as an ensemble instrument.


The dombyra first appeared in the Middle Ages. For example, the works of Aby Nasyr Al-Farabi refer to a tambur-like musical instrument similar to the dombyra. An instrument similar to the Dombyra existed in almost every country in Central Asia. Within the last century, there have been many great composers and Dombyra players, such as Kurmangazy, Kazangap, and Tattimbet.

The importance of the dombra in the culture of Kazakhstan was marked by including it in the Intangible Heritage register. In November 2014, Dombra kuy was included in was registered as a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage.[5] In 2018, Kazakhstan initiated the Dombra Day. The National Dombra Day is celebrated in Kazakhstan every first Sunday of July.[6]

Dombra in ensemble and epic performance[edit]

Playing the dombra

The Kazakh poet Abay Qunanbayuli is often shown holding a dombra at rest and many hold it in high regard as a national symbol among the post-Soviet nations of the Commonwealth of Independent States. The dombra is played by Erzhan Alimbetov in the Ulytau band.

From the 12th to the 18th century, the dumbura was used by Bashkir sasans to accompany their poetic legends and kubairs. It is mentioned in the epic poem "Zayatulyak and Hiuhiliu". However, by the beginning of the 20th century, the dumbura was forgotten. The sasans were often the main ideologists of ethnic insurrections, so when the Russian administration put down an uprising, they punished the dumbura sasans and destroyed their dumbura.[citation needed] In the second half of the 20th century, several reconstructions were carried out. At present, the revivalist work continues. Among others, performer V. Shugayupov works on the revival of the dumbura. The modern wooden dumbura has a pear-shaped or an oval form.[citation needed]

References in popular culture[edit]

Dombra diagram, with description in Esperanto.

This instrument has become a part of an Internet phenomenon after a video clip from SuperStar KZ, the Kazakh equivalent of the Idol series, was posted on YouTube. The video includes two contestants singing and a third one singing and playing the dombra (Ernar Kaldynov), which caused the popularity. The name of the original song is Freestailo by R.Lizer, a Kazakh man.

Dombyra as an instrument is being popularized through Dombyra Parties, a flash mob-like movement of Kazakh youth organized via social media. The videos of Dombyra Party activities are shared on YouTube, Facebook etc.

Range and tablature[edit]

Many folk and regional tunings have existed, though below is the most accepted academic DG tuning for standard concert dombra prima of Kazakhstan.

There are different classifications of Dombyra, for example Dombyra for singing songs or jirs has 8-9 frets, dombyra for kyus has more than 20 frets.[7]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Revitalising the tambura | The Express Tribune". 2022-03-25. Retrieved 2023-01-22.
  2. ^ "Musical instruments of the peoples of the Caucasus. Dombra | Music of the Caucasus". 2018-07-06. Retrieved 2023-05-21.
  3. ^ "Дух Великой Степи — Электродомбра помогла казахстанской группе достичь вершин рок-чарта в США". Archived from the original on Apr 11, 2015.
  4. ^ "Atlas of plucked instruments - Central Asia". Archived from the original on 2012-03-05. Retrieved 2009-03-08.
  5. ^ "Kazakh traditional art of Dombra Kuy." UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, 2014.
  6. ^ "Above 1,000 participated in Dombra Day celebrations". Jul 8, 2019.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ "Dombra" The Shahnameh Guide To The Lutes Of Central Asia

External links[edit]

Kui on dombra

How to play the dombra

Other links