I had my first kobyz lesson of the year yesterday, with the professional performer and teacher Raushan Orazbaeva. We met at the Conservatory a couple of years ago when we both showed up to a concert that had been unexpectedly canceled -- she had planned to perform, I had only planned to watch. When I told her my story (I had brought another American with me), she brought us to an empty classroom and gave us an impromtu concert. She did a nice CD in Italy a few years ago (see photo), which I've been using a lot for class presentations and whatnot.
So with that back story, I was really happy that Raushan was willing to take me on as a student. We played a bunch of kyui during the lesson, some that I thought were too hard for me but we slogged through them anyway. So now I have quite a bit of practicing to do...! When the issue of payment came up, she said I could pay her by giving English lessons to her and her children -- hey, works for me.
Raushan also had some interesting info and insights to share with me. She recently won a major music competition in Almaty, for which the mayor awarded her with a new apartment! Considering the skyrocketing real estate costs in the city, this is a big deal. Regarding the music, she made sure to emphasize the meditative and spiritual aspects of the kobyz and its music. She reminded me that you can't play kyui exactly as they are written down -- since they were never written down until more recently, with the introduction of European musical notation to Kazakhstan in the 19th century. She told me that playing should be like meditation, and talked about how when she plays, she feels connected to her ancestors, who tell her how to interpret the music as she's playing.
On a separate note, this weekend I'm doing some entertaining at home and cooking "American food" for a few local friends and acquaintances. In this case, "American food" is tacos (i had to get the necessary supplies at an expensive chi-chi store for foreigners) and hamburgers. One Kazakh friend who came yesterday brought an apple pie that she had made from scratch. :)