Research into the musics of eastern ethnicities authenticated by on location collecting work has great traditions in Hungary – suffice it to mention Béla Bartók’s Anatolian and László Vikár’s Cheremiss, Chuvash, Tatar and Bashkir materials. I have also joined this strain of research with my Anatolian, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Azeri, North Caucasian Karachay-Balkar and Turkmen expeditions and publications over the past 33 years. At the beginning, this work concent­rated on the exploration of the eastern elements in Hungarian folk music but it soon became areal through the study of the folk music of the multi-ethnic Volga-Kama region. Before long, my researches got enlarged into a compar­at­ive ethnomusicological analysis of a vast Turkic-speaking territory.

My research focuses on ethnic groups of various Turkic tongues, but it avoids being monotonous since the musics of these groups can largely differ, and their musics are differently interrelated than the languages. The research of the Turkic-speaking area thus sheds light on a complex musical world, offering conclusion that may have relevance to the interpretation of the Hungarian and some other folk music.

The present book is to be read in view of this broader frame, since via the music of the Kyrgyz people the Kazakh folk music can be linked up with the music of other Turkic and Mongolian people living more to the East. On the other hand, the exploration of Kyrgyz music has a value of its own, as there are very few analytic and comparative publications specifically highlighting it.

The material of the book is chiefly the result of my collecting efforts: the songs were recorded, notated and analyzed by me. My fieldwork in Issyk-kul, Narın and Bishkek in 2002 was followed in 2004 by research aound At-Başı and in Talas. I have read the accessible publications, and I transcribed and examined Dávid Somfai Kara’s collections containing tunes from southwest­ern areas. A few years ago I seemed to have enough reliable material of Kyrgyz vocal folk music to write the book Kyrgyz Folksongs.

Experiencing the pace of the disappearance of Kyrgyz folk music, I realized it was the highest time to complete this research. Just like in many other parts of the world, in Kyrgyz villages and towns one encounters the destructive impacts of the presentday media society upon authentic folklore, aggravated here by the effects of the one-time Soviet empire. In Kyrgyzstan, except for laments, old tunes are only known by people above 65-70, and it often takes great patience and painstaking work to excavate them from their memory. It is truly the very last moment. In a few decades‘ time this generation will die out and with them even the memory of the old strata of Kyrgyz folk music will vanish. Actually, we can only collect relics of music today, too.

It enhances the value of our endeavour that no areal or tribal research of this sort had been conducted in Kyrgyzstan earlier. The recorded material is well suited for linguistic and cultural analyses too besides musical examinations.

Chapter 1 is a brief introduction to Kyrgyzstan, followed by the main factors of Kyrgyz ethnogenesis and the main views concerning them. I touch on the Hungarian researchers’ earlier Kyrgyz investigations and give a colourful account of my own Kyrgyz folk music collecting trips.

Chapter 2 acquaints the reader with Hungarian ethnomusicology’s tradition in researching Finno-Ugric and Turkic folk music. I list here the main old Hungarian folk music styles and examine their possible Turkic connections.

Chapter 3 begins with a review of the earlier Kyrgyz folk music publications, followed by the description of the musical features of Kyrgyz folksongs. The genres, formal features of tunes, the rhythmic and tonal bases of Kyrgyz folk music are outlined. I touch on the Kyrgyz instruments, instrumental music, Kyrgyz epic works and the musical foundations of epic songs.

Chapter 4 contains the CLASSIFICATION OF KYRGYZ TUNES. This is the most difficult chapter to read but it includes the largest amount of novel information. The aim is to present the Kyrgyz folksong types, groups, classes and styles. A total of 94 representative songs are given to illustrate the tune groups, so the reader who attentively studies and possibly learns the melodies will have a good insight into the basic tunes and musical interrelations of Kyrgyz folk music.

Chapter 5 is an anthology of 332 folksongs, providing an interpretive background to the tune groups described in the previous chapter. At present, it is the largest single collection of Kyrgyz folksongs in print.

Chapter 6 contains the Kyrgyz song texts and their English translation.

Chapter 7 offers a comparison of Anatolian, Azeri, Turkmen, Karachay, Volga-Kama-region (Tatar, Bashkir, Chuvash) and Kazakh folk musics from a bird’s-eye-view.

Chapter 8 contains maps and detailed indices of the places of collection, singers, genres, song texts, musical forms, tonal ranges, cadences, scales and rhythmic formulae. The volume ends with a rich bibliography.