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Musical Instruments

The dutar, a two-stringed guitar with a rounded body, is the most important musical instrument of Turkmenistan, providing the musical accompaniment to the epic sung poetry known as destans which are the stock-in-trade of Turkmenistan's traditional singers, or bagshies. The dutar typically has a body made of mulberry wood, or occasionally walnut, its neck of apricot wood. The teaching of the dutar has become a major focus of post-independence musical education, and it is now common in Turkmenistan to see schoolchildren clutching the instrument, protected in a velvet carrying-case.

The gyjak is a three- or four-stringed instrument, played with a bow whose string is made of hair from a horse's tail. The instrument is stood upright, resting on a little peg at its base, and produces a sound which might evoke for you the ever-changing landscapes of the desert of the Kara Kum. Or it might just remind you of a long screech. The gyjak, which is also usually made from a mixture of mulberry and apricot woods, is typically used to accompany the dutar.

The gargy-tuyduk is a long reed flute which produces a wonderful, melancholic sound. This really will evoke the sound of the wind blowing across the desert. The dilli-tuyduk is a much shorter flute, producing a shriller sound.

The gopuz is a small metal instrument, which in other parts of the world is known as a Jew's harp. It is placed in the mouth, from which a protruding stainless steel reed is strummed by a quickly moving hand. The mouth serves as a sound chamber, and the breath varies the pitch. The gopuz is mostly played by women, and produces a distinctive twanging sound.