“Music is a more potent instrument than any other for education because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul” (Plato)
‘While what makes a singer is his dedication to music and to his inner feelings, what really matters is a beautiful performance. No social status or competition will lead a singer to success. What makes a singer are his listeners … to the audience in front of television, an artist should be someone who is qualified to be a role model. I think I should try my best to do something more educational. My inner world, my feelings for my dearest listeners, my love and passion for them, I can only express through my songs now’. (Dimash)
This is a recent quote from Dimash and when I read it, I had to smile, for when I think of all that I have learnt because of this young man over the past year, I know that this is education at its best!
Kazakhstan to me was a childhood image of large open spaces with beautiful horses and proud riders with eagles on their arms. I am ashamed to say that I had to look for Kazakhstan’s exact location on a map. I knew nothing of its’ rich cultural heritage and history nor of the lovely, hospitable Kazakh people. Neither did I know of the pain, loss and horrendous happenings of their most recent history and all that they have endured/are enduring as a people. If I am honest, neither did I realise that Kazakhstan is a new independent nation and is slowly trying to find it’s way in the wider world. This, of course, is not easy when it is a country of some 130 nationalities with differing cultures, faiths and traditions but is symbolised beautifully by a building known as the “Pyramid’ in Astana. This 2006 building is the ‘Palace of Peace and Reconciliation’, has a pure form 62 metres high and 62 metres base, and the top is decorated with a stunning piece of art that has 130 doves expressing the spirit of Kazakhstan to co-exist in peace, harmony and accord. The Opera House and Arts Centre are housed in this beautiful building clearly showing that Music and the Arts bring people together.
I have also recently looked a little into the Kazakh musical heritage and of course, being a tribal, wandering people there are many stories that have been passed down through generations. Stories of voices that could travel great distances sometimes sounding like a waterfall and sometimes more strident but with huge vocal ranges and purity of tone:
‘The musical culture of Kazakhs since olden days was famous … perhaps, boundless steppe spaces and a nomadic way of life promoted distribution and riches of sound, the result of that became creation of wonderful steppe performances’. (A.A Zhubanova)
The great educator, Chokan Valikhanov, wrote: ‘The heavenly song soared above the ground … above the Kazakh steppe divine song fell low, people heard it, has apprehended and has learned to sing. That is why they sing so magnificently’.
Source: A.A. Zhubanova of Al-Farabi Kazakh National University 2010
We do not know Dimash’s family history but we do know that he is educated in his rich artistic and cultural heritage and has learnt his early musical skills from both his ‘Mama and Papa’ and his parents Kanat and Sveta. I listened to his prelude (via fancam so not the best!) to ‘Late Autumn’ at the Changsha D-Dynasty concert and had ‘goosebumps’ as I could so easily imagine this echoing across the steppes of Kazakhstan. We also know that Dimash enters a place deep inside himself and ‘emotionally lives’ his songs, reflecting maturity beyond his years and this is also recognisable as part of the musical heritage of his ancestors.
We know that in the years before independence, Kazakh artists, poets and singers were deported, imprisoned and often died. We also know that Kazakhstan endured huge pain, abuses and loss. I know, professionally, that for individuals when this happens they ‘lose their voice’ and use their energies to ‘survive’ so in answer to the question raised by Tolegen Battugenov ‘we haven’t produced any great artists, poets or singers, Russian yes, but not Kazakh – why?’ I am left wondering if, following a more secure and settled period of Kazakh history we are now seeing a healing and a re-birth of a nation and that great artisans are now emerging. One of the American ‘Dears’ spent several months in Kazakhstan and had the opportunity to visit Dimash’s schools and was allowed to record some of the young people performing so we were able to see some of the amazing talent coming through. This is also borne out by an increasing number of videos posted on-line of young Kazakh sports stars, artists and singers/musicians. I truly hope that Dimash is leading the way for the world to hear the ‘voice’ and ‘beauty’ inherent in his beloved country.