The Ihlis Museum of National Musical Instruments is unique in Central Asia and one of only a handful of similar museums in the world. The building itself is a piece of architectural history, a wooden architectural model of the early 20th century. The total area of the museum building is 1,117 km2 with seven exhibition halls and three show rooms, as well as a concert hall which seats 160 people. Today there are 530 musical exhibits in the museum fund, including 49 types and hundreds of varieties of Kazakh musical instruments. The exhibition shows the evolution of musical instruments over the centuries-old culture, archeological finds relating to ancient arts in the region, and original instruments used by notable composers and musicians of Kazakhstan.
The first exhibition hall explores the mystical ideas of ancient people about music, and the origin of musical instruments. The second displays the ethnic history of Kazakh nation from the 8th to the 12th century and shows rock paintings of human figures with musical instruments. In the third hall, there are the noisy percussion instruments and wind instruments. The fourth hall contains bowed string instruments: the kobiz, nar-kobiz, sazgen and others.
In the fifth hall are plucked string instruments. Of main interest are in the different kinds of dombra the most popular Kazakh musical instrument. Dombra from almost all regions of Kazakhstan are displayed, differing in shape, dimension, and sounding, and skillfully decorated with wood engraving, colored enamel, or encased by nacre and bone. Other instruments include jetigen, adirna, and sherter.
In the Memorial Hall are the instruments played by well-known musicians and composers of Kazakhstan the dombra of Birjan, the sap of Kurmangazi, Abay, Dina, and the famous singer A. Kashaubaeva, who appeared on stage in 1925 in Paris and in 1927 in Frankfurt. The sirnai of Nartay and Shushbay composers are also on display.
The seventh hall exhibits instruments of Turkic nations – Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan. The collection in the eighth hall consists of musical instruments from the rest of the world. The museum organizes excursions for various groups, as well as lectures, concerts and exhibitions about the history of Kazakh musical culture.
Central Asia Discovery # 25