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Date: May 14, 2013

Venue: National Philharmonic Hall, Bishkek

On May 14, 2013 the Aigine Cultural Research Center (hereinafter Aigine CRC) in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Information and the National Commission for UNESCO of the Kyrgyz Republic presented the first two video versions of the great Kyrgyz epic trilogy – Manas and Semetei epics in the Grand Hall of the Kyrgyz National Philharmonic Society Building.

The video versions were prepared by the Aigine CRC with financial support of The Christensen Fund, California, USA. The objective of the event was to announce the release of the video versions and to present them to general public. The presentation was targeted at university and school students of Bishkek. The recitation of Manas and Semetei epics contained in the video compilations is based on the epic versions of contemporary manaschys, or epic narrators. The main goal of the event was to support the nomination of the Kyrgyz Epic Trilogy, Manas, Semetei, Seitek, to be inscribed on the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage on behalf of Kyrgyzstan.

The event indicated the importance and appealing nature of the Manas epic for citizens of Kyrgyzstan. The epic chanters made a magical performance and the Grand Hall of the Philharmonic Society Building with seating capacity of 1,500 people was fully packed. University and school students of Bishkek, local and international scholars and researchers, representatives of local and international organizations constituted the main audience.

The presentation consisted of three parts. The first part introduced the audience to the epic world through a splendid performance of a piece from a play, Manastyn uulu Semetei (Semetei the son of Manas), by actors of the Kyrgyz Drama Theatre named after T. Abdumomunov. The dramatic performance was followed by a live recitation of the epic. The audience was captivated by the powerful epic recitation of the eleven manaschys, who continuously changed their rhythms and intonations. Then, there was a slide show presentation of the video shooting process and disc preparation accompanied by a melodic epic chanting of Shaabai Azizov.

Deputy Minister of Culture, Information and Tourism of the Kyrgyz Republic, Mr. Kojogeldi Kuluev, opened the second part of the presentation with a speech. Mr. Kuluev emphasized that the epic Manas is a unique cultural heritage and awarded medals with the honorary title Otlichnik Kultury (For Excellence in Culture) to older-generation manaschys, while younger reciters received Certificates of Merit. One of the manaschys,Kubanyshchbek Almabekov, pointed out that “a medal per se is a sign of solid recognition by our government. I did not expect it and therefore I feel excited.”

The third part of the event was a concert thematically related to the epic trilogy. Kyrgyz traditional musical instrument, komuz, as the epic trilogy, is also a symbol of traditional identity of the Kyrgyz people. Therefore, one of the talented and celebrated composers and komuz players, Nurak Abdrakhmanov, opened the concert together with his apprentices. Actors of the Kyrgyz National Opera and Ballet Theatre performed pieces from“Manas” and “Aichurek” operas. It needs to be mentioned that after live recitation of manaschys and skillful play of komuz, there was a feeling of the audience being somewhat indifferent to the opera performance. However, young performers from Shattyk dance group with their dance Temir Komuz and Will Be dance group with their innovative dubstep dance to Nurak Abdrakhmanov’s komuz melodies juiced up and elevated mood of the audience. The host of the event was manaschy, Ryspai Isakov. The presentation was concluded by performance of Saikal and Nurbek, novice epic reciters and graduates of the School for Young Manaschy organized and conducted by the Aigine CRC in 2011-2012. At the end of the event, representatives of universities and schools had a chance to receive one copy of the Semetei epic’s video compilation free of charge.

We would like to stress specifically that this event was a rare example of truly equal cooperation with state institutions. The Ministry of Culture, Information and Tourism represented by the minister, Sultan Rayev, deputy minister Kudaibergen Bazarbaev and one of the staff members, Nazgul Mekesheva, were able to mobilize such organizations as the Philharmonic Society Building, Kyrgyz Drama Theater, Opera and Ballet Theatre, School of Choreography and the Republican Center for Children and Youth that participated in the presentation on a volunteer basis. The National UNESCO Commission represented by Sabira Soltongeldieva was responsible for the PR campaign and working with the media. Media coverage before and during the event was broad and representatives of the Public TV and Radio Broadcasting Companies, ElTR, 5th Channel, Mir Company, NTN and newspapers and radio companies were videotaping the event and interviewing organizers, participants and viewers. A newspaper of the Ministry of Education, Kut Bilim, represented by one of its staff members Gulnara Alybaeva organized a broad information campaign among schools and higher education facilities in the country. A Member of Parliament, Karganbek Samakov, provided a camera operator to shoot the entire presentation. An anthropology club of the AUCA made great photographs. Cholponbek and his fellowmen from the youth organization “Ak Shumkar-Kut” provided assistance in administering the hall and the stage.

In conclusion it should be mentioned that successful partnership between state agencies and Aigine CRC became possible due to two factors. First of all, it was due to the epic Manas itself and its reciters, and secondly, to The Christensen Fund. Aigine CRC expresses its appreciation to the Ministry of Culture and National UNESCO Commission for concerted efforts in organizing the presentation and extends its profound gratitude to representatives of The Christensen Fund for understanding the exceptional role of this project and financing the project.