The Silk Road, which for centuries conveyed goods, ideas, and culture between East Asia and the Mediterranean, passed through the rugged, mountainous terrain of central Asia that today is Kyrgyzstan in central Asia. Its majority, the Kyrgyz, a Muslim group related to Siberians and Slavs as well as Turkic-speakers, were off and on part of larger Mongol, Manchu, Uzbek, Russian, and, lastly, Soviet empires. The breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 brought independence to the Republic of Kyrgyzstan. Agriculture, livestock, and mining keep its economy going; wrestling and horse-riding are popular sports, alongside the relatively new World Nomad Games, which you should check out right here.
It's safe to say we didn't know a whole lot about this tiny Asian country when we were invited. As ever, we turned our energy towards learning a song that people there might recognize. That song turned out to be Kara Jorgo, which tells the story of nomads throwing a party for visitors. (You can read a translation of the Kazakh version of the song here.) The dance that goes along with this traditional song is equally significant and the second video below was caught during one of our performances outside of Bishkek. You can see people in the audience get up out of their seats and get down!
We teamed up with the local Kyrgyz folk band Ordo Sakhna while in the capital of Bishkek and were able to put on several shows together. They were incredibly talented and played several instruments we'd never seen before.
The band was able to record every single show we played there and we were able to release a live album, Live in Kyrgyzstan.
You can hear the recording of Kara Jorgo from an old Soviet era theatre here for free ➡ Click Here
If you want to purchase the whole album, you can grab it from our website here ➡ Click Here
Below is a video taken the first time we met, where they showed off some of their skills and frankly left us speechless.
Here's a video of Ben showing some members of the band the forward roll on the banjo.
While we were outside of Bishkek, we were able to catch a live performance/recital of the Epic of Manas.
Men train their entire lives, memorizing what is considered the longest poem every written. We were able to catch about 20 minutes of this young man's 24-hour portion of the Epic. They only drink water during the performance and it's nonstop. At the end of his 24 hours, another person steps in to continue the story, all by memory. It's hard to describe what it was like to be in the presence of this event. It was all going down in a Yurt (small round cottage, centuries old) and there were a bunch of people dressed in traditonal Kyrgyz clothing, yet there was a camera streaming it live to the internet right in the middle of the room.
The past and the present collided in front of our very eyes. You can watch a little of the video that Ben took below.
On our only day off in the country, we were offered a trip up into the mountains the country is famous for. You have to pinch yourself on excursions like this. We were walking up into the mountains in central Asia! There were long stretches of silence, only broken by the sound of our boots in the snow.