Nurpeissova, Dina (1861–1955)

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Nurpeissova, Dina (1861–1955)

Kazakh composer and dombrist who preserved many Kazakh traditions. Born in Beketai-Kum, Kazakhstan, in 1861; died in Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan, on January 31, 1955.

At the dawn of the 20th century, Kazakh women were not permitted to sing among men, and dancing was prohibited for both sexes. Islamic religion also forbade documentation of everyday life in paintings or art. In consequence, artistic abilities were concentrated in music, and musicians preserved the history and culture of Kazakhstan in their work. Although Moscow and Leningrad were far away, the radical changes initiated by the Bolshevik Revolution of November 1917 began to be felt even in remote Kazakhstan.

By the early 1920s, a new type of professional singer and composer, the female Kazakh artist, began to appear in the fairs, bazaars, teahouses and kümis (fermented mare's milk) houses. One of these pioneers was Mayra (Magira Samsutdinova , 1896–1929) who defied the old customs restricting women. Mayra performed in public singing Russian and Tatar songs to the accordion as well as Kazakh songs to the dombra, a type of lute which is the national instrument of Kazakhstan.

Following in Mayra's footsteps, Dina Nurpeissova became a virtuoso on the dombra. Her father taught her to play this and other traditional instruments, thus handing down ancient rituals which are passed from one generation to the next. In 1936, Nurpeissova received a prize in Moscow when her compositions were performed by the mixed National Kazakh Kolkhoz Choir. She was made a National Artist of the Kazakh SSR in 1944. Like musicians before her, Nurpeissova performed sitting cross-legged on a rug, improvising accompaniment on the dombra as she sang of her homeland.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia