Asia Society Presents Roksonaki: New Sounds From Kazakhstan

Sunday, March 9, 2008, 7:00 p.m. performance

(Pre-performance lecture/demonstration at 6:00 p.m.)

Asia Society presents a special performance on Sunday, March 9 at 7:00 p.m. by the musical group Roksonaki, who have pioneered the creation of a unique sound that integrates ancient Kazakh instrumentation and nomadic music tradition with contemporary rock and jazz.

Ethnomusicologist Helen Faller will discuss traditional Kazakh music and Roksonaki's influences in a pre-performance lecture/demonstration at 6:00 p.m. that evening.

"Asia Society is thrilled to present this unique and rare opportunity to learn about Central Asian culture directly from Kazakhstan's most talented avant-garde artists," says Rachel Cooper, Director of Cultural Programs at Asia Society. "Americans have precious few avenues for exploring Kazakh culture and musical heritage, which is influenced by traditions spanning the Silk Road from North Africa to neighboring China."

Roksonaki formed in Almaty, Kazakhstan in 1990 under the direction of singer-composer Ruslan Kara, who sought to create new music using motifs drawn from Eurasia's indigenous religious traditions. Roksonaki integrates contemporary rock and jazz with traditional Kazakh instruments, such as the kylkobyz, shankobyz, sazsyrnai, and dombra. The group, which received accolades for their appearance at the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival in 2002, has performed with Yo-Yo Ma and at festivals and concerts in Canada, Germany, Turkey, and several former Soviet states.

Ticket prices for the March 9 performance are $16 for Asia Society members/students/seniors and $20 for nonmembers. For tickets and information, call 212-517-ASIA. Members of the press interested in the performance should contact Asia Society's public relations department at 212-327-9271 or

Roksonaki is visiting the US for a month-long tour, "Nauryz with Roksonaki," in celebration of the Central Asian holiday Nauryz, a folk celebration of the spring equinox. Beginning on March 4, the group will participate in a series of residencies at U.S. universities and cultural institutions. In addition to performing a concert at Asia Society on March 9, Roksonaki will perform during Asia Society Museum's Family Day: Spring into Norouz, a special celebration of the Persian New Year, on Saturday, March 8, from 12:00 to 3:00 p.m. (Free with Museum admission; under 16 free.)

Workshops and concerts are arranged by the tour's hosting institutions, which include Asia Society, the Chicago Cultural Center, Georgetown University, Northeastern Illinois University, Stony Brook University, Swarthmore College, the University of Chicago, University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Richmond, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. For specifics on dates and venues please see or

About Nauryz
Nauryz is a pre-Islamic, non-religious New Year celebration. Celebrated in the month of March in Central Asia and the Middle East, it coincides with the Spring Equinox. "Nauryz" derives from the Persian "Norouz," meaning "new day." At its core, Nauryz celebrates the awakening of nature and symbolizes the triumph of good over the evil forces of darkness represented by winter. Traditional Nauryz activities include competitions in horse racing, singing, dancing, games, wrestling, and the "aitys" - an improvisational contest among two or more poet-musicians, bearing a similarity to African American freestyle hip hop. During Nauryz, it is customary for each household to share its dastarkhan (or table) generously, proffering the finest delicacies - kazy, karta, shujik - made from lamb and horse and a special yoghurt soup dish made from seven ingredients. To receive a blessing on Nauryz from the lips of an elder is considered a great honor and a mark of kindness.

Asia Society
Asia Society is the leading global and pan-Asian organization working to strengthen relationships and promote understanding among the people, leaders and institutions of the United States and Asia. The Society seeks to increase knowledge and enhance dialogue, encourage creative expression, and generate new ideas across the fields of policy, business, education, arts and culture. Founded in 1956 by John D. Rockefeller 3rd, Asia Society is a nonprofit educational institution with offices in Hong Kong, Houston, Los Angeles, Manila, Melbourne, Mumbai, New York, San Francisco, Seoul, Shanghai, and Washington, D.C.

The Artists

Ruslan Karin - Musician/Composer/Sound Engineer
Founded Roksonaki in 1990. Ruslan was the first Kazakhstan artist to work in the style of world music, creating original music in which there was an organic synthesis of ethnic cultural roots and influences from rock and jazz. Winner of First Prize in the International Voice of Asia Annual Competition in 1990. Participant in several festivals, including Think Music, Winnipeg (1991), the Asian Festival, Berlin (1994), and the Smithsonian Institution Folklife Festival "The Silk Road: Connecting Cultures, Creating Trust," Washington, D.C. (2002).

Yerlan Sabitov - Musician
Gifted performer of the Kazakh traditional bowed instrument kyl-kobyz. Yerlan graduated from the Department of Folk Instruments at Kurmangazy Kazakh National Conservatory in 1983. He has played with various Kazakh ensembles - including Kulansaz, Adyrna, and Arai - and has worked with Roksonaki since 1994, traveling to Berlin for the Asia Festival in that year. Yerlan maintains an active performance schedule. In addition to traveling to Germany, he has played concerts in Austria, China, France, Italy, Lebanon, Mexico, Laos, Turkey, and Vietnam.

Galymjan Sekeev -Musician/Composer/Arranger/Sound Engineer
Master of the Kazakh traditional plucked instrument jetigen. Galymjan graduated from Kurmangazy Kazakh National Conservatory in Composition in 2002. He also has a degree (2006) in Sound Engineering from the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Unions. Galymjan has been a member of Roksonaki since 2004.

Dr. Dina Amirova - Ethnomusicologist/Roksonaki's Manager
Dina has a B.A. (1984) in Theoretical History from Kurmangazy Kazakh National Conservatory and a Ph.D. (1991) from the St. Petersburg Academy of Art History, where she wrote her dissertation on the art of traditional Kazakh song. She conducts research on traditional and contemporary Kazakh music and has published extensively on the topic. Dina has worked in music education, radio, and television. She has also been a consultant for the Aga Khan Foundation for Culture and a Presenter at the 2002 Folklife Festival. She is the author of the liner notes for Roksonaki's albums and publications about their work.

Dr. Helen M. Faller - Cultural Anthropologist/Project Creator
Helen has been involved in cultural exchange with Central Asia since 2002, when she worked with Roksonaki at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. She has worked with musicians, visual artists, handicrafts artisans, and religious leaders from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. Her committed belief that anthropological knowledge should be applicable compelled her to develop this series of Central Asian University Residencies in 2005. In 2007, Helen created Mosaiqa Records ( as a platform for promoting Central Eurasian music to Western audiences. Helen recently finished a book manuscript on Kazan Tatars, based on her dissertation (Ph.D., University of Michigan 2003). She is also Development Director of Hotel Obligado Physical Theatre in Philadelphia and a freelance grant writer in community development and the arts.

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Contact: Elaine Merguerian at 212-327-9271