Traditional instrument and music of nomads

Traditional Instruments and the Music of Nomads

Morin Khuur of Mongolia and Kobyz of Kazakhstan


Silk Road Nomads and Their Instruments


The Silk Road was a path through which merchants travelled, carrying goods of precious value.
On this road, a variety of ethnic groups met and interacted, accelerating cultural exchange and influencing each other’s cultures.


Among the cultural exchange, music was something that helped people to communicate their emotions and understand each other, surpassing the difference in languages.
And musical instruments were the medium through which tunes and melodies were created.


Silk Road nomads developed their own instruments and music, which were similar but also different to other ethnic groups, and they used this music to communicate with others.

Morin Khuur and Kobyz are two-stringed instruments that make mystical sounds.
The similarity between the two instruments was due to the fact that both had originated from Turk-Mongolian traditional music.

Two instruments are evidence of the cultural exchange through music by nomads on the Silk Road. But while they share similarities, the differences arose due to differences in history and environment

Morin Khuur of Mongolia, the Sound of Horses Running through Grassy Plains


Morin Khuur is a musical instrument resembling a horse’s shape and sound.
Its music was inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2008.

The two strings, which come from the mane of a horse running free on grassy plains, make wonderous sounds reflecting the Mongolians’ sentiments


There exists an interesting legend about the origin of Morin Khuur.

Once upon a time in a faraway land, a man was travelling on horseback. During the course of this long journey, his beloved horse died.
The man was full of sorrow and, for a long time, mourned for his horse.
One day, he heard what sounded like music made by wind running through the horse’s mane and tail, and decided to create a musical instrument in memory of his dear steed.

The legend demonstrates the high value Mongolians place on their horses.


Morin Khuur is usually played as a solo instrument, but often with other intangible heritage elementss, such as Khuumei throat singing, Urtiin Duu song and Bii Biyelgee dance.


Morin Khuur, deeply embedded in the life of Mongolians, is an instrument that shows the pride of Mongolian nomads.

Mongolia Secret of Hair’s Melody

Kazakhstan Kobyz - Heritage of Korkyt Ata


Kobyz (kaz. "qobyz", "qyl-qobyz.") is an ancient Kazakh two-stringed musical instrument with bow, and an essential attribute of rites conducted by ("baqsy", "qam") - a shaman.


It is believed that the legendary steppe songwriter, musician and storyteller Korkyt Ata, from late 8th to early 9th centuries, created Shirgay, the first Kobyz.


Kobyz belongs to a class of chordophones, and is produced using a special technique.
It is created by hollowing out a single piece of wood, usually juniper (arsha, archa), maple, pine or birch.


Kobyz served as a means of communication between shamans and their spirit helpers, or "aruahi".
The tradition of playing Kobyz not only has a ritualistic nature, but is also closely linked with works of the epic bards (the narrator, adviser and prophet).
Kobyz tradition is an integral part of the nomadic way of life.


Kobyz and its traditions changed the traditional way of life for the inhabitants of the steppes and desert regions.
Kobyz is called the narrator of ethnic history.

Kazakhstan Heritage of Korkyt-ata

Explore more

Explore traditional instruments, and create your own story from the collection.