This year's celebration at the Carnegie Institution Saturday evening was the first celebration of Nauryz held here with the support of the Embassy of Kazakhstan. More than 350 guests,including Americans,Turks and Kazakhs,attended the event organized by the Kazakh diaspora who are members of the Kazakh American Association in collaboration with the Central Asian Cultural Exchange.
An exhibit of Ahmet Ahat's paintings opened the festival. He is a well-known artist from Kazakhstan.
Roksonaki, an avant-garde ethno-rock band from Kazakhstan performed its music,which sounds like ancient nomadic music plus rock plus jazz. The band has been influenced by the Beatles,Led Zeppelin,Pink Floyd,Jethro Tull,Deep Forest and Kazakh epic singers. The band played three national stringed instruments – the dombra,kyl-kobyz,shankobyz – and Indian and Bulgarian flutes,hand drums and a guitar.
The audience sang along with such traditional Kazakh music as “Zheneshe ai” and applauded enthusiastically to “Bau” and “Karakurt.”
Judy Galat,54,of Silver Spring,Md.,a lawyer for the American Federation of Government Employees,said the concert was of great interest to her. “I think it is interesting how Roksonaki blended traditional music and modern,” she said. Galat came to Nauryz with her husband and three children after having heard Roksonaki on an earlier U.S. visit.
The guests also ate kuyrdak,a fried lamb delicacy,baursak and shelpek,both breads cooked in oil,and other Kazakh national dishes.
They had chance to be photographed with students wearing national costumes. Several men wore chapans,a kind of dressing gown with a belt made of velvet and richly embroidered. They cover their heads with a tall felt cap called kalpak or a fox-fur hat with earflaps called malakai. Several young women were dressed in white or yellow cotton or colored silk dresses,red or claret velvet waistcoats with embroidery and tall pointed hats topped with feathers.
The women performed a national dance called kamazhai. Men demonstrated their physical strength in an arkan-tartu contest that resembles a tug of war.
The event ended with dancing.
Nauryz is one of the biggest and most popular holidays in Kazakhstan and all of Central Asia. The Kazakh New Year is celebrated on the day of the spring equinox, March 22.
Nauryz is the celebration of awakening of nature and a symbol of the renewal,peace and unity of all peoples living in Kazakhstan.
Kazakhs also often call Nauryz “Ulystin uly kuni.” It means the great day of the nation,and is a newly reborn tradition after 70 years under Soviet rule when it was not considered an official holiday.
Although it had been celebrated for hundreds of years,during the Soviet period,Nauryz was declared ideologically inconsistent and celebrations were discouraged. It was formally reinstated as a public holiday in Kazakhstan in 1988,three years before the country became independent.
Today,the country celebrates two new years – Jan 1 and Nauryz.
During the Nauryz holiday,it is customary to share generously one's dastarkhan,or table. A special dish – Nauryz kozhe or yogurt soup – is prepared for the festival table. Families all have their own recipes. The only rule for making it is the number of ingredients: seven.