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The Peaks of Yakov Khan’s Artistic Career in the Context of Kazakhstani Popular Jazz Art

28.11.2014 2951
Nowadays, expatriate communities inhabiting our Republic are the focus of many branches of science, such as history, political science, ethnology, social, economic, and cultural studies, and many others.

Nowadays, expatriate communities inhabiting our Republic are the focus of many branches of science, such as history, political science, ethnology, social, economic, and cultural studies, and many others. It is the policy of the first RK President N. Nazarbayev what makes studying the unique history of their daily routine, traditions, cultural values, spiritual priorities, and the consolidation of the Korean community possible. The Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan plays an essential role in addressing the abovementioned issues.

The outstanding jazzman, composer, musician, and teacher Ya. Khan is famous well beyond Kazakhstan. Being a striking, extraordinary person and a great professional, he was triumphant in the sphere of music art which has got less proper representation than it deserves. He has tried his hand at many genres of the jazz culture. Having developed an enormous love and affection for the abovementioned music style in his years of adolescence, he has devoted his entire life to accomplishing new missions in spite of all varieties of fortune[1].

The Korean composer, who thinks in terms of images and symbols, a Member of the RK Union of Composers, he has dedicated 45 years to jazz but still feels uncertain when it comes to clearly defining the genre of his life 45. The Sun Valley Serenade movie featuring the Glen Miller Orchestra,  Count Basie records, and The Voice of America radio program charmed the young man, a student of Shymkent Music College, so much that it never occurred to him that he might be expelled for skipping classes, which he would do every once in a while[2]. He often thinks back of his early childhood, when he would work his fingers to the bone thinning out, pinching, hoeing, and picking cotton. He would spend the evening dancing with his brother and playing the harmonica, a family heirloom called twenty five by twenty five. He loved playing such waltzes as “Waves of the Danube”, “Waves of the Amur”, “Torn Strings”, and other popular pieces.  «Having lost his father at the age of five, he could not even think of being given the privilege of being a student at Shymkent Music College, which was his long cherished dream. Attending bayan and accordion classes, he was also forced to master the cello. However, Yakov was very young when he knew what his call was, which determined his future choice of instrument.

Having mastered solfeggio and several instruments, the composer spent years doing military service in Turkmenia near the Iranian border. It was music what saved him back then when the situation was so bitter. He would listen to his radio tuned to The Voice of America, during which jazz hits were broadcast at a good quality, at night. The memory of his insight makes him smile today. When his military service was over, his Turkmenian luggage consisted of kilometers of tape bearing the jazz works he cherished and admired.

In 1968, he visited the Korean community of the Sakhalin as a member of the Ariran band. What he saw did leave an imprint on his heart. His mission was limited to stage performing. He gave his compatriots living in the far region an opportunity to hear works by Soviet foreign composers. Having no documents and deprived of free travel, they were happy to be able to hear them. Performances featuring the legendary drum player Takhir Ibragimov proved to be especially impressive. He inevitably amused the audience, and the rest of the band felt thankful to the gifted musician for their minutes of glory.

 In 1969, Yakov Khan began his work at the State Korean Theater of Musical Comedy as a musician to become a conductor later. During the period of 1975-76, he was playing in the Kazakh Radio and Television Stage Symphonic Orchestra. In 1977, he was the head of the Kayagym Popular Orchestra in Tashkent, which he did successfully; during the period of 1979-80, he was accompanying the Aray band and the RK People’s Artists Roza Rymbayeva   during their tours.

Later Yakov Khan unlocked his potential of a jazz musician and a conductor in the Bumerang and Medeo bands. They traveled to Moscow, Leningrad, Novosibirsk, Yaroslavl, and other cities. In mid-80s, he founded the Ariran Band to later undertake his first journey to South Korea among other musicians.  In 1991, he founded a big band, and the Samulnory Popular Jazz Band, which he created in 2002, was awarded the grand prix in Seoul. Pro-jazz, an ensemble of ten instrumentalists and four vocalists dating back to 2006 gives an Oriental interpretation to jazz rock and is widely admired for its extraordinary approach and charisma. It has given Khan another opportunity to unlock his natural potential of a jazz conductor.

He is also the author of serious classical compositions, such as the “Ying and Yang”, a ballad for saxophone and soprano, “Steppe Sketches” for string quartet, a one-act ballet titled “The Amazons”, and the symphonic poem “The Melody Abandoned”, which is often performed by the RK State Symphonic Orchestra.

Being the head of such pop jazz bands as Ariran, Kayagym, Samulnori, a big band, Pro-Jazz, the director of the Academic Korean Theater Orchestra in Almaty, he chose not to limit himself to the frame of conducting and performing. He compiled an anthology of Koryo Saram folk music in cooperation with the South Korean writer Kim Pen Hah. The anthology contains two parts titled “Forgotten Songs about Essential Things”. It was published to celebrate the composer’s 70th birthday and consists of 400 folk songs, which mostly help enthusiasts become familiar with Korean folk music art, which is full of suffering and grievance.  Notating and handling previously unrecorded songs, the authors of which were mostly long gone, was an important part of the work done. An interview revealed certain facts which are an evidence of how important the project was for the composer, who believed his professional and moral duty to the future generation of the Korean nation to have been fulfilled in a decent way [1]. The project resulted in a tour around areas of compact Korean settlement, including Russia, Uzbekistan, Taldykorgan, Ushtobe, Shymkent, Kzylorda, Zhezkazgan, and Taraz.  The folk music collection constituted a rich basis for further jazz interpretation[3].              

To describe Ya. Khan’s latest accomplishments on the Olympus of jazz, the fact that only in 2011 he participated in five republic-wide and international festivals and won the gran prix   at three of them should be mentioned. His first fest took place in Aktobe in February to commemorate the founder of Kazakhstani jazz, the legendary drummer Takhir Ibragimov.

The same year in fall, the Aktobe Jazz 2011 International Jazz Festival was held in the same city. The author presented his new experimental concepts. The Sazgen Sazy Ethnical Folk Band played the dombra, the kobz, and the saz syrnay to perform pop jazz compositions. Thinking back of the competition, the composer remarked that the audience had been especially interested and curious about the novel approach. In spite of the familiar, classical speech of the abovementioned instruments, a drastic transformation took place, giving the harmonic sound fresh and original, or rather exotic undertones. The First International Gnesin-Jazz Festival for Young Musicians arranged by the Ministry of Culture and the Russian Gnesin Academy was held at the end of the year to bring another award to the composer. The participation of Sazgen Sazy Band made the Gnesin-Jazz Fest international. Their performance of “The Caravan” by D. Ellington, “Alqonyr”
“Zhekpe zhek”, “Gaukhar tas”, and “The Flight of the Bumblebee” proved so impressive that the audience encored many times.

Ya. Khan’s initiative to prove the necessity of studying the classic music heritage of the great masters is what underlies numerous Jazz Parties. One of such parties to pay tribute to the great masters of pop, jazz, and rock music – Takhir Ibragimov, Seydolla Bayterekov, Taskyn Okapov, Talgat Sarybayev, Sharip Omarov, Baglan Sadvakasov, Bakhytzhan Zhumadilov, LevKofman, Viktor Kim, and many others was held in the Republican Palace, though it was initially expected to take place in the School Palace. A. Yesimov, the Akim of Almaty, appreciated the idea and facilitated its implementation. One of the parties was attended by such globally recognized stars as  Georgiy Metaksa, Enver Izmaylov, Baygali Serkebayev, Vladimir Mikloshich, and Batyrkhan Shukenov along with outstanding Kazakhstani musicians – Roza Rymbayva, Alibek Dnishev, Sagnay Abdullin, and many more.  

An interview with the musician yielded information about Korean folk, pop and jazz music as well as the classical compositions presenting a perfect reflection of the author’s individual aspirations of a composer and a conductor which is bot interesting and important.  Yakov Khan turned 70 last year! We wish the great master many happy returns and more accomplishments in his fruitful career. 


                                                                                       Musagulova G. Zh.

                                                                                         Candidate of Arts,

Associate Professor, Head of Music Studies Department,

                                                                                         M. O. Auezov Institute

 For Literature and Arts

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