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18 July 2014 / leggypeggy

The best museum in Almaty

Museum of Kazakh Folk Musical Instruments

Kazakh stringed instrument

I took you to Kazakh cathedrals in the last two posts and its time to move on to something not too religious. So how about music?

We’d been tourists on the streets for Almaty for just a few hours when local people started badgering us to visit the Museum of Kazakh Folk Musical Instruments. It’s the best museum in the whole city, they assured us.

We will, we will, we promised. In fact, we’ve already tried, but the museum is closed on Mondays. So off we trooped on Tuesday.

The museum is striking before you even walk in the door. It’s housed in a lovely timber building that’s more than 100 years old and designed by the architect, Zenkov, who also created the nearby Ascension Cathedral.

We rushed to scurry in the front door ahead of an elderly man who was being interviewed as he walked towards the entrance. Our speculation that this might be part of a documentary on the museum was confirmed after we entered and saw cameras and lights everywhere inside.

Admission was cheap—just 350 som or less than $2 per person—so by comparison the 500 som they wanted for using a ‘professional camera’ was outrageous. I’m just a tourist, and this isn’t a professional camera, but the woman at the entrance insisted the charge applied to all cameras. Paint me annoyed.

We started on the right side of the museum to avoid the documentary filming that was happening on the left. Luckily, that hubbub meant we were pretty much ignored and I was able to sneak in a few shots with my phone.

After we ogled all the wonderful instruments in rooms 1 to 6, we headed back to reception where the woman said, My mistake, you can take photos without charge anywhere in the museum. But no flash.

So I headed back to the beginning for another slow run-through taking pics of the fabulous array of drums, didgeridoo look-alikes, stringed instruments, percussion instruments, performance costumes and more.

All the instruments were identified and some placards even explained who had owned the item.

Then we moved on to room 7 and its display of instruments from other countries.

Korean drum

Korean drum

Today the museum is also a research and education centre. Employees try to unravel the mysteries and histories of unknown and forgotten musical names as well as non-attributed musical works. A large room behind the reception area is for performances and instruction. Some drum-playing students were having a lesson while we were there.

Extensive work on the museum was completed in 2013 and I have to say we were super-impressed by the care and style shown in the exhibits. All truly first-class. Don’t miss it if you’re ever in Almaty. In fact, go out of your way to get there.

Need a snack?
Hope you’ll go out of your way to check out the easy-to-make lemon and ricotta pancakes on my cooking blog.

Museum of Kazakh Folk Musical Instruments

Costumes and instruments


Leave a Comment
  1. suchled / Jul 18 2014 6:42 pm

    There should be a place next to “like” that says “Love” ‘cos I do . Your posts have changed my whole perception of that part of Asia that was the USSR east of the Urals. It would be good if the whole Western world had a better understanding of the hidden parts of civilisation.


    • leggypeggy / Jul 18 2014 9:52 pm

      Thanks suchled—I remember years ago, before the breakup of the Soviet Union, when a newspaper columnist in Canberra wrote that he reckoned most Soviets were just like us. They wanted a job, a decent place to live and their kids to grow up safely with enough food, education and opportunities. Sounds so simple.


      • suchled / Jul 19 2014 7:18 am

        Very simple. I can’t imagine Australians buying guns and missiles if Western Australia decided to secede and become independent.


      • leggypeggy / Jul 19 2014 9:52 am

        Yep, we’d be hurt, but not violent.


  2. wineandhistory / Jul 19 2014 1:45 pm

    What neat instruments! I really like that carved antelope harp type one in the second to last photo. That’s nice that the lady told you that she was mistaken. Lots of people wouldn’t…


    • leggypeggy / Jul 22 2014 1:09 am

      I so appreciated her honesty. Plus it allowed me to get some great photos. I like the antelope harp too.


  3. lmo58 / Jul 29 2014 7:16 pm

    Peggy, I’d be hard pushed to say which instrument I like best. They’re all very beautiful and the museum looks lovely on the outside too.


    • leggypeggy / Aug 5 2014 1:58 am

      It really is one of the best museums I’ve seen in a while. Top notch.


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