Gulzada Ryskulova's musical version of the Manas epic — a folkloric tale usually recited by Kyrgyz men — is nothing short of amazing, as is the tale itself, which was preserved through furtive oral tradition during the Soviet era, in which it was suppressed.
The accompanying video, produced by Sumsarbek Mamyraliyev, transforms the epic tale of a Kyrgyz king into a stirring call to arms to preserve the natural environment and nomadic traditions of Kyrgyzstan.
While Gulzada's release is a celebration of Kyrgyz culture, it is also a challenge to the patriarchy that presently surrounds the epic. Partly because there are many versions of the Manas legend (both written and oral) there are also different understandings as to what the warrior king should mean to the Kyrgyz people.
While Akayev used Manas as a tool to unite Kyrgyzstan's diverse ethnic groups, in more recent times the epic has been hijacked by nationalists that stress the position of ethnic Kyrgyz as the "children of Manas".
Feminists and liberals were moreover aggrieved when a statue symbolising freedom in the form of a female angel in flight was replaced by one of Manas shortly after Kyrgyzstan endured its second and most bloody revolution in 2010.
Now That's Epic: Kyrgyz Woman Singer Remakes Poem Traditionally Sung By Men
[Akhal-Tech Collective/Global Voices]