Watch 1,000 Kyrgyz Musicians Play their National Instrument, the Komuz - Atlas Obscura
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Watch 1,000 Kyrgyz Musicians Play their National Instrument, the Komuz

Forget Rio, it’s the World Nomad Games.

At an arena in Cholpon-ata, a lakeside resort in Kyrgyzstan, the 2016 World Nomad Games kicked off in spectacular fashion on September 3. Horse riders showboated their skills; some of them rode while on fire, others lay horizontally across the saddle. An armor-clad Steven Seagal was the guest of honor, as competitors paraded behind their national flags.  

The World Nomad Games, which finish on September 8, are designed to promote the nomadic cultural and sporting traditions of central Asia. Although many of the sports are rarely played outside of a handful of countries in the region, 40 nations participate in the competition.

At the opening ceremony, however, one of the showpieces was musical rather than sporting. A thousand players of the komuz, the three-stringed national instrument of Kyrgyzstan, played a song in perform harmony and rhythm. The musicians lined up in rows, dressed in traditional attire and many men wearing the kalpak, a white felt hat. Women, men and children all played on one knee. 

The dazzling performance ushered in five days of sporting events, including er enish (horseback wrestling), kok-boru (a form of polo played with a goat carcass instead of a ball) and jereed (equestrian javelin). 

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