Kyrgyz Music Friday is a weekly feature in which I post a pop music video from an artist in Kyrgyzstan. It could be catchy, annoying, funny, insightful, brilliant, awful, or anything in between. It’s what’s playing on the radio, what all the cool kids are listening to these days. Kyrgyz Music Friday is not trying to appeal to your musical taste (which I’m sure is awesome), but simply gives you a glimpse into how pop music is done on this side of the world. Feel free to share your thoughts on this week’s video in the comment section!
Wow, guys. As tempted as I am to re-name this feature Nurbek Music Friday, based on the amount of comments gushing over his attractiveness, I am (unfortunately) following up this week with a video by an artist who is possibly so unattractive, that he has to perform under the anonymity of a mask.
This week is Tata Ulan’s “Assalam Aleykum”. I was once a fan of this masked performer, who’s catchy songs like “Salam Kyrgyzstan” blend modern rap with traditional Kyrgyz folk music traditions, but while we’re on the subject of feminism this week, I figured this would be the perfect time to showcase how appallingly un-feminist Kyrgyzstan can be.
From a past profile of him on Eurasianet, we know that Tata Ulan is considered by some to be a Kyrgyz nationalist, but not in the “Yeah! Kyrgyzstan is awesome, I’m proud of my country!” sort of way, but more like “We need to fix Kyrgyzstan by shunning modern influences and returning to our pastures and Islam!” sort of way. He’s a big fan of Islam, though it’s a stricter interpretation than what I would say most of Kyrgyzstan adheres to. (Did I mention that during Ramadan, some people in Kyrgyzstan break fast with vodka shots?) The loss of Islam and supposedly pure Kyrgyz values take center stage in this video (which, strangely, is in Russian, perhaps to reach a specific audience?) that targets all of the dancing, smoking, drinking Kyrgyz women who have been perverted by influences of Europe and America.
This isn’t his first video jab at the women of Kyrgyzstan, either. While at first I viewed Tata Ulan as this creative mixture of Western and Kyrgyz musical and performing styles, it seems with each new release that his earlier videos were just gimmicks to gain an audience for his later proselytizing songs. When I was in university, I took several classes discussing the mythologizing of various societies, who would go to great lengths to prove the existence of, and desperately get back, perceived Golden Ages where everything was just super peachy. It seems that Tata Ulan’s songs are stuck on the idea that if Kyrgyz women would just jump back on a horse and cover themselves up (in either a headscarf or the fancy pink and swirly traditional costumes) and if every Kyrgyz person could just speak Kyrgyz (although I am a huuuuuge advocate for the Kyrgyz language, I’m not a fan of the “All _____ people should speak _____ and only _____!” viewpoint) then things would just be awesome.
That’s both the wonderful thing and downfall of myths. The solution seems so simple, but the reality is impossible. Putting out sexist music videos will not bring about the Golden Age of Kyrgyzstan, I’m pretty sure of that.
It is a shame, because underneath the sexism, there is an obvious creative mind. I just wish he would put it toward producing more songs like “Salam Kyrgyzstan” than continuously putting down his fellow countrywomen.
So what do you think of this? Too controversial a topic? Has Kyrgyz Music Friday become too politicized? What are your thoughts on artists (of any nationality) who try to preach their religious/political/moral views to their audience?