Whaaaaat? Shifting our focus slightly north to Kazakhstan for this week.
Kazakh Music Friday is a (rare) feature in which I post a pop music video from an artist in Kazakhstan. 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. Kazakh 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!
Son Pascal is an Italian singer/entertainer who lives in Almaty, Kazakhstan (a few hours north of Bishkek), and, from the looks of his videos, speaks pretty decent Kazakh. An Italian singing in English/Russian/Kazakh? I don’t understand it at all, but maybe this is kind of what it’s like when I meet people in Bishkek who are like, “So you’re American, and you decided to come to Kyrgyzstan to start your business…?”
But he’s making fun and catchy songs and videos, so obviously something in his crazy plan is working.
I found this video for “You should speak Kazaksha” one night while conducting serious research (spending hours on Youtube, Namba.kg, and websites for Kyrgyz radio stations) for future Kyrgyz Music Friday posts. While I don’t claim to know everything about Kyrgyz pop music, after obsessing over it for this long, I feel pretty confident in being able to recognize the big players of Kyrgyzstan’s music scene. So when I started to find videos for Kyrgyz songs, sung by polished performers strolling around Bishkek, that were completely unknown to me, I panicked a bit. How could I miss all of these!?
Except they weren’t singing in Kyrgyz, and they weren’t strolling around Bishkek. It was Kazakh (a close language relative to Kyrgyz that my untrained ears can’t quite tell apart yet), and probably Almaty (Soviet-era architecture ensured that many Central Asian cities look shockingly similar). The discovery of Kazakh music videos was, not to sound dramatic, a mind-opening experience in my poser-anthropological look at pop music in Central Asia. It’s safe to say that Kyrgyz Music Friday could end up expanding beyond its borders on a regular basis.
Anyway, back to this video. Would it be too much to say that it is everything I could ever want in a Central Asian music video? Production quality – excellent. Song – stuck in my head for days. It reminds me of Jack Johnson’s laid-back style, mixed with the West Coast/reggae vibes of Sublime. (When I played the song for Farrell and asked him what it reminded him of, he said, “Oh yeah, definitely Sublime.”) Plus, it’s fun. Everybody’s driving around in busted Ladas and crowded buses, which is refreshing from the usual formula of shiny BMWs in pop videos.
And the message is convincing. I almost feel like I, too, should speak Kazaksha.
If you’d like to learn more about Son Pascal and this song, here’s an interview he did recently on Global Voices.
So readers, what do you think of this little shake-up of Kyrgyz Music Friday? Blasphemous? Practically unnoticeable? “Wait, you mean Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan are two different countries?” That wasn’t always the case, but nowadays yes, yes they are.
(PS: true story, at one point people involved with the production of House Hunters International referred to this country as ‘Kyrzakistan’)