Kazakh Music Friday

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!

I almost got away with not posting anything for (Insert Central Asian country) Music Friday until I saw this absolute gem from Kazakhstan on Tumar.fm‘s website. This is Ali Okapov’s “Alga” (Алға).

I can sum up the video like this; think about some of the more ridiculous Kyrgyz videos you’ve seen, and increase their budget by magnitudes of a whole bunch. You get a guy dancing his way around an airbase, wearing fake body armor, flying through the air towards progressively bigger groups of synchronized dancers. There’s an interlude with Guy-in-Beret versus a ninja, and I can’t tell who’s supposed to be the villan. Then there are suddenly new characters, including a guy who manages to floor a group of ninjas simply by leaping onto the ground anime-style. Then the singer’s feet are on fire. The end.

The video is shot well, the singer’s lips line up with the audio, the dancers all hit their poses at the same time, and I could only see the string on one guy during his aerial trick (see if you can catch it!). But that’s all it is. It’s somebody waving something shiny in my face. Look at him dance! Look at him dance! Whooooosh! Pew pew pew! Wow! Amazing, right? I feel like I’m looking at the product of someone who said, “We have the money, so why not add this?” I mean, at one point the singer is dancing with his feet on fire. Why!? Why!? Why!?

But how about the song? It’s unremarkable, in my opinion. His voice is over-processed and sounds flat. Like the video, it seems to have many unnecessary additions. Let’s throw in an electric guitar during this verse, let’s have a techno dombra (the Kazakh cousin of the komuz) solo here.

I don’t know barely anything about Kazakhstan, but I do know that thanks to vast amounts of natural resources and the successful exploitation of them, Kazakhstan has a lot more money than Kyrgyzstan. Parts of the population therefore enjoy higher standards of living than people in Kyrgyzstan, and its pop stars, it seems, have much larger budgets to squander away on setting their feet on fire. I imagine it’s how I would feel if I ever have a chance to visit Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, which has some impressive and strange architecture and was built up from nothing but a vast expanse of cold, empty steppe. I mean, why not? If you have money, you might as well spend it on creating a new capital in the middle of nowhere, and maybe setting your feet on fire. Just for fun!

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