The Podcast Life with ZaQ and Ace (and Me Making Mountains out of Molehills)

19 February 2021 ☼ Q-popCommentaryArtist: Ninety OneArtist: Irina Kairatovna

So remember when I reviewed Taboo” and spent entirely too long trying to decode all the potential political symbolism and ended by making a fuss out of an upcoming podcast advertised with references to the formation of an independent Kazakhstani state? Well, I forgot to take into account the possibility that said upcoming podcast might be advertised with self-mocking references to the formation of an independent Kazakhstani state.

So let’s see what actually resulted:

Yes, it’s in Russian. (I think.) No, I don’t know what they’re actually saying. Most of y’all can stop here, having had reinforced the valuable lesson that if you’re curious about something Kazakhstani, pop-cultural or otherwise, your primary resource should not be some random blogger in the southeastern United States. For those who want to know more, I’m now going to do my limited best to add some context as to what’s actually going on.

An image of seven men seated around a rectangular wooden table, with water bottles on the table and bookshelves and a lamp visible in the background

First, a roundup of the participants, from left to right around the table:

(Okay last aside about good-looking men, but: the teacher in Shokan is played by Olzhas Togymbet, and I recognized him immediately because he was the hot gangster upstaging Ali Okapov in the Yayimdama” video. I keep saying: all the evidence suggests that pop-music-and-entertainment Almaty is a small town, and everyone knows everyone else. Also, if you didn’t listen to Yayimdama” the first six hundred times I recommended it, go listen to Yayimdama.”)

In one of the nicer trends of Russian-language media, the YouTube upload comes with timestamps, and though Google Translate is completely defeated by a bunch of Kazakhstanis having a normal conversation at normal conversation speeds and varying volumes, as humans do, it can at least handle timestamps:

00:00:00 - Intro
00:00:23 - IMANBEK MUSIC
00:02:16 - Grammy
00:04:10 - Lada Priora
00:06:51 - Imanbek’s correspondence
00:11:38 - Masks and musicians
00:15:05 - Speech to the President
00:20:05 - Cursing in Kazakh
00:24:14 - Producer politics
00:25:43 - Kazakhstani rappers
00:30:36 - Who is listening to what
00:40:35 - Why Imanbek is not moving
00:42:25 - Support of the artist from the state
00:45:11 - Creative party
00:49:33 - Modesty wins
00:56:53 - Tiktok and celebrities
01:00:55 - Humor and content evolution
01:04:14 - About the future
01:11:23 - Metamodernism
01:14:32 - Opposition
01:19:06 - Text by Imanbek at the Grammy Awards

You see now why I have to walk back my taking the earlier references to Kazakhstani nation-building at face value. There’s too much TikTok and laughter in this for it to be a straight serious discussion of Important Political Events. A good portion of at least the first part of the show seems to be Imanbek, who gives off the air of a sweetheart who has not yet had cause to fully internalize his celebrity, telling stories about the famous people who’ve gotten in touch with him. The Alash comparisons weren’t meant to be direct; they’re a way for this particular group of discussants to poke fun at their own self-seriousness.

Having said that…

I haven’t watched the whole thing yet—even I am not so far down this rabbit hole that I can watch an 86-minute-long-video in a language I don’t understand without flagging—but I’ve watched enough of it to tell you that at one point (around 72 minutes in) ZaQ delivers a spiel that involves modernism, postmodernism, and metamodernism, though I have no idea what metamodernism” means in this context. Also in the subsequent section, Alexei Nalvany comes up, and Mukhtar Ablyazov comes up almost immediately after. In the section after that, the guys say the word Alash” a lot and someone brings up D. A. Kunaev, whose removal as head of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic in 1986 led to the Zheltoqsan uprising.

So I’m not sure what to make of it. (Judging by Imanbek’s expression towards the end of the conversation, he isn’t either.) Fiery revolutionary oratory it most likely ain’t. But even if it isn’t fiery revolutionary oratory, I still find it intriguing that a bunch of music-making or filmmaking or blogging or remixing dudes can get together over microphones and bottled water and talk about creativity and Tiktok and past democratic modernizing political movements.

Before I head out, I promised you more about Feya Perizat, though it’s going to be more frustration if you, like me, are Russian-ignorant. But here’s a roundup of relevant videos in which Nurzhan Yerikuly chats with our faves:

Alem and Bala (this is the one where they get asked about feminism)

ZaQ and DNAs Ne1tron

Yerbolat Bedelkhan (and more Aizatulla Hussein, if you’ve become curious about him)


More Kuka; I believe he talks about directing Ninety One in the Señorita” video

Bir Kün, meanwhile, is like Feya Perizat with less discussion and more of a field-trip vibe. Here’s Ziruza and Tamiris, a solo artist I admittedly don’t follow, doing the Whisper Challenge:

This video with Ziruza is more day-in-the-life; among the people she meets are Marat Oralgazin, the talk-show host whom I mentioned as giving a thumbs-up to IKs 5000” video.

And in this one, our host wakes Ace at oh-dark-thirty to take him on a picnic with Asselina, a blogger / influencer.

And so! We’ve all learned something today. Although the something” may have more to do with my untrustworthiness as a source than anything else. If you get better sources, please do bring them my way.