Irke / Иркә

Irke (Иркә in Tatar, Иркэ in Russian; real name Aygul Minshakirova, Айгөл Миншакирова in Tatar) is a contemporary Tatar singer. She sings mainly pop, with some folk mixed in. She’s also an actress, and both her acting and singing work has taken place entirely in the Tatar language. Irke is from a village in the south of […]

Zarina Vildanova / Зарина Вильданова

Zarina Vildanova (Зарина Вильданова) is an up-and-coming contemporary Tatar singer. She is from Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan, Russia. She sings in a range of styles—jazz, folk, and pop—and languages, but much of her music has a focus on Tatar sounds and culture. Vildanova has an extensive musical education. After getting a degree at Kazan State […]

Gulzada Ryskulova / Гулзада Рыскулова

Gulzada Ryskulova (Гулзада Рыскулова; her stage name is gulzada, in Roman letters and often lowercase) is a well-known contemporary Kyrgyz singer. She writes her own music and lyrics. Much of her music is “inspired by Kyrgyz traditions and pride in [her] nation,” she told Sputnik Kyrgyzstan. She further said that while her genre is usually […]

Salt Peanuts / Солёные Орешки

Salt Peanuts (Солёные Орешки) is a popular Kyrgyz jazz group that has been in existence for almost 15 years. Their name from the Russian more accurately translated to “salted nuts,” but they have their own preferred English-language name, taken from a famous Dizzy Gillespie tune. Salt Peanuts were one of the first jazz groups to […]

Arsen / Арсен

Arsen Zhumabekov (Арсен Жумабеков, though he goes by his first name alone) is a popular contemporary Kyrgyz pop star who sings in Kyrgyz, Russian, and English. His music is a bit different from that of some of the other most famous Kyrgyz singers of today—less dance-y, more melodic, fitting his more serious-sounding voice. From Talas, […]

Jamala / Джамала

Jamala was born in Osh, Kyrgyzstan, where her ancestors were sent to from Crimea in one of Joseph Stalin’s bloody ethnic deportations. Her father, an ethnic Crimean Tatar, was a choir master. Her mother, an Armenian whose roots trace back to the now-disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, was a pianist. Jamala’s musical education thus started from […]

Gulzada Performance at Ala-Too Amphitheater in Bishkek

Walking around Bishkek in the summertime, you get the sense that it’s a youthful city. School children run down the streets laughing while young families push strollers through parks and promenades. Don’t get me wrong, the city has its fair share of babushkas (to whom you must always give up your seat on the marshrutki), […]