Salt Peanuts

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 arise in independent Kyrgyzstan. Their style is actually a mix of jazz-adjacent genres, including ethno-jazz, fusion, and jazz rock. They are a Kyrgyz group at heart, though they spend a lot of time in Almaty, a larger city in Kazakhstan. They have said that Kyrgyzstan is a difficult environment for jazz, which has not really developed there, although numerous similar styles are flourishing.

Among its past and present participants have been leader Baktybek Kydykbaev (Батыбек Кыдыкбаев) and Tolon Tursunaliev (Толон Турсуналиев), the previous vocalist for band MKD. They arrange—as opposed to “write,” per se—their music themselves. One of their main songs, or performances, is called “Manas,” after the hero of Kyrgyz epic literature. Another is called “Salt Peanuts”—the name of their band came about because this was one of their most popular songs, and eventually they adopted it as the name of the group.

The group was founded in 2002, when they first appeared at the National Theater of Opera and Ballet. They then began performing at various universities, clubs, and restaurants, gradually building a name for themselves. They participate in major jazz festivals all over Central Asia and Russia, including a yearly worldwide jazz festival in Bishkek. They have been very successful at these, in 2010 winning first place at the Jazz-Bishkek-Autumn (Джаз-Бишкек-Осень) festival.

Kydykbaev, the leader of the group, worked in music schools before he was able to realize his dream of “embodying [his] musical ideas in his life” through starting his band. He is also a visual artist who has participated in exhibits of modern art.

 

Here are videos of two of the band’s live jazz performances:

Julie is currently studying Russian as a Second Language in Irkutsk (and before that, Bishkek) with SRAS's Home and Abroad Scholarship program, with the goal of someday having some sort of Russia/Eurasia-related career. She recently got her master’s degree from the University of Glasgow and the University of Tartu, where she studied women’s dissent in Soviet Russia. She also has a bachelor’s degree in literature from Yale. Some of her favorite Russian authors are Sorokin, Shishkin, Il’f and Petrov, and Akhmatova. In her spare time Julie cautiously practices martial arts, reads feminist websites, and taste-tests instant coffee for her blog.