Apparently it has not escaped people’s attention that I have fallen down a bit of a K-pop rabbit hole recently. I won’t deny it, and to be honest, I’m having a grand old time. Which was why I was intrigued when I received a message asking, “So, have you tried Q-pop yet?” No, would be the answer to that question. I had never heard of Q-pop, but I was happy to look into it. Several hours later, I had fallen down yet another rabbit hole of Kazakhstan idol groups, cultural history, and Ninety One, the pioneering group where Q-pop began. Sometimes, I love the Daily Hart so much.
Ninety One were originally formed in 2015 by Kazakhstani record label JUZ Entertainment. They are described as a fusion between western and Asian pop music, but notably, all of their lyrics are in the Kazakh language. The group has said that this is a deliberate choice on their part. Not only do they want to help preserve the language, but they also want to expose it to a wider and more global audience. I had never heard the Kazakh language until I listened to their music, so in that regard, I’d say mission accomplished.
You would think that Ninety One would be applauded for their efforts, but their debut in 2015 didn’t exactly go as planned. Their overall look and style was seen as an insult to traditional Kazakhstani views of masculinity, and they were publicly mocked and insulted by the general population. Protests were organized against them, and the majority of their first tour had to be cancelled. Despite the backlash, they persisted, and in 2017, they released their second album. The tour in support of that album didn’t attract any protests, and today, Ninety One are considered to be the founders of Q-pop, meaning pop music from Kazakhstan. In fact, Q-pop is now one of the most popular genres of music in that country.
Until now, I knew relatively little about Kazakhstan. And let’s be honest, I still know next to nothing. But I’m fascinated by the idea that a male pop group could cause such an uproar. Yes, Elvis’ swinging hips were once considered scandalous, but since then, it’s mostly been woman who have born the brunt of moral outrage in the music industry. All I can say is that I’m happy that Ninety-One persisted. I am now 100% a Q-pop fan, and I’m looking forward to more music by them and the many other groups they’ve inspired.
Suggestions for artists I should check out? Please contact me with your ideas. I hope you enjoyed your daily helping of art!