What on earth is q-pop?

Updated: Sep 22, 2020

You might be thinking pop music from Qatar? Good guess, but Q-pop represents pop music from Kazakhstan. The music scene in Kazakhstan is thriving with more dynamic growth than one might expect. Today, we introduce you Q-pop.

When speaking of Kazakhstan, one might think, Borat the movie, a country close to Russia, far from Asia and unknown. Well, Russian is widely spoken for a fact, but not quite as far. Kazakhstan is categorized as a Central Asian country and shares its eastern border with China. No surprise that some Kazakhstani people are of Chinese descent.

Q-pop (Qazaq pop) has a relatively short history compared to K-pop, Mandopop and J-pop. It started in 2015 with boy band “Ninety One”, named after Kazakhstan’s year of independence from the Soviet Union. Due to the popularization of Russian during the Soviet rule, the Kazakh language was gradually marginalized and Kazakh music before 2015 was considered “uncool”. Q-pop was a means to make the Kazakh language trendy and widespread again, and K-pop had a part to play in its growth. In 2002 when Korean Hallyu reached millennials in the land-locked nation, Kpop was gaining widespread notice over the air waves and through the Internet by 2006. Bilateral relations between Kazakhstan and Korean grew stronger, hence saw more Kazakhstani producers and influencers travel to Korea, learning the success of K-pop. Ninety One’s ACE was selected during the SM Entertainment global auditions and subsequently trained with them for three years.

Comparable to K-pop with their catchy electronic music arrangements, flamboyant fashion and flashy hairstyles, Ninety One, the forerunners of Q-pop have faced much controversy performing on tours in their home country. Many have commented they look too “gay” to represent Kazakh men and Ninety One’s appearance goes against Kazakh values and traditions.

The road hasn't been easy, regardless, Gakku TV, the first music channel in Kazakhstan, is seeing an upward growth in terms of YouTube video views and subscribers, according to Social Blade. To date, the channel has more than 34M views and over 46K subscribers. Besides "Mooz", here's a Qpop playlist put together for your sampling pleasure. Not only have many Q-pop fans started spreading this new music genre through online communities such as Amino and Tumblr and Wordpress, Q-pop reaction videos are also readily available on YouTube. Here’s one:

Kazakhstan has a poignant story to tell, hence with its government’s foreign policies and strengthening of foreign relations, It’ll be interesting to see where Q-pop takes off from here.

Image source: Ninety One Instagram