Event Spotlight: The Screening of Men Sen Emes (dir. Ekaterina Suvorov, 2019)

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Kazakh Q-Pop group Ninety One

By Kurtis Yan

Russian students across the U.S. participated in a Q&A session with Kazakh film director Katerina Suvorova on February 9th. The session was led by Dennis Keen, a UCLA instructor of Kazakh language and culture, and Dr. Susan Kresin, the UCLA Russian Flagship Program’s Student Coordinator. 

Suvorova came to discuss her film, Петь Свои Песни / Men Sen Emes [Sing your songs]. Released in 2019, this film explores the rising popularity of the Kazakh “Q-Pop” (Qazaq pop) group, Ninety One. In Russian, students questioned Suvorova on topics, including the sociopolitical views of Kazakhstan’s younger generations. In Suvorova’s film, one topic of discussion is the increasing desire of young Kazakhs, especially those who live in larger cities, for a more democratic form of government.

 

The film also addressed the shifting role of the Russian language, as more young Kazakhs who move from rural to urban areas only know the Kazakh language, whereas older generations typically know both Russian and Kazakh but use Russian on a more regular basis. Students asked Suvorova about the forces that shape Kazakh cultural views today and how younger generations have come to terms with the country’s Soviet history.

Other questions focused on the Kazakh music scene, such as whether “Q-Pop” has drawn inspiration from the rise of K-pop. Ninety-One is known for breaking traditional Kazakh gender norms in their style, as they have pierced ears and dyed hair. Петь Свои Песни shows that the band has been criticized by many Kazakhs, particularly those in older generations. 

Finally, Suvorova was asked about ethnic folk music in Kazakhstan and whether it remains popular today. Various Kazakh rock groups, including Ulytau (Улытау), incorporate folk elements and instruments into their; Suvorova confirmed that these groups do indeed remain popular today, as Q-Pop continues to grow the audience.