Eurovision Asia is set to hit television screens sometime in 2018. If organisers have their way, then the audience will stretch over thousands of miles from the UAE all the way down to Australia and New Zealand. And if we’re lucky, it may well include countries of the Silk Road — including Kyrgyzstan.
The landlocked nation of about six million people lies between Kazkhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China. Most Europeans would struggle to name a single Kyrgyz artist, but their music industry is rich and well worth diving into it. Popular music frequently combines Kygryz folk with modern sounds, influenced by the music scenes in Russia, China and other Asian powerhouses. Most Kyrgyz artists sing in their national language, but some also sing in Russian and, to a lesser extent, English.
With the possibility of Kyrgyz participation at Eurovision Asia on the horizon, we put our ears to the ground and discovered some fabulous artists who we’re keen to share with you now. There’s a big pool to choose from and we couldn’t pile all the talented artists into one list. So consider this your first course with more tasty delights to follow.
Kyrgyzstan: Our dream acts for Eurovision Asia
The duo NON STOP — that’s Maksat Sadyrbekov and Cholpon Talipbekova — formed during the Kyrgyz television show Super Star. Known for their numerous remakes of traditional Kyrgyz songs, they imbue familiar tunes with Western touches. Their remake of the song “Aldaba” made waves at home, with the music video clocking more than one million views in just a year. It’s playful (he burns her stilettos) and that squeezebox makes us think of some of the great pop-folk we’ve heard at Eurovision. They’re skilled at building bridges. For their Bollywood-inspired “Gde zhe ty?”, which dropped in April, the Kyrgyz artists sing in Russian.
Internationally, they are best known for their Türkvizyon 2014 participation — a gig they secured after winning the Kyrgyz national final in a landslide. They achieved a respectable fourth place with their number “Seze bil”, which suggests they know how to appeal to viewers outside their homeland. Besides singing, Maksat and Cholpon also host the travel show Jyrgal Life. Could the Eurovision Asia host city be their next destination?
Born in the small village of Jon-Aryk along the Talas River Valley in the north of Kyrgyzstan, Mirbek has emerged as one of his country’s most beloved singers. He’s been a notable figure in Kyrgyzstan for many years and recently earned the title “Honoured Artist of Kyrgyzstan”. We’re talking Bishkek royalty! Despite all of that, Mirbek claims that he is barely recognized when buying socks because the television cameras make him look so different.
But surely when he begins to speak — or sing — the picture comes into focus. Mirbek is one of the only Kyrgyz stars who has a few English songs in his repertoire — most notably “You Are My Destiny”. His most recent hit, released last summer, is “Mölmölüm” — an interesting mix of traditional Kyrgyz music and EDM. It’s a real banger for anyone who loves ethno-pop.
Aiym, a young singer from Bishkek, rose to fame in 2014 when she appeared on the Ukrainian version of X Factor at the age of 15. She didn’t reach the live shows, but the exposure led JUZ Entertainment to swoop her up as the lead singer for KTI Girls — an idol group that they hoped would become a K-pop-like girlband in Kazakhstan. Unfortunately the group never debuted.
But a minor setback isn’t going to hold Aiym down — and she’s putting all that training to good use as she grows into a famous and respected singer. In 2016 she sang the theme song for the Football Federation of the Kyrgyz Republic. Her sweetness works well and is at once captivating and motivating, making her the perfect poster girl for peace and sportsmanship. Her most recent work is “Baary emi bashtalat”, a collabration with the rapper Bayastan.
Kayrat originally trained as an electrician, but that couldn’t short-circuit his love of music. He eventually answered his real calling and has been releasing his own songs for years. He’s a fan of the camera and, in 2014, attempted to represent Kyrgyzstan at Türkvizyon, but only achieved seventh place in their national final, way behind NON STOP.
But if at first you don’t succeed, try your luck in Russia — a much bigger and far more competitive market. Kayrat first participated in Glavnaya Scena, the Russian version of X Factor in 2015. Somehow more successful in Moscow than in Biskek, he emerged as one of the three winners of the show. One year later, Kayrat participated in the Russian version of The Voice, earning a spot on Leonid Agutin’s team, before being stolen by Dima Bilan (who duets with him in the video above). Dima had faith in Kayrat and helped him all the way to the final, where he achieved third place. Success on Russian television earned Kayrat hero status back home. Maybe Eurovision Asia is next on his path to Silk Road domination?
Jiydesh is most known as Kyrgyzstan’s first and only winner of Türkvizyon, slaying the contest in 2015 with her song “Kim Bilet”. She sings, she writes music, she acts, she dances and she is also very funny — she’s appeared on the popular Russian humour show KVN “AsiaMix”.
Her mother didn’t initially approve of her wish to sing. But after Jiydesh won a national singing competition in secondary school, mom realized that singing wasn’t just her passion but a field where she could make an impact. Jiydesh remembers that trip as a turning point in her life: She got to see the capital Bishkek and ate a banana for the very first time.
Jiydesh isn’t afraid to mix and match across instrumentation and style. In her many ethno-pop songs she’s fond of utilising traditional Kyrgyz instruments — such as the temir komuz, a wooden harp played by the mouth. (Yes, that exists). You see that heady mix in her Türkvizyon performance, which left us wondering if she was a Kyrgyz cousin of Ruslana. She worked her leather boots and warrior costume, just like Ruslana did in Istanbul in 2004. Could her similar stylings now lead her to win Eurovision Asia?
What do you make of these five acts? Do you think any of them have what it takes to win Eurovision Asia? Do you think that Kyrgyzstan should go for a lesser known act? Or its biggest stars? Let us know what you’re thinking down below!