Many of you probably read the title and thought “what the heck is Qpop????”. Qpop is Kazakh pop, a genre of music quickly gaining in popularity worldwide after its foundation in Kazakhstan by NinetyOne.
NinetyOne (also stylized as 91) was formed in September of 2015 by JUZ Entertainment as a way to spread the Kazakh language to larger cities like Almaty and Astana who still primarily speak Russian. The name itself refers to the year 1991 and was when Kazakhstan gained independence from the USSR.
This group quickly faced a lot of hate for their formation as many people believed that they were representing the nation badly. Kazakhstani culture is extremely conservative and, as such, view anyone who dresses outside the norm or acts in a manner unfitting of the nation as not real Kazakh men. They were viewed as “gay” and were accused of being bad influences on the younger generation.
Many people protested at venues so they couldn’t perform and the group was even banned from cities due to their lack of what the older generation viewed as decorum. The members of NinetyOne were often verbally abused by respected members of the culture as well as everyday citizens; they were even physically beaten in a bid to make them conform to societal norms.
Even though they’ve received so much hate, they’ve also gained the respect of not just their fans, but many people across the world. Their strength and courage has been a source of inspiration for the younger generation as the members continue to release music and tour in the face of such adversity. Their full length albums, “Qarangy Zharyq” and “Ayiptama”, are now available on 23 different international platforms!
Let’s Meet the Members!
First we have ALEM. He’s a vocalist and the oldest. ALEM was born February 18, 1993 and his real name is Batyrkhan Malikov. He has an impressive vocal range and what I like to call an old school crooner’s voice; he sounds a bit like Michael Bublé when he sings in English. He’s also super supportive and protective over his fellow members. ALEM has a tattoo on his neck. EagleZ (NinetyOne’s fans) theorize that it has two meanings. The first is that it’s an emoji but the second is that is the Kazakh word for ‘poison’. NinetyOne has a song called ‘Poison’ and part of the choreography is to touch their necks when they sing “taraluda u” (the poison’s spreading through the whole body).
Next is ACE. His birthday is August 29, 1993 and his real name is Azamat Ashmakyn. He’s the second oldest of the group and used to be an SM trainee. ACE was supposed to debut with NCT but chose to go back to his homeland and debut with NinetyOne instead. ACE is the main visual of the group and is happy and bubbly; he always asks their fans to be happy (Bakytty bol!) and is the softest and kindest member of the group.
Third is A.Z. His real name is Azamat Zenkaev and he was born on September 28, 1993. He’s the leader of the group and one of the rappers. A.Z is very protective and loving with their fans and he’s also one of the most stylish members in the group. He started his career as underground rapper “HalFani” and quickly gained popularity because he raps with such deep meaning.
Next we have ZAQ. He was born on February 8, 1996 and his real name is Dulat Muhametkaliev. ZAQ was known as “Smile” in the underground rap scene and used to perform with A.Z before they became part of NinetyOne. He’s a strong, brutal rapper and also can dance really well.
Finally, the youngest member is BALA. He was born on February 19, 1998 and his real name is Daniyar Kulumshin. He’s the third vocalist of NinetyOne and is the most popular with the fans.
It breaks my heart to see anyone persecuted so badly just for being who they are and doing what they love to do. Qpop is such a revolutionary genre of music for Kazakhstan and, according to one EagleZ, only music for the older generation existed before NinetyOne formed. Another EagleZ said the group even taught her a few Kazakh words she didn’t know! My heart goes out to all five of these boys and I sincerely hope that they are able to find some peace from all the hatred they’ve faced so far.
Take a listen to their newest song ‘All I Need’ below and don’t forget to subscribe to their official YouTube channel here! You can also listen to their music on Spotify and iTunes as well! Let us know down in the comments what you guys think!