Franco Galdini, "Mr. Kydykbayev Goes to Washington,"1843magazine.com
Youtube Salt Peanuts image fromExcerpt:
This summer, the Kyrgyz National Conservatoire in Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek was a hive of activity, despite the break. Visitors flocked to see the head of the percussion department Bakyt Kydykbayev and his band Salt Peanuts rehearse around the clock for the most important gig of their career to date.
On September 10, Salt Peanuts (named after the Dizzy Gillespie tune) will become the first jazz band from the small Central Asian republic to perform on the prestigious Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Centre in Washington, DC. The event marks the 25th anniversary of the country’s independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. ...
In his teens Kydykbayev would lie in bed at night listening to Voice of America. “It was like nothing I’d ever heard before,” he recalls. He switched from learning the violin to drums.
“At our parents’ house, the only furniture is musical instruments. That’s how I first picked up the double bass,” says Erkin, who counts jazz legend Ron Carter among his mentors. In the mid-2000s Erkin emailed Carter for advice. “He answered right away asking for my address. A few weeks later, I had most of his books and CDs in my mailbox.” During a trip to the United States in 2008, Erkin had the chance to study with Carter, who took him on a tour of the best jazz clubs in New York. Kuban, his elder brother, instead chose the saxophone after “my dad played Charlie Parker to me once, and that was the beginning of my obsession. Every day, I would listen to his songs back and forth on an old magnetophone to transcribe the notes.”
The family are important ambassadors for a country that rarely makes the international news. Exposure has been largely limited to the popular revolts of 2005 and 2010. In recent years, the country has been gravitating towards Russia, joining the Kremlin-led Eurasian Economic Union in summer 2015. While Russia’s attitude towards jazz thankfully shares little with the Soviet Union’s (Putin is a jazz fan himself), Kyrgyzstan’s increasingly powerful nationalists prefer folk music, seeing jazz as a foreign import.
Salt Peanuts continue to perform at venues up and down Kyrgyzstan, but right now, Kydykbayev can only think about Washington. “A Kyrgyz band playing jazz in the US, the country in which this music was born,” he says, his face beaming. “That’s a dream come true; that’s what true happiness is.”