Kazakhstan: Interview with Jantemir Baimukhamedov

Jantemir Baimukhamedov, a.k.a. Jantik, is a popular Kazakhstan's musician, a prankster and an entertainer. He gives live shows with his band (gigs are booked several months ahead), hilariously re-scores blockbuster movies with Kazakh specificity, and even plans to shoot a “revenge” movie called “Borat’s Brother”.

MUSIC

- Jantemir, you started in 1990s with Fridays [Beatles-fan rock-n-roll band]. It has been wonderful young time with improvised concerts on the streets and parks. Now you have a professional high-paid band. Don’t you miss the Fridays time? Why did you quit that band?

- I do miss that time and Fridays. By the way, this year is a ten-year anniversary of our first hits – Credit Card and You Were Asking Me. In the nearest future we plan to shoot a tribute video on our song You Were Asking Me, in which all members of Fridays will be involved.

I quit the band due to divergence of opinions towards creative growth and discipline. Stubborn reluctance to mature and systemic hard-drinking of some of our teammates had been hampering our work. Alcohol is the enemy of progress, while the discipline is the main thing for an artist.

We didn’t have a director or a producer, and I had to assume many administrative functions. When I realized that there is no discipline, and it was getting more and more difficult to do something, I simply decided to move away. I had a different way of thinking. Ten years have passed since that time, but we still have friendly relations and recently performed together.

- When singer and composer Murat Nasyrov, our compatriot, who had worked in Russia, tragically died, you spoke very warmly about him and his songs. Кого ты еще можешь особо отметить в современной музыке – как зарубежной, так и казахстанской?

- I respect Victor Khomenkov and the whole team of JCS band, my dear friend Assylbek Yensepov, Dara and Stepps bands, jazz-singer Janna Sattarova, Motor-Roller and Fridays – they all keep their lively style. Speaking of the modern foreign bands, I like Franz Ferdinand and all that fine rock-n-roll music that has been made in England since 1960s.

- Why, in your opinion of a professional musician, do we see the domination of hip-hop and R’n’B in the domestic show-business – we don’t seem to have enough cultural ground for it?

- Youth is losing traditions. I feel sorry for the new generation – it’s not The Beatles who explain them the musical harmony, but a superficial subculture of low-educated afro-Americans. There’s nothing sophisticated: bucks, chicks, diamonds and cars. I think a fundament for hip-hop culture is somewhere on the outskirts. If this quasi-glamour fashion would keep on growing, five years later our youth may became a replication of “cool guys” from poor districts of NYC. We may become “Ghetto Kazakhs”. Its fundament is a social environment. R’n’B stars in America are not elite members. I’d like our R’n’B fans to think about higher matters!

- The Jantik Band plays old good superhits. Is rock-n-roll dead indeed, and your work is only a tribute to the past?

- We play not only somebody else’s songs, but our own compositions; it is rotated on the radio and TV. However, in order to gain this rotation, we have to perform superhits too. Currently, we are finishing our English-language album, in which all songs are written by me. This disc will be a mixture of rockabilly, jazz, retro, as I see these styles. My friend Ilyas Autov from the Motor-Roller band asked me: “Jantik, are you ready to sacrifice your soul to rock-n-roll?” I answered: “Come on, everything is already sacrificed!” And it’s true – I live in rock-n-roll!

MOVIES

- One of the most discussed projects in Kazakh cinematograph is your movie “Shu-Chu” (Kidding). It is known that the first shows will take place in Almaty and London, the film’s budget is more than $1,5 million, and it is going to be about conflicts among young people’s groups in Almaty in 1980s-90s. Why? Is it a biographic film? Do you think it would be still interesting after “Balcony”, “Last Holiday” and “The Needle”?

- “Shu-Chu” is certainly an autobiographic film. I try to show the developments and people that were surrounding me – and that are not existent now. I hope they will get back through the new generation after they see this movie. I hope to reanimate the notions of the real man’s code of honor. We all went through this school, when we were young boys. There were rules and ethics. Now many traditions are lost and it’s no good. This topic is still exciting, because Almaty has its spirit and subculture.

- Kazakh cinematograph is known not by melodramas or thrillers (although we all remember “Love Station” and “The Tender One”), but by art-house and new-wave, which had collected awards abroad and empty theatres at home. The current attempts to produce gangster movies like “Racketeer” and “The Ultimate Fighter”- is it a natural process of popularization of the domestic film industry or its degradation?

- It’s commercialization, an attempt to make a movie marketable and profitable. Why the Kazakh movies are believed to be made solely in art-house genre? Because there were no money given to produce the movies, and the only way to gain success was to make an idea-centered film. As for the new movies you have mentioned, in my opinion, those are replications of Russian “Brigada”.

- There are pictures of you wearing Nazi uniform – it doen’t look like still photographs of “Shu-Chu”…

- Those were pictures from the new Russian comedy film “Spy of Our Time”. I play Gestapo officer, who sings Steve Wonder’s song “I just call to say I love you” in German! It’s a very funny movie with lots of Russian celebrities and real professionals involved (a cameraman worked with Steven Spielberg, a costume designer took part in creation of a Luc Besson’s “Nikita”). We had big fun during the shooting!

- You have become known on the West as a crazy Kazakh, who challenged Borat. What’s your “plan of revenge”?

- The script for “Borat’s Brother” is already finished in cooperation with Arsen Kilibaev, a talented and creative man, who lives in London. We are now working with the lawyers from Russia to ensure preservation of all copyrights of Sacha Baron Cohen. We will beat him, but we’ll do it nobly!

- Movies and concerts for the rich guys are good, but what about broader public? Don’t you plan to stage some projects on TV, for instance?

- I have a great desire to create a broadcasting company. Sooner or later, it will happen, and I am – slowly, but decisively – moving towards this goal. I need a good investor…

HUMOR

- How do you feel about the humor industry in Kazakhstan?

- It’s on embryonic stage. There is lack of screenwriters and witty people with witty jokes. Those who practice humor on public are, as a rule, too young to be adequate and professional. Staged humor in Kazakhstan is still a student-like, a teeny one, low-profile and poor.

- Are there any good examples of local humor industry projects?

- No, to my deep regret. The majority of those who work in this genre are the people I like and respect. But if you want me to speak sincerely and not to meddle professionalism and emotions, then I can say that mostly there is a huge mass of freaks, who impose stupid cattle-level jokes on the public. I don’t understand the modern Kazakh humor and I don’t like the work of those who are considered to be popular today.

- Can we expect new funny video-gags from you? [Jantik is known as the author of alternative translations of “Pulp Fiction” and “Lord of the Rings” with Kazakh specificity]

- A whole package of new alternative translations of popular movies will be distributed via the mobile phones market in the near future. There will be my earlier works and loads of new and surprising stuff. It’s creative. I like doing little funny gags to entertain the people. My personal studio for alternative translations is full speed ahead and soon all lovers of mobile fun stuff will have chance to see fresh humor from Jantik. But – beware of fake!

MISC

- Today many celebrities start to blog for self-promotion. Do you want to try?

- No, frankly speaking, I don’t. I don’t want to show off my life. I live in reality and I am too keen to do something than to write about something.

- It seems like you have already become a self-sufficient person and one of the leaders of the local show-biz. Now what – “Go West” or, perhaps, producing Kazakhstani talents?

- I will definitely look for cooperation with the West, and I already have such offers already. But I will eventually return to Kazakhstan, for sure. West is necessary for getting stronger at home.

- How do you think – what kind of future will Kazakhstan have? Do you keep track of politics, do you vote on elections?

- As Miss Lily De Lois, the new afro-American singer in my orchestra (she worked with James Brown and Steve Wonder), says – “Kazakhstan IN”. It means that we keep abreast of what is happening around. I am glad that in spite of provocative freaky comedies like “Borat”, the whole world treats us positively.

I was actively involved in politics when I worked for the Foreign Ministry – and I still keep up with politics. I do exercise my civil duty – and it relates not only to elections. I feel responsibility before the country and young generation…

Cross-posted from neweurasia.net

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