Galya Bisengalieva shares the second single ‘Alash – kala’ from upcoming album ‘Polygon’ on One Little Indie

Polygon tells the tale of one of the darkest episodes in Kazakh history which, though it created more nuclear fallout than Chernobyl, The Polygon is little known internationally.

Kazakh-British artist Galya Bisengalieva returns this October with her second studio album for One Little Independent, Polygon. Today she shares the second single from the record, Alash-kala.

Like Galya’s 2020 debut album Aralkum, the composer, producer and musician returns to stories from her home country of Kazakhstan. While Aralkum was about the shrinking of the Aral Sea, Polygon tells the tale of one of the darkest episodes in Kazakh history. Though it created more nuclear fallout than Chernobyl, the story of the Semipalatinsk Test Site located on the steppe in north east Kazakhstan (known as The Polygon) is little known internationally even though it was the Soviet Union’s primary testing zone for nuclear weapons. They conducted 456 nuclear tests there from 1949 to 1989, within the vast landscape. The United Nations believe a million people were exposed to radiation and the anti-nuclear movement Nevada-Semipalatinsk began in the region, the first movement in the former Soviet Union to protest against nuclear weapons and ultimately led to the closure of the site.

“Until 2007, the city Semey was known as Semipalatinsk and between 1917–1920 as Alash-kala” explains Galya. “It lies along the Irtysh River near the border with Russia in eastern Kazakhstan and 1,000 km north of my hometown Almaty. Before being the home of the most active Soviet nuclear test site, Alash-kala was the Kazakh centre of academia and the arts. The area is famed as the native land of Abai Kunanbayuli, often heralded as the founder of written Kazakh literature. A poet, writer, composer and philosopher – the Shakespeare of Kazakhstan, among Kazakhs he is simply known as Abai.”

Acoustic and electronically-manipulated violin form the beating heart of this track. Violin preparation techniques are used to create an astonishing array of undulating synthetic-sounding textures and complex harmonics. The whole landscape was conjured from Galya’s principal instrument, an astonishing tour de force of musicianship.

Each track on the LP is named after features within The Polygon; villages, towns, natural features and other landmarks. To Soviet leaders it was “uninhabited” but in fact the steppe was the crucible of Kazakh culture, home to poets, musicians, not to mention an extraordinary ecology of mountains, hills and pine forests running along the river Irtysh.

artist Galya Bisengalieva
title Alash-kala
label One Little Independent
date 21st August 2023
format digital