Grace Garrett ’18 has embraced the country of Kazakhstan while a student at Bryn Mawr. An international studies and Russian double major, Grace spent the summer of her sophomore year in the southern capital of Almaty through a study abroad program and is currently spending her junior year there through the Russian Language Flagship Program.
And if the 158 thousand plus likes of a video of Grace singing a traditional Kazak folk song are any indication, the people of the Central Asia country think she’s pretty special too.
The story of how she came to sing Kazimnin karasi at a festival last summer and become a viral video sensation is a circuitous one best explained by Grace.
“I met some people from the American Consulate while I was studying abroad here last summer, and told them about a video blog project I was working on at the time. They shared my videos about my life in the city of Almaty, which became popular on Facebook. They also invited me to perform in a small concert and made a music video of me singing in Russian.
"Then the story gets strange.
"Last May, I made beshbarmak, the national Kazakh dish, at home in Portland and posted pictures online. The consulate shared my post, and people remembered me from the videos and concert. A few Almaty news sources shared the "story," exaggerating that I led a ‘flash mob’ of Beshbarmak in the states! Because of this positive response, my friends at the consulate invited me back to perform at a large festival celebrating 25 years of diplomatic relations between Kazakhstan and the US. Pretty crazy!”
After the video of her performance was posted online and went viral, Grace was interviewed for a profile piece with Tengri, a top news website, and invited by the Kazakh Ministry of Culture and Sport to perform for the President and other government officials at the Constitution Day Concert in Astana’s Hall of Kazakhstan.
She’s also made professional recordings and music videos of Kozimnin karasi and Zhauap bar ma? a contemporary Kazakh song by popular musician Galymzhan Moldanazar, with whom she has performed live in concert.
“I've really fallen in love with Kazakhstan, and am currently seriously considering a future here,” says Grace. “I would like for my work to contribute to or facilitate Kazakhstan's artistic and musical identity and developing cultural exchanges with the West.”