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Moyindau at Pik Lenin, Kyrgyzstan, (from left to right) Susanna Mendlow (cello), Ryan Ptasnik (drums), Alex Kreger (piano), Kevin Bene (sax)

Listen to our music!


So far the project has taken these forms:

Quartet + Vocalist:

Alex Kreger (piano/compositions)
Ainagul Abdikalikova (vocals) (Kazakhstan)
Kevin Bene (saxophones)
Susanna Mendlow (cello)
Ryan Ptasnik (drums)
Begun as a collaborative project with an untrained vocalist from Kazakhstan; now focuses on the intersection of improvisation and composition, jazz and contemporary classical music.  (See below for more information on the collaboration)


Alex Kreger (piano)
Mette Henriette Martedatter Rølvåg (saxophones) (Norway)
Ryan Ptasnik (drums)
Explores Tajik music, in particular the works of Ziyodullo Shahidi and the traditional music of Badakhshan, in an improvisational context.  

Alex Kreger (piano)
Kevin Bene (saxophones)
Ryan Ptasnik (drums)
Another collective trio that has worked with Tajik, Uzbek, Turkish and Kazakh folk songs, in addition to American jazz traditions.

On the collaborative process with Aina

The quartet Moyindau grew out of a cross-cultural collaboration between four Michigan State University music students and an untrained vocalist from Kazakhstan, Aina Abdikalikova—an international student in engineering.  Fueled by my impulse to put ethnic music I had encountered traveling in Turkey and Eastern Europe into dialogue with Western styles, the project has since developed into a dedicated ensemble that retains the spirit of folk music while venturing into jazz, rock, contemporary classical and the avant-garde.

Beginning in fall 2009, I met regularly with Aina to discuss Kazakh culture, language and poetry.  She introduced me to several poems by Sabyrbek Nurmanuly, an orphan raised by Aina’s grandmother.  Together we analyzed them verse by verse and she communicated to me, through the clever unexpected metaphors that only non-native English speakers come up with, the subtleties of expression and drama that would be lost in a literal translation.  Then we met for several sessions of free improvisation on the verses, where Aina grew acclimated to our process as improvising musicians, and we generated material for the songs.

As I composed, I brought melodic fragments to Aina and taught them to her by ear.  In some instances, she helped me adjust the melody to better fit the lyrics.  Together, we achieved a result that would’ve been impossible working separately, a true cross-cultural collaboration.  While as individuals we retained our own cultural identities, the musical document of our work together represented a convergence of the two, a sort of hybrid culture that only art can achieve.

Although Aina recently graduated and returned to Kazakhstan, the four of us continue to perform regularly across the country.  We recently finished a successful tour of western US and are looking forward to the summer, when we plan to tour Kazakhstan in continuation of our collaboration with Aina.