Zhambyl Zhabayev (28 February 1846 — 22 June 1945) was a Kazakh traditional folksinger, akyn (Kazakh).
According to a family legend, his mother, Uldan, gave birth to him near Mt. Zhambyl, close to the headwaters of the Chu River while fleeing an attack on her village. His father, Zhabay, then named his son after the mountain.
As a boy, Zhambyl learned how to play the dombyra and at the age of 14 left his home to become an akyn. He learned the art of improvisation from the akyn Suyunbai Aronuly. Zhambyl sang exclusively in the Kazakh language.
Zhambyl Zhabayev died on June 22, 1945, eight months before his 100th birthday. He was buried in Alma-Ata in a garden which he cultivated with his own hands.
Many patriotic, pro-revolution and pro-Stalin poems and songs were attributed to Zhambyl in the 1930s and were widely circulated in the Soviet Union.
The Kazakh city Taraz was named after Zhambyl from 1938 to 1997. Zhambyl Province, in which Taraz is located, still bears his name.
It has been claimed that the actual authors of published poems of Zhambyl were actually Russian poets, who were officially credited as "translators."
Poet Andrey Ignatievich Aldan-Semenov claimed that he was the "creator" of Zhambyl, when in 1934, he was given a task by the Party to find an akyn. Aldan-Semenov found Zhambyl on the recommendation of the collective farm chairman, the only criterion of choice was that the akyn was to be poor and have many children and grandchildren. After Aldan-Semenov's arrest, other "translators" wrote Zhambyl's poems.
In a different account, according to the Kazakh journalist Erbol Kurnmanbaev, Zhambyl was an akyn of his clan, but until 1936 was relatively unknown. In that year, a young talented poet Abilda Tazhibaev "discovered" Zhambyl. He was directed to do this by the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan, Levon Mirzoyan, who wanted to find an akyn similar to Suleiman Stalsky, the Dagestani poet. Tazhibaev then published the poem "My Country", under Zhambyl's name. It was translated into Russian by the poet Pavel Kuznetsov, published in the Pravda newspaper and had a success. After that, a group of his "secretaries" - the young Kazakh poets worked under Zhambyl's name. In 1941-1943, they were joined by the Russian poet Mark Tarlovsky.