Winter 1996 (4.4)
Pages 6-7, 87
Azerbaijan's Orchestral Music
Not so long ago while searching for information about Azerbaijan I came across articles about Tofig Guliyev and Arif Malikov, plus a charming report by Susan Cornnell, who wrote about Baku performances of Gara Garayev's ballet, "Seven Beauties." These articles all had one common denominator: they were on Azerbaijan International's Web site <http://azer.com>.
In Gothenburg, Sweden, where I live, people sometimes complain that there is too much classical music at the concert halls and too few contemporary works. In my opinion, gaining access to music outside of the Western tradition is even more problematic--geography is a greater obstacle than time. Eastwards, the world seems to stop with Russia. If you ask the chief conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra about Azerbaijani music, he might hum the waltz from "Seven Beauties"- but that's as close as you'll get.
For me, Azerbaijani music is not a peripheral interest - it's central. The first time that I ever heard symphonic music that I actually liked, it turned out to be music from Azerbaijan. About a dozen years ago, I had a neighbor living in the apartment below mine who would play strange music at all hours of the day and night, deafeningly loud - in fact, the timpani and brass would come booming up through my floorboards. But this music was different from any classical music I had heard before. Eventually, I went down and knocked on his door, not to complain, but to be able to listen more carefully to the orchestral strings.
The neighbor turned out to be Tom Benson, a Swedish composer and photographer who is a connoisseur of Asian music. The first pieces I became acquainted with were works like "Path of Thunder" by Garayev, "The Arabian Nights" by Amirov, "Rast" by Niyazi and "Legend of Love" by Malikov. I've loved Azerbaijani music ever since. With Tom's assistance, I began the arduous task of tracking down all the Azerbaijani records that I could find. I have searched in all conceivable ways for music of this Asian-European blend, based in folk music. Unfortunately, these records were often made in very small numbers and not exported. Over the past dozen years, I've been able to locate about 60 pieces. (At that time, they were all produced under the label of Melodia). Sometimes I found these treasures in Hungary, other times in Canada, England and Latvia. I'm addicted now. I listen for hours on end to Garayev, Niyazi, Amirov, the Hajibeyovs (Uzeyir, Sultan and Zulfugar) Alizade, Hajiyev, Malikov and others.
There is also a third Swede who shares our passion for Azerbaijani music: Per Skans, the Swedish music critic, who has written the liner notes for at least two of Amirov's CDs produced by the British record company, Olympia.
It's been my observation that under the Soviet yoke, Azerbaijani music was not promoted and distributed adequately - certainly far less than it deserved to be, given the world-class quality of many of its composers.
Now that CDs with Amirov and Garayev have begun to appear in the West, I hope many other classical works will follow. What is the situation in Azerbaijan today? Are there any operating record companies? And is it possible to get hold of old recordings on the Melodia label in Baku? I'd be grateful for any help.
Editor's Note: To date, it seems that only Olympia has produced CDs by Azerbaijani composers. We know of three CDs which are available: Garayev's "Path of Thunder" and "Seven Beauties" (OCD 491: note the Russian spelling used by Olympia is Kara Karayev); Amirov's "The Arabian Nights" (OCD 578); and Amirov's "Gulistan Bayati Shiraz," "Azerbaijan Capriccio," "A Tale of Nasimi," and "Kurd Ovshari" (OCD 490). Let's hope for more in the future!
Additional Note - Summer 1997. A new series - Classical Music of Azerbaijan is available in a set of 6 CDs (or cassettes) Symphonic, Ballet, Concerto, Piano, Opera and Chamber. Sound samples are available.
Sumgayit on the Web
I left Azerbaijan six years ago when I was eight-years-old. I miss it a LOT!!! I used to live in Sumgayit on Nizami Street. Someday, I want to return to Azerbaijan, but I'm still too young to make decisions like that by myself.
I now live in Eilat, Israel, and study in the ninth grade. I don't know Azerbaijani, but I know Russian, English, Hebrew and am learning Arabic in school.
Every week I do a search on the Internet for Sumgayit, but there's still not too much information about it. I found your article about environmental problems in Sumgayit on the Web.
Can you please make BIG articles about cities in Azerbaijan with photos? I believe there are many people like me.
Sergey Eilat, Israel
Love Across the Miles
I've just figured out that I can read the past issues of Azerbaijan International by clicking on my computer! I really appreciate your glimpses into Azerbaijani culture. I'm soon to marry a wonderful guy from a little village in Azerbaijan. I met him when I lived in Moscow. Actually, we've been apart more than we've been together over the last three years, as he's been in military service because of the Nagorno-Karabakh war.
His culture is quite different from New Zealand's, especially where husband-wife relationships are concerned, and in regard to what we can expect of each other. I've found it extremely hard to find any information on his culture. So I really appreciate your magazine!
I think the worst thing about being from different cultures is not knowing exactly what is different until you've already made a cultural blunder, but then it's too late.
Thanks again for your insights into his country.
Victoria University of Wellington
"Good Old" Communism
Although my country is quite small, we are brimming with great ambitions and potential, despite the fact that we've known hundreds of years of occupation, terror, mass killings, wars, conflicts, displacement and treason.
In my opinion, we are experiencing a rebirth in every facet of our lives-culturally, spiritually and historically. We're reevaluating everything and arriving at conclusions for ourselves-hopefully, for the best.
Everyone speaks about democracy. But in my opinion, total democracy is rather difficult for us to achieve at this time and, perhaps, may even be pre-mature during our rebirth process. True democracy, I'm afraid, would turn out more like anarchy if everyone insisted on his own way. In my opinion, we need at least 10 years before we can realize this ideal. We must make the transition in a smooth, gradual manner. We cannot spend precious time criticizing the current, past and possibly even future governments.
Before you jump to any conclusions, I am not "pro-Aliyev" or "pro-government," I am simply "pro-Azerbaijan." We need stability to achieve our goals. Once again, don't get me wrong-I am a democrat (I believe in rule by the people). I respect democracy, but it is too early for us. People are tired-both human and natural resources are limited. We need to maximize our efforts.
In the past few years, many positive aspects have developed in our country. For example, there has been a tremendous change in attitudes of the Westerners in terms of recognizing and helping us with our problems. But in the end, we are the only ones who can fully help our nation and our people. How can we do that?
It's quite simple. If every one of us would do what we are best qualified for and if we would do it with passion and persistence, then I guarantee that we will all be fine and so will Azerbaijan. If people will forget their petty troubles, conflicts and disagreements, and work toward common goals and ideals, then we will succeed in the end. Sounds like "good old" communism, doesn't it? Well, you have to take the best from everything, instead of simply denying it. If we build on the experience of others, we can avoid costly mistakes in the future.
University of Southern California (USC)
Editor's Note: Adil is the grandson of Hasan Abdullayev, President of Azerbaijan's Academy of Sciences during the 1970s.
What's in a Name?
I've just read "Names: History in a Nutshell" in the Autumn 1996 issue of Azerbaijan International. Familiar, as well as not-so-familiar names suddenly came alive, giving me a chance to learn about Azerbaijani names and their meanings. It is especially important for me, since I grew up in Ukraine and have visited Azerbaijan only twice before coming to the United States.
I'm eager to find out the meaning and origin of my own first name. I know that "Zaur" is popular in Georgia, Azerbaijan and the North Caucasus, while relatively unknown in Turkey, Iran and Armenia. I would appreciate any available information.
A few years ago, Baku and Azerbaijan were virtually unknown to me. In the aftermath of the collapse of the USSR, new names of cities and countries appeared in the news, with tragedies, struggles, and transitions. Azerbaijan was a part of the world that the average Norwegian knew little about. Yet this past summer, I had the chance to spend two weeks visiting some close Norwegian friends who had recently settled in Azerbaijan.
What impressed me most? The people, their openness, warmth and generosity. The rich cultural traditions in the arts. The tolerance and acceptance. And also the contrasts--poverty, pollution and problems.
Soul-that's what I felt in Azerbaijan. The world has much to learn from these good people. Without exception, I found Azerbaijanis to be smiling and helpful wherever I went. Even Azerbaijanis enjoying a picnic in the countryside insisted on sharing their pomegranates. Caring and sharing-Thank you, Baku!
Canadian Stamp Collector
I was happy to discover your Web site when searching the Internet. I'm an avid philatelist and have a very impressive collection from Azerbaijan. I'm looking for someone who would be interested in exchanging letters and stamps from your country.
By the way, I recently made a special appearance on Azerbaijani TV in Montreal to present stamps to some Azerbaijani Canadians.
- Editor - For articles about stamps:
- The Nobel Prize in Postage Stamps - Hugo Vargas
- Azerbaijan's Petroleum Stamps - by Hugo Vargas
From Azerbaijan International (4.4) Winter 1996.
© Azerbaijan International 1997. All rights reserved.