Spring 2001 (9.1)
Go to: Dayirman
Rap music isn't entirely new to Azerbaijan. It has its roots
in the traditional genre of "meykhana", rhymed poetry
recited to a distinct rhythmic pattern but not accompanied by
instruments. Usually, meykhana involves an exchange between several
people who take turns improvising verses about a certain subject,
sometimes continuing the pattern for hours at a time. (See "Meykhana:
Azerbaijan's Own Ancient Version of Rap Reappears," AI 4.3, Autumn 1996,
p. 74. SEARCH at AZER.com.)
In a new twist, the Azerbaijani rap group known as Dayirman (The
Mill) combines the rhythms of Western rap music with the social
consciousness of meykhana. They call it "Azeri Rap".
As self-proclaimed leaders of the younger generation, Dayirman
calls on Azerbaijanis to talk about the problems of the transition
period and then actively work to find solutions. They encourage
the youth to be proud of their country and take care of it. While
other groups are singing about love and flowers, Dayirman pays
attention to social concerns. But there's a difference between
them and Western rappers. The members of Dayirman don't have
a cynical or antagonistic attitude about their place in the larger
scheme of society. Their lyrics are marked by positive energy,
enthusiasm, optimism and hope.
It's a new trend. For many Azerbaijanis, activism and patriotism
for one's own nation are still new concepts. After living so
long under the huge umbrella of the Soviet Union, which was comprised
of 15 Republics and whose territory stretched across ten time
zones, Azerbaijanis are used to being passive and expecting big
decisions to be made for them. Now some of the youth are convinced
that they are the ones who must shape their own destiny. Some
have reached the conclusion that no one else is going to do the
work of nation-building for them; they themselves have to be
the ones to act.
We talked to the members of Dayirman - Anar Abdulla, Elmir
Maharramov, Abdul Malik and Miri Yusif - about their attempts
to reflect society's problems and arouse patriotism in Azerbaijan's
When Elmir Maharramov and Miri Yusif first met each other on
the street in Baku eight or nine years ago, it was obvious that
they shared a common interest in rap music. They both stood out
from the crowd because they were dressed like rappers, with long
baggy pants. Not many Azerbaijanis were listening to rap music
at the time, so it was easy to spot another fan.
left to right: Leyla
Aliyeva and the four members of Dayirman - Elmir Maharramov,
Anar Abdulla, Miri Yusif, and Abdul Malik - with composer and
keyboardist Aytan Ismikhanova (seated).
Anar Abdulla and Abdul Malik had also listened to rap music since
their early teens. "We listened to 'old school' rappers,
like Cypress Hill, M.O.P, Dr. Dre and Public Enemy," Anar
says. This "old school" direction is quite different
from modern rappers like 2Pac or Eminem, he points out. "'Old
school' rappers sang about problems like race discrimination,
crime and drugs. Now, rappers sing about luxury and the good
But the Dayirman group is trying to stir up the youth, arouse
their patriotism and a sense of national identity. When asked
what's new about their lyrics. Anar replied, "Truth! Nobody
has ever sung in the aggressive manner that we do, especially
when it comes to Karabakh. For example, we sing:
Listen to us,
Our people are on their feet,
We'll destroy you.
"In the past, people used to sing 'Let's return Karabakh,'
or 'Karabakh belongs to us.' But nobody sang about destroying
Malik added, "We're getting results. People are starting
to listen to the words and pay attention. We want to awaken patriotism
and love for our nation, especially in the youth."
Anar explains what patriotism means to him: "My idea of
patriotism is very broad and extends from not littering the streets
to fighting in the war and protecting the Motherland. Everything
in between these two points is patriotism-love for your mother
and father, love for the history of your country, cherishing
the colors of your flag and admiring famous people like Gara
Garayev, Fikrat Amirov and others."
Azerbaijani folk song singer Leyla Aliyeva, who is featured as
the soloist on the group's first album, "Leyla and Dayirman",
sees patriotism differently. "First of all, I think it means
to fulfil your duty to your Motherland by supporting suffering
people, both financially and psychologically. Helping people
is my primary goal in life."
Though all of the members of Dayirman are in their early 20s,
they've been friends for a long time. "We started singing
together at home in 1993," Elmir recalls. "The words
came from our hearts, and we sang just for ourselves. I was 13
years old at the time."
One of Dayirman's first songs was about Black January - the tragic
morning hours of January 20, 1990, when Soviet tanks cracked
down on Azerbaijan's independence movement and shot hundreds
of Baku civilians - on the streets, in public transportation,
even while standing and watching the events unfold from their
balconies. Black January was a turning point in the political
history of Soviet Azerbaijan. Hundreds of devout Communist Party
members were so shocked and enraged at the cold-blooded carnage
that they burned their Party cards, negating the identity that
they had spent so much of their lives striving for. Less than
two years after those brutal events, the Soviet Union collapsed
and Azerbaijanis gained their independence.
The name that was eventually chosen for the rap group, "Dayirman",
means "mill" in Azeri. Anar explains: "Baku is
the city of winds. A mill can't operate without wind. A windmill
has four blades; likewise, we're four members of a band. And
just like a mill transforms God-given wind into new energy and
sustenance, we try to convert music and ideas into energy and
After making a few home recordings, Dayirman decided to approach
the VVS Studio and see if they could record an album. In 1999,
they came out with a CD called "Leyla va Dayirman",
which also features 21-year-old Leyla Aliyeva. Aytan Ismikhanova
composed the musical arrangements and did the keyboard accompaniment.
Most of the songs on the album are Azerbaijani folk songs remade
according to the style of rap. For instance, the group did a
rap version of the familiar Azerbaijani folk song "Sari
Galin" (Yellow Bride). It became so popular in Azerbaijan
that they made a video of it as well.
"Yellow Bride" is a song about unattainable love:
You were born
for love with me,
You are the only one on the ground, in life,
in the sky.
You are my sunshine, my fire.
It's me, looking
for you among the stars.
Answer me, don't break my heart!
I'll breathe with your warm breath,
I'll remember you all my life.
What kind of
love is this?
They won't give you to me.
What should I do, what should I do,
Some of Dayirman's most memorable performances have been for
Azerbaijani soldiers stationed near the front lines near Armenia
in places like Barda, Naftalan, Ganja and Tartar. "We want
people to remember the soldiers who are guarding us," Malik
says. "They suffer while we're living in the city, enjoying
Elmir remembers performing in Margushivan, which is very close
to the Armenian front. "We asked if the Armenians could
hear us, and the soldiers said: 'Yes, and most likely their snipers
are looking at you right now.'"
At each concert for the soldiers, the group started and ended
with the song "Azerbaijan":
Oh, my dear
mother - Azerbaijan!
I'm connected to you, Azerbaijan!
You are the meaning of my life,
You are the world of brotherhood,
You are the mother of my mother, Azerbaijan!
the flag will never go down.
The shining light of this nation will never fade away,
Won't fade away, Azerbaijan is my Motherland,
It is my friend, my land, my heart.
A New Generation
The group's favorite song, "For the New Generation"
(Yeni Nasil Uchun), reflects their focus on patriotism and is
about the importance of joining together to work for the future.
"No matter how many times I listen to 'New Generation',"
Anar says, "I never get tired of it. It's a very optimistic
song. We call on Azerbaijanis to find solutions to our country's
problems rather than giving up."
Listen to us,
new Azeri generation
The Mill [Dayirman] is moving; it's always
We lead the new generation forward.
Ahead, Azeri youth!
Maybe if we
If we unite, live and not be separated,
If we forget our past once and for all,
We will cross out our future.
Happiness is waiting for us.
Work and fight for the future!
The old system has already been destroyed;
We are free in our actions now.
Come on, let's prove ourselves by our deeds.
We are a new
generation; if we create the conditions
And we catch the pulse of time,
We will do great things for our Motherland.
Look to tomorrow!
Dayirman also recorded "Our Village" (Kandimiz), a
song by Azerbaijani composer Tofig Guliyev that laments the tendency
of Azerbaijanis to leave their home regions and move to the crowded
capital of Baku.
It doesn't rain,
the cane doesn't grow,
Water buffaloes crawl from hunger, so do I.
Gray-eyed [sheep] want grass and barley,
They say that if you don't give, we'll run away
to the city.
Hey, sheep, what's there in the city?
grave is in this place
It has flowers around it, what's there in the city?
If there's only
a goat, a sheep and myself left
I won't leave my village and go to the city.
Hey, what's there in the city?
return again and again to this theme of remembering one's roots.
Anar explains: "When the Soviet Union collapsed, lots of
people left Azerbaijan and moved to other countries. Even though
I was quite young at that time, it was very frustrating to see
people leaving when we had so many problems, especially during
the Karabakh war. Those were the very same people who could have
helped Azerbaijan. They shouldn't forget about their motherland."
Aytan adds: "People do love their motherland. It just that
sometimes when life gets difficult, people pay more attention
to their own welfare and concentrate on how to get money to survive.
But I think people shouldn't leave their country for other places,
even if life is difficult. They must stay here and do something
to build our prosperity. If everybody left, then what would happen?"
To create each new song, the group members first decide upon
a topic. While Aytan works on an arrangement, the four of them
work out the lyrics. Sometimes poet Emin Afandi writes lyrics
The lyrics for Dayirman's songs are always in Azeri, even though
the guys don't consider themselves to be completely fluent in
their own language. The four of them sing and rap at lightning
speed in Azeri, but offstage, they tend to speak Russian with
Elmir explains: "We grew up during the Soviet period and
went to Russian schools. It's a pity, but we speak Russian better
than Azeri. Of course, now we're working hard to improve our
"The problem is that we think in Russian, so it takes time
to translate our thoughts into Azeri," Anar adds. "Some
youth bands in Azerbaijan sing in Russian; we sing in Azeri and
challenge the youth to speak their own native language."
Since the group doesn't have the help of an agent or manager,
each member has responsibilities in addition to singing. Yusif
handles administrative matters, and Elmir edits the lyrics. Malik,
who works as a sound producer at the studio, corrects the music.
Anar pays attention to the group's overall image and clothing.
At first, they used to wear shirts and ties to their performances,
but now they tend to dress more like rappers, with baggy trousers
Each member has to juggle all these responsibilities in addition
to his studies or work schedule. Malik is studying for his master's
degree at Baku Engineering University, Anar has graduated from
the Oil Academy, Yusif has graduated with a degree in architecture
from the Engineering University and Elmir is planning to enter
the Arts University.
The group dreams of performing abroad in the future. The ultimate
achievement for them would be having a video on MTV. "If
we got on MTV," Malik says, "that would mean that we
had reached the level of Western performers. We want people to
know that there's such a country as Azerbaijan."
This summer, Dayirman plans to release a new album based on the
theme, "For the New Generation." The album's 17 songs
will all touch upon patriotism, aiming to give Azerbaijani youth
a sense of pride about their country.
One of the group's funniest and most popular songs from the album,
"Chubby Girls" (Toppush Gizlar), is already being played
on radio stations. Today, fans who recognize members on the street
often holler out: "Chubby girls!"
Malik explains why the group decided to record this song: "Thin
girls are always praised, but nobody sings about fat girls. That's
why we decided not to forget about them."
Anar agrees: "Even if they're chubby, we love them as they
are. We're not making fun of them. We're telling them to relax
and not be so worried about their weight." The group sees
this song as a form of patriotism, since plumpness is a characteristic
feature of Azerbaijani women.
Who smiles with
her intriguing smile
At you, us, him, that person, me, you?
That gazelle weighs a bit more,
It was raining sweets when she was born.
Girl, you're pretty, you're looking here and there.
You eat too much, you laugh and go and come.
You're so sweet.
You're dear to me, you're round, and you're
pretty to me.
- the white, the black.
Chubby girls - the white, the black.
are in town everywhere.
Even Dayirman loves them.
Dayirman is proud of them and greets them
as you are;
May you live a happy life.
Dayirman, Leyla Aliyeva and Aytan Ismikhanova were
interviewed by Editor Betty Blair and AI staff member
Store - Music: Leyla and Dayirman CD
(9.1) Spring 2001.
© Azerbaijan International 2001. All rights reserved.
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