Autumn 2001 (9.3)
O Olmasin, Bu
This One, That One)
Hajibeyov CDs at AI
Hajibeyov (1885-1948) was a multi-talented genius who excelled
in depicting the social issues of his day. The musical comedy,
"O Olmasin, Bu Olsun" (often called by the name of
its protagonist, "Mashadi Ibad") is one of Hajibeyov's
finest works in this regard.
In Hajibeyov's earlier work, the opera "Leyli and Majnun"
(1908), the ill-fated young lovers die of broken hearts because
social status and feudal custom kept them from marrying each
In contrast, Hajibeyov's three musical comedies that followed,
"Husband and Wife" (1910), "O Olmasin, Bu Olsun"
(1911) and "Arshin Mal Alan" (1913), end with the protagonists
marrying the partners of their choice and living "happily
ever after". In each story, a comical twist in the plot
evolves around the traditional role of the woman's veil in society.
Left: Composer Uzeyir Hajibeyov
was always a stalwart supporter of women's rights. At the age
of four, he is said to have complained bitterly to his mother
about the veil that she had to wear whenever she went out into
traditional Muslim society. He felt it hid her pretty face and
he was embarrassed to walk beside her. As years passed, his sensitivity
to the plight of women only intensified. Hajibeyov deserves to
be hailed as one of the most progressive writers of Azerbaijan,
given that he wrote many of his works when even women in many
Western countries didn't have the right to vote.
Concept of Freedom
For Hajibeyov, clearly the concept of freedom and independence
was never more fundamental than in being able to choose one's
future partner in life. At the turn of the 20th century in Azerbaijan,
parents traditionally made these crucial selections for their
children. Youth were not allowed to get involved with these decisions.
No doubt, the fact that Hajibeyov had studied outside of Azerbaijan
at Gory Seminary in Tbilisi, Georgia, where he was cut off from
the traditional ties of parents, religion and society, caused
him to consider options to the traditions of his own society.
His Own Marriage
In 1910, he married Maleyka Teregulova (1893-1966), a young woman
he had met in Tbilisi. It seems it was a personal choice that
worked out well. A teacher herself, with a strong musical education
and a warm, kind, generous spirit similar to his own, she turned
out to be an extremely supportive companion for him throughout
the 38 years of their marriage.
"O Olmasin, Bu Olsun" is best understood in its historical
and geographical context. The first two decades of the 20th century
were filled with uncertainty and turbulence. Baku, with its enormous
resources of oil, became one of the most vibrant cities of the
Russian Empire. Then, as now, the city was full of contradictions.
Both capitalist and working-class elements lived side by side,
erupting in irreconcilable differences. At the turn of the century,
capitalism was undermining the traditional feudal wealth and
social status of landowners in the Russian Empire.
In the course of "O Olmasin, Bu Olsun", Hajibeyov also
deals with contemporary issues related to religion, the intelligentsia,
Pan-Turkism, nationalism, racketeering and servitude.
Hajibeyov's play opens with Rustam bey, an aristocratic landowner
who has become bankrupt. Strapped for cash, he feels that he
has no alternative but to do the unthinkable: marry off his lovely
daughter, Gulnaz, to a local merchant.
Enter Mashadi Ibad, an uneducated merchant who has recently acquired
considerable wealth, but who just happens to be quite old-fashioned
and at least 30 years older than the beautiful Gulnaz. Of course,
she is horrified at the prospect of this marriage. Besides, she
has secretly discovered the person she wants to marry
- young, handsome
When Sarvar learns that Gulnaz' father has decided to marry her
off to an old wealthy merchant, he doesn't panic but rather contrives
a plan to outwit the merchant and legitimize his own marriage
In an amusing twist, it is the veil that serves as his accomplice.
When the appointed wedding day arrives, Sarvar covers himself
up with the veil. When Mashadi Ibad raises it to get a glimpse
of the face of his beautiful bride, he is horrified to discover
that instead of "marrying" his fiancée, he has
mistakenly married her intended fiancé!
At gunpoint, Sarvar forces the groom to annul the marriage vows
to Gulnaz and to marry an old housemaid instead. Mashadi Ibad
happily obliges. Thus, the name of the comedy is "If Not
This One, That One." Little does the substitution seem to
matter to Mashadi Ibad, a widower in search of companionship.
In 1956, the musical comedy "Mashadi Ibad" was adapted
for film by director Husein Sayidzade. It is this film version
that has made Hajibeyov's comedy so popular beyond the borders
The musical reproduced for the CD is from the only existing audio
recording of "O Olmasin, Bu Olsun". It is a radio play
produced by the Azerbaijan Radio Choir and Orchestra, originally
broadcast in 1953.
Available at AZER.com, AI Store
(9.3) Autumn 2001.
© Azerbaijan International 2001. All rights reserved.
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