Azerbaijan International

Summer 2005 (13.2)
Pages 20-21


Personal Memories of Haji Khanmammadov
Master of Tar (1918-2005)

by Ramiz Guliyev, World Renowned Tar Performer

I first met Haji Khanmammadov in 1964 when taking the qualifying exams to enter Baku Conservatory [now Music Academy]. I was to perform his Concerto No. 1 for Tar as part of the exam. Haji "muallim" [honorific title, meaning "teacher"] himself was serving on the jury. But it was that initial acquaintance during those student years that led to a 40-year friendship.

Haji Khanmammadov played a significant role in making the Azerbaijani tar known throughout the world when he chose this traditional, stringed instrument as a solo instrument in the context of the symphonic orchestra.

Haji muallim's first concerto provided the impetus for numerous others to write such orchestral works including composers, such as Said Rustamov, Jahangir Jahangirov, Suleyman Alasgarov, Tofig Bakikhanov, Nariman Mammadov, Ramiz Mirishli, Mammadagha Karimov, Zakir Baghirov, Adviyya Rahmatova, Firangiz Babayeva and Nazim Guliyev.

Today, nearly 20 concertos exist for the tar, with symphonic or folk instrument orchestras. But it was Haji Khanmammadov who introduced this genre; thus, he deserves the right to be called the "Johann Sebastian Bach of Azerbaijani Tar". His enormous success was due, to a great extent, to the fact that he understood so well both the tonality and percussive capabilities of the instrument because he played the tar himself.

haji khanmammadov
Right: Haji Khanmammadov

Haji's major works are based upon our national roots, our mughams [modal music]. He wrote five tar concertos and dedicated them to various musicians: No. 1 (Ahsan Dadashov), No. 2 (Haji Mammadov), No. 3 (no dedication), No. 4 (Gara Garayev, his professor and mentor), and No. 5 (me). I performed his Fifth in 2002 at the Concert Hall of Chamber and Organ music with Azerbaijan State Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Rauf Abdullayev. This performance was recorded on video and broadcast on television. Haji loved that concerto. Once when one of his fans commented on liking Concerto No. 2 so much, Haji just smiled and replied: "You'll change your mind when you hear No. 5!"

Haji muallim also composed beautiful love songs, many of them written specifically for the mournful, soul-searching voice of one of our most famous singers
Shovkat Alakbarova (1922-1993). He was inspired by the lyrics by Ashug Alasgar and Vurghun but had a particular fondness for the lyrical poetry of Mikayil Mushfig who was arrested and killed in 1937 for his outspokenness during Stalin's repressions.

haji khanmammadov
Left: Haji Khanmammadov with some of Azerbaijan's most famous composers of the 1970s. First row (sitting): Jahangir Jahangirov, Shafiga Akhundova, Tofig Guliyev, Haji Khanmammadov. Second row: Ismayil Hajibeyov, Arif Malikov, Emin Sabitoghlu, R. Mirishli, M. Guliyev, E. Rustamov. Third row: A. Dadashov, M. Ahmadov.

When, at age 14, Haji muallim fled his country to escape Stalin's revenge, he arrived, knowing no one in Baku. It was Uzeyir Hajibeyov (1885-1948) who reached out to help him get an education and provide him with financial support. Whenever I used to go to Haji's house, he would greet me by saying: "Allah Uzeyir beye rahmat elesin" (May Uzeyir's soul rest in peace). When I asked him why he always said that, he replied: "To forget Uzeyir would be like forgetting God. He was our prophet. We all eat his bread."

Though Haji muallim was not a man of many words, he loved jokes and anecdotes. He was respected for his integrity and for telling the truth.

Haji had many difficulties in life - not just during childhood when he had to leave his family for an unknown world and manage on his own at such an early age. He often said that he had no childhood. He also faced many disappointments - many of them late in life. For example, his Concerto No. 5, written in 1993, was not performed until nine years later in 2002. During the interim, his partitura was lost by administrators, and he had to write it all over again. In the end, he was only able to publish a version for tar and grand piano through the generosity of a friend.

haji khanmammadov, ramiz guliyev, rauf abdullayev haji khanmammadov, gara garayev
Above: 1. Conductor of Azerbaijan Symphonic Orchestra Rauf Abdullayev, Composer Haji Khanmammadov and Tar performer Ramiz Guliyev when the Fifth Concerto for Tar by Khanmammadov was performed for the first time in 2002. 2. Haji Khanmammadov (left) with Azerbaijan's renown composer and mentor Gara Garayev (1918-1982) in Moscow, 1968. Garayev encouraged Haji to write the first Concerto for Tar. He later went on to write four more concertos for tar, one for kamancha and another for harp.

Haji wanted so much for a Jubilee to be organized on the State Level for his 85th birthday. It didn't happen. I kept trying to ease him by saying that we would celebrate his 90th in 2008, but unfortunately, he didn't live to see the day. He was 87 when he passed away, a few days after he had taken a serious fall.

Haji used to say that it was due to the kindness of others that he had become Haji Khanmammadov, the composer. A rather large crowd - students, composer friends, musicians - gathered at the Music Academy this past April to attend his funeral ceremony - to acknowledge his presence in their lives and to come and say good-bye.

As his lyrical pieces were being performed at that event, I couldn't help but think that his music was so poignant and tangible in being able to express passion, joy and the wonders of life, along with its bitter sadness and disappointments.


ramiz guliyevLeft: Ramiz Guliyev

Ramiz Guliyev (born 1947) is recognized as, perhaps, the best Azerbaijani tar player in the world. He has both performed and recorded some of Haji Khanmammadov's Concertos for tar.

Back to Index AI 13.2 (Summer 2005)
AI Home
| Search | Magazine Choice | Topics | AI Store | Contact us

Other Web sites created by Azerbaijan International
| |