Azerbaijan International

Spring 2001 (9.1)
Pages 48-51

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Dayirman Lyrics

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

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 younger generation.

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.

From 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 life."

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:

Hello, cruel enemy!
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 the enemy."

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 activism."

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,
yellow bride?


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 our lives."

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!

Once raised, 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
with you.
We lead the new generation forward.
Ahead, Azeri youth!

Maybe if we change ourselves,
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?

My great-grandfather's 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?

Dayirman's songs 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?"

Composing Rap
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 for them.
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 each other.

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 Azeri."

"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 and hoods.

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."

New Album
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 Azeri.
You're dear to me, you're round, and you're
pretty to me.

Chubby girls - the white, the black.
Chubby girls - the white, the black.

Chubby girls are in town everywhere.
Even Dayirman loves them.
Dayirman is proud of them and greets them
with music.

You're pretty 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 Arzu Aghayeva.

Store - Music:
Leyla and Dayirman CD

Azerbaijan International (9.1) Spring 2001.
© Azerbaijan International 2001. All rights reserved.

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