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vagif, azizaIn terms of ethnicity, culture, music and religionAzerbaijan are much closer to Iran than Turkey, the country has the distinction of being the first Muslim-majority democratic and secular republic of the modern eraTheir music are based on folk traditions that reach back nearly a thousand years! We can list here e.g. the Mugham, Meykhana and Ashiq Art being one of the many musical traditions of Azerbaijan.

Mugham is usually a suite with poetry and instrumental interludes, it belongs to the modal system and may have derived from Persian tradition (Arabic Maqam). In contrast to the mugham traditions of Central Asian countries, Azeri mugham is more free-form and it is often compared to the improvised field of jazz. Its modes are associated not only with scales but with an orally transmitted collection of melodies and melodic fragments that performers use in the course of improvisation.

Nizami Ganjavi, 16th Century

Nizami Ganjavi, 16th Century

The dramatic unfolding in performance is associated with increasing intensity, rising pitches, in a form of poetic-musical communication amid performers/listeners.

In 2003, UNESCO recognized Mugham as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Another curiosity is the presence of the Balaban (national wind instrument) included on the Voyager Golden Record, attached to the Voyager spacecraft as representing (assorted) world music.

Meykhana is a kind of traditional Azeri distinctive folk unaccompanied song, usually performed by several people improvising on a particular subject. Ashiq combines poetry, storytelling, dance and vocal and instrumental music into a traditional performance art that stands as a symbol of Azerbaijani culture. Based on a mystic troubadour or traveling bard who sings and plays the Saz, this tradition has its origins in the ancient Turkic peoples, surviving to the present day as an emblem of national identity and the guardian of Azerbaijani language, literature and music. (!)

Azeri Dance

Azeri Dance

Let’s go to our music:

Jazz is extremely popular in Azerbaijan. National Jazz School of Azerbaijan was established with the birth of State Jazz Orchestra in 1938 performing both classic jazz and improvisations on traditional Mugham music. The life of Jazz did not last long as in the 50’s Soviet authorities banned the its performance in the country as seditious western music, even music played on the saxophone was outlawed!

Therefore, a blend which came to be known as mugam jazz had originated in Baku.

In the late 60’s, the Azeri jazz music was boosted by such composers as Qara Qarayev and Rauf Hajiyev. It was the era of Rafiq Babayev’s jazz quartet, and later, that of Vagif Mustafazadeh, who pioneered the jazz-mugham variation.

Qara Qarayev

Qara Qarayev

Let’s go to our artist:

Vagif Mustafa-Zadeh (March 16, 1940 – December 17, 1979) is the founder of Azerbaijani jazz mugham movement that emerged in the late 60’s and 70’s in Baku.

Mustafazadeh was born in Old City, the historical core of the Baku, his name was chosen by the renowned poet Samed Vurgun, on the request of his mother, a piano teacher in local music school. The musical prohibitions during the 40’s and 50’s meant that the playing of jazz was banned in USSR countries, including Azerbaijan, since there was no opportunity to get jazz records from anywhere, he listened to jazz pieces, learning from movies, the BBC radio and sang the also banned Meykhana.

In 1963, he graduated from Baku State Musical School named after Asaf Zeynally and a year later accepted to Azerbaijan State Conservatoire. He first achieved fame at the music school, giving concerts there, later on performing at the parties and evenings held at the universities and clubs, while performing at the clubs, he mainly played classical jazz, as well as some blues and (even) pop-dance music!

A Young Maestro

A Young Maestro

From the 60’s, prohibitions put on jazz music were gradually lifted and thus the late 1960s and 70’s became a time when Baku was a real center of inspired jazz.

In 1965, he quit the conservatoire and went to Tbilisi to lead the Orero musical ensemble, later he created the Qafqaz jazz trio at Georgian State Philarmony.

In 1970 he formed the Leyli women’s quartet and followed the formula in 1971 with the (famous) Sevil vocal instrumental ensemble. The group was founded on the basis of the State TV & Radio of Azerbaijan SSR, with soloists U. Hajibeyov, Dilara Dzhangirova and Rena TalybovaUntil 1977 he guided tirelessly all of ’em!

Sevil, 70's

Sevil, 70’s

For its composition Waiting for Aziza, Mustafazadeh won first prize at the 8th International Competition of Jazz Composers in Monaco, 1978. He was also elected as laureate at Donetsk All-Soviet Union Jazz Festival in 1977, and elected as the best pianist in Tbilisi-78. Vagif Mustafazadeh is assigned Honored Artist of Azerbaijan SSR and after his death Azerbaijani State Prize. Unfortunately he died of a heart-attack shortly after a concert in Tashkent, and before the birthdays of his wife and daughter. Mustafazadeh was married twice, from his first marriage he had Lala, a classical pianist. His second marriage gave him (famous) Aziza Mustafa Zadeh.

More than three decades since Mustafazade’s passing, a larger number of his recordings are more widely available than at any time during his lifetime. (RIP)

Vagif Mustafa Zadeh

Vagif Mustafa Zadeh (Art)

Let’s go to our album:

This is one of those rare moments when everything goes right! I’m totally rapt about the music of this incredible artist, composer, arranger and icon. Be blessed by the wonderful vocal harmonies, deep instrumental tracks, folk and even a bit of funk rock. Today we won’t talk much, the music speaks for itself, despite the quality of the rip, the overall is fantastic, a long lasting jazz album, appraise it and yaxşı səfər!

The ‘IM’ highlights are: Beauty Black Eyebrows and Mugam.

Tracks Include:

A1 Дороги (Roads) / (V. Mustafazade – F. Qoca)

A2 Золотое колечко (Golden Ring) / (T. Quliyev – R. Rza)

A3 Сурьма для черных бровей (Beauty Black Eyebrows) / (V. Mustafazade – Xalq)

A4 От судьбы не уйдешь (No Escaping Fate) / (V. Mustafazade)

B1 Во дворце ширваншахов (In the Palace of the Shirvan Shahs) / (V. Mustafazade)

B2 Любимая (Favorite) / (R. Haciyev – O. Olibeyli)

B3 Мугам (Mugam) / (R. Mirisli)

B4 Сегодняшний день (This Day) / (V. Mustafazade)

Мелодия ‎– С60 10157

Baku by Night

Baku by Night