Author: Ravan NAMIGOGHLU
We met Ehtiram Huseynov at the Baku International Mugham Centre. He was very busy, discussing a new project with his colleague from Nakhchivan. After interrupting the discussion, he invited us to talk over a tea table. "Recording, shooting, events, live shows... I have to catch up with everything," said the famous mugham singer. But he does not complain about the volume of works, but the lack of time. "Now I have to try even harder," said Ehtiram and began answering our questions without further ado.
Please accept our congratulations on your awarding with an honorary title of the Honoured Artist of the Republic of Azerbaijan at the end of the last year!
Thank you! That was the largest gift of my life received on the eve of the New Year. I would like to thank President Ilham Aliyev for this high appreciation of my creative activity! This obviously doubles my responsibility. Now I have to try even harder to justify this appreciation, keeping the bar on top.
Sometimes, when young performers receive honorary titles, people are surprised. They believe that one should get enough creative experience to deserve the title. Can we make a short journey into your creative biography?
As you know, I have performed in the children's choir Banovsha since I was twelve. After graduating from the mugham class, I began working at the Mugham Theatre. I would say the real boom of mugham in Azerbaijan started with holding of the mugham competitions. Like other young singers, I was able to prove myself on stage. All this was possible thanks to the efforts of the First Vice-President Mehriban Aliyeva. Thanks to her initiative, a CD with the songs of the Karabakh khanandas and The Encyclopaedia of Mugham were released. There are dozens of similar projects... But the mugham contests have played an instrumental role in the development of our creativity. They helped to identify more than 120 young performers from different parts of the country, who contribute to the development of national musical art and even prepare their successors.
In 2005-2007, I also took part in the international mugham competition and was awarded the second place. After that, a new page opened in my life. I have completely linked my future with mugham.
The international mugham competition is held every two years. Performers from all over the world participate in it. It is expected to hold a competition this year as well.
I was lucky to be one of the five performers representing Azerbaijan. In 2011, I was ranked the first. After that, I started the tours around the world, including the performances for various UN activities. That is how we have continued our work, non-stop.
I give solo concerts at the International Mugham Centre almost every year. I also performed with talented singers Arzu Aliyeva and Kamila Nabiyeva. We had concerts at the Azerbaijan State Philharmonic Society, as well as in Nakhchivan, Sumgayit, and other cities. In 2015, I was awarded an honorary title of the Honoured Artist of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. It is a great honour and responsibility for me. Therefore, I could not stop.
It is no secret that honorary titles often become goals in and of themselves for some showmen. They are purposefully moving towards this. What about you?
I hope your readers will believe in my sincerity. I have never set myself such a goal. Of course, anyone would want to receive such a high rating. But believe it or not, I have not expected these titles. I do not know if it is right or not, but I have not set such a goal ever. I just do my job trying to serve our culture as much as I can.
Could you tell us about your plans?
I have enough plans for the future. As I said, I am going to take part in the international mugham competition. I am also planning some foreign tours. I also received an invitation to participate in the international festival but it is too early to name the country where it will be held. On the eve of Novruz holidays, we want to give a concert at the Mugham Centre. Despite the time restraints, we will try to make it.
As usual, the audience expects opera performances from well-known mugham performers. Do you have such plans? Have you received an invitation to perform in opera? Why do not you play Majnun, for example?
I have long been invited to the opera thanks to repeated invitations and support of the State Opera and Ballet Theatre. We have even rehearsed several times. But either because of my heavy workload, or my laziness, I could not be in time for rehearsals. But I have always dreamed about performing on the opera stage. Probably, sometime, and maybe even this year, I am lucky enough to realize this desire after all.
You are also teaching mugham. What do you think about the future of mugham?
It is known that today Azerbaijani mugham is going through a period of dramatic development never experienced before. As I said, this was possible mainly thanks to the support of our state. Mugham is our national treasure. People see this support and intentionally take their children to mugham classes. Just imagine that every mugham competition attracts twenty talented young performers from different regions of the country. As our teachers say, if after screening we have at least three good performers, this already means a great success.
Each period in history is known for its custodians of the art. As to Azerbaijani theatre, sceptics often argue that we will never see the second reincarnation of Nasiba Zeynalova or Siyavush Aslan. What about the continuity in mugham?
All preceding masters of mugham are standards of quality for me. Hardly anyone will argue that these performers are born again. Arif Babayev, Yagub Mammadov, Hajibaba Huseynov, Alim Gasimov, Aghakhan Abdullayev are unique and their performance is unprecedented. May the souls of all the departed masters rest in peace! And I wish all the best to those alive. Their followers also take their deserved place in our hearts and gradually become our beloved artists. In general, everyone should try doing what he or she can do the best, having own patterns and style. Do you know how many good singers were the contemporaries of Arif Babayev, Yagub Mamedov and others? But very few people remember them now. Therefore, everyone should leave his own unique trace. As our fathers said, the one that follows in footsteps of others does not leave his own…
How does the time and tastes of the audience influence mugham? Do you think to please the audience, it is necessary to perform the same mugham differently than it was performed say ten years ago?
Everything changes, of course. Listen to fifty-year old records and you will hear how slowly the mughams were performed at that time. Contemporary audience quickly gets tired of a slow pace. We live in the age of high-speed information technology. Life has become more dynamic. This influences the music too.
When Alim Gasimov sings, it seems that only his body is present on the stage, while his soul is in another spatial dimension, in the heavens. How do you feel on the stage? Do you think more about your performance, or switch on your imagination?
Of course, different mughams generate different feelings, different emotions. I can look into your eyes from the stage without noticing you. In my mind, I am in another place. For example, when I perform Rast or Zabul, I recall my native village in Lachin, currently occupied by Armenia. The village, where I was born and grew up, was situated in the shadow of mountains and forests. So, when I sing Rast, I feel myself in such a shady place, and thoughts take me to my beloved village.