Author: Sabira ALAKBAR / Salatyn Mirzayeva
"Ya Qarabağ, ya ölum, başqa yolu yox artıq!"
"Either Karabakh, or death! No other way!"
We have lived with this song. We matured, aged, some of us died. This song was a call to all of us and our generation, who grew up with the loss of Karabakh, to the battlefield. It reminded us of our pain, shed tears, our soldiers innocently killed in Karabakh. It resounded in each of us, in every corner of Azerbaijan telling us about the hopelessness of the struggle against the Armenian propaganda machine and its strong patrons. Each word of this song is a reference to our history: Gorbachev's connivance to Armenian separatism, Soviet congresses of deputies and muting of microphones to Azerbaijani public figures, Black January, crumpled cars and their passengers crushed by tanks, Armenian terrorist attacks in Baku, Chingiz Mustafayev crying behind his camera, Khojaly, Shusha, Lachin, refugees and internally displaced persons, thousands of broken lives, children of war, unfulfilled international resolutions... The list goes on. And today is Ganja.
It is impossible to hear this song and not feel almost a physical pain for Azerbaijan and its people, who have experienced the imperfection of this world and injustice. This song was first broadcast by radio ANS in the early 2000s, and it immediately became a patriotic hit. Then 20-year-old boys of the Dəyirman musical band - Malik Kalantarli (ABD Malik), Miri Yusif, Elmir Maharramov (L-Mir), Anar Abdullah became famous throughout the country. At that time, the Karabakh problem was already 12 years old. This means that these guys, like all of us, who grew up with the pain of losing their native lands, who felt the bitterness of the Karabakh losses (human, cultural, mental), felt like they were on the battlefield with weapons in their hands. Other 20-year-old boys and girls who grew up with a complex of a flawed and defiled Motherland did not know then that they had matured a little earlier, because they understood what it means to root for the Motherland being a teenager.
Belief in the great Soviet homeland grew into hatred. Schools, meetings. We were there, we remember this, and all these years each of us had its own war. Someone was a seven-year-old boy when he was expelled from his home and now, at 34, he returns back as a soldier. "He who lives by the sword dies by the sword."
Today, in each of us, this song takes on a different sound. There is no more hopelessness. Now you can listen to it without an inner shudder. Is this relief? It is not relief from the bitterness of human losses, but it is the understanding of our victorious march in Karabakh.
From the first day of the war, the soloists of Dəyirman - ABD Malik (Malik Kalantarli) and Anar Abdullah shared on their social network page the song and video of Ya Qarabağ, ya ölüm! In a matter of days, it again became an anthem of solidarity and attracted thousands of people who send it to such international organizations as the UN, CNN, BBC News almost every every day. Now we believe that this song will sound like a victorious march in Shusha, which, in fact, was planned by the authors in 1999. How will this happen and will it be somehow changed? We had a conversation with two of the performers of Ya Qarabağ, ya ölum!, the members of the Dəyirman band Malik KALANTARLI and composer Ayten ISMIKHANOVA.
"Malik, on behalf of our editorial staff, we congratulate you on the success of the Azerbaijani army. We have been waiting for this day for a very long time. How do you feel now?"
"I cannot express all my feelings now as a son of Azerbaijan and our nation. When the Karabakh conflict began, I was seven years old. I am an adult now. There are tears in my eyes and an incredible emotional uplift. This is pride for the country, for every Azerbaijani. Thank you to every soldier on the front line and to our Supreme Commander.”
"Your song was released 21 years ago. For more than 30 years, all of Azerbaijan lived with the hope that justice would one day triumph. In fact, what the song called for all these years is happening now..."
"Initially, when we launched the project, we planned to make [the city of] Shusha a final destination of the project with a big scene in the background. That’s why we worked as one big team: composer Ayten Ismihanova, producers and heads of ANS ÇM Seyfulla Mustafayev and Vahid Mustafayev. When we were presented the poems of Turkish poet Ozan Arif, we realized that they would become the words of every Azerbaijani. And now we are indeed moving to the final destination of this legendary project - to its final goal, realizing that soon everyone will be on the big stage in Shusha. And all of us in Dəyirman will get together and perform this song with completely different feelings after so many years."
"Are you going to make any changes in the song? In lyrics, voiceover? After all, now there is another way to solve the Karabakh problem?"
"Most likely, we’ll perform the original version of our hit as a memory of what happened, so that this tragedy be never forgotten by us and future generations. The song is not about winning. It's about our pain. I think that on the V-Day, it will sound completely different. But what we know for sure is that all members of Dəyirman will sing the song together. Until now, we have worked on many options of the performance. It was sung by the soloists of the children's choir. I think there was no other stronger our one in terms of the Karabakh tragedy. All our pain is in it - in the way it’s performed, in the lyrics of Ozan Arif, in the sorrowful remarks of Chingiz Mustafayev, in his cry, in the dead children of the first Karabakh war."
"Let’s go back to 1999-2000s. Truce and relative tranquility. What did prompt you to make Ya Qarabağ, ya ölum! exactly?"
"Dəyirman was founded as a patriotic hip-hop group. The goal was to improve the morale of youth. Our group was very popular in Azerbaijan and abroad among the members of our diaspora for the lyrics of patriotic songs that combined hip-hop with elements of traditional meykhana poetry. Then we recorded our first album Az@rimeyk as a synthesis of rap and folk music. Later a student of the Music Academy Leyla Aliyeva was invited to record vocals. Our song Sarı Gəlin recorded with Leyla’s voice in the background was recorded in 2000 and was awarded the Humay public prize of Azerbaijan in the nomination Best Video Clip of the Year. At that time, young people who had lost faith as a result of social discord did not listen to folk songs and folklore. Both the producers of our group and we wanted to convey to young people all the charm of the national folklore. We recognised that this was a very important mission. Our activity was also inextricably linked with the personality of the National Hero, military journalist Chingiz Mustafayev, who died in the first Karabakh war. We were the first rap group band that sang about patriotism, called on people, especially young people, to unite around the national idea, and everything turned out the way it should have turned out. No, there were no political events that prompted us to create this song at that time. Everything happened spontaneously. Ayten Ismikhanova composed the music, and as the band's beatmaker, I intuitively added the words of Chingiz Mustafayev to the song. I just wanted to try it, as the notes were in tact, plus the minor harmony. And I realized that something unreal was happening. We performed the song with overflowing emotions and great pain. Now we can say that it was a masterpiece that a large team worked on."
"What happened after that?"
"I remember that on the day of release, we could hear it in almost all the cars in Baku. Unbelievable moment! But it is a fact. The next day, almost everyone knew about our band, Dəyirman. Undoubtedly, the popularity of our song was due to the sensitiveness of the issue of Karabakh for Azerbaijanis, its pain echoed in each of us. Then our producer Seyfulla Mustafayev understood that as young emotional guys we could not cope with the fame that had suddenly fallen on us. He was afraid of star fever - he did not allow us to go out anywhere and communicate with anyone on this topic, instructed us to remain in the studio and took us home in his car. We did not give interviews to anyone, he hid us from the whole world. Perhaps it was the right decision and educational move. With such a load of popularity, any young man could get star fever and go crazy about it.”
"After some time you saw maximum re-posts of the song on social networks. It became necessary to translate it into Russian and English...”
"Indeed. As soon as the war started, Anar Abdullah and I posted it on social networks for reposting. People began to share it with CNN, BBC News, UN. Now we understand that it is time to translate it into English and Russian and upload subtitles to it so that it is understandable not only to us, Azerbaijanis. And this is very, very important in bringing the truth about the Karabakh conflict. We are already working on this. As for performing the song in foreign languages, it will be somewhat difficult. It will be extremely difficult to feel the emotional load of these couplets in a foreign language. Well, it is impossible to have such an anthem to unity and solidarity among the Armenians, because the invaders ruled and killed not on their own land. We, Azerbaijanis, suffered this - the death of loved ones, injustice. But the historical truth will prevail, and we, led by our President, will continue to fight for a just cause, because we are on the side of justice."
"Ayten, what do you feel about the success of the Azerbaijani army at the front? Can you please tell us about your contribution to Ya Qarabağ, ya ölüm!"
"I feel great joy, which is difficult to express in words. I would like to thank every Azerbaijani soldier and Supreme Commander-in-Chief, President Ilham Aliyev. We have been waiting for these victories for many years. As for the story of the creation, it all started when the famous Turkish poet Ozan Arif wrote his poem Ya Qarabağ, ya ölüm! He dedicated it to the Khojaly genocide committed by the Armenian military in February 1992 in Khojaly. Vahid and Seyfulla Mustafayevs, brothers of the National Hero of Azerbaijan, journalist Chingiz Mustafayev, were the first to show me the poems of Ozan Arif. At that time we were working with Dəyirman on another album called Qurd. Vahid and Seyfulla Mustafayevs made us a proposal to write and perform a song based on these verses. When I read them, they touched my soul so deeply that I immediately got down to work and in just a couple of days I wrote the music for this song!"
"Did you know the poet personally? How did he find the final result of your work?"
"Of course, Ozan Arif heard this song, since Vahid Mustafayev personally visited him in Turkey to get permission to use the poem. We also mailed him the final version of the song. Unfortunately, I did not know Ozan Arif personally. It is a pity that he did not live to this day. I am sure he would be very happy about our today's victories at the front and would write many more poems in honor of the Victory. One can hear Ya Qarabağ, ya ölüm! everywhere today! It is able to raise the whole of Azerbaijan to fight for the truth, for the territorial integrity of our country! 21 years have passed since then, and today, when we are mobilized to return the ancestral Azerbaijani lands, this song calls everyone into battle."
"What emotions did you feel while composing a melody describing such difficult historical events?"
"Everyone knows that Chingiz repeatedly visited the combat zone, filmed soldiers fighting in Karabakh, and interviewed them. He captured an open firefight between the armed forces of the opposing sides. There is video footage where Chingiz, with a hoarse and crying voice, is filming the massacre committed by the Armenian military in Khojaly. This cry from the heartbreaking video is still in front of my eyes. The song was written in two days, and during the filming we decided to use the voice of Chingiz Mustafayev in order to bring this pain and horror of what happened in Khojaly to the world community together with our melody."
"Given the events of today, are there any ideas for creating a new version of the song?"
"I think we shouldn't touch it any more! It is written in such a way that the pain of the tragedy in Khojaly, the pain of the loss of our sons in this unnecessary, but forced war resounds in every note. And no new version can make this pain worse. Better to write new songs. Believe me, we will compose many more songs about Shusha, about the victory and return of our lands, about the heroic soldiers of Azerbaijan in the Karabakh war!"