Author: Nigar VELIYEVA
When the guns speak, the muses go silent. One can interpret this Latin aphorism in different ways, but the meaning is clear. But for now we wanted to talk about the music that originated where the cannons now speak. Azerbaijani mugham, which was included in the List of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2008, has been glorified by the famous Karabakhi khanendes since ancient times. One of them, Karabagh Shikestesi, is the symbol of Karabakh and has a very interesting history. It is a story that has absorbed and preserved both glorious and tragic events associated with the native land. Our interviewee is Jamila HASANOVA, professor of the Uzeyir Hajibeyov Baku Music Academy, Executive Secretary of the Union of Composers of Azerbaijan, Doctor of Arts.
"Jamila-khanum, could you please share what emotions and feelings you are experiencing today because of the counter-offensive of the Azerbaijani military to liberate Karabakh from occupation?"
"Karabakh is our pain and our pride. Therefore, like all the citizens of Azerbaijan, I express my enormous gratitude to our army and personally President Ilham Aliyev. Over the course of 30 years, resentment at the obvious injustice has been accumulating inside us, but at the same time we have not lost hope. I know that our cause is just, therefore, victory will be with our heroic army and the people of Azerbaijan."
"You said that Karabakh is our pride... Can we say that we protect not only the land, but also the culture of Azerbaijan? What is Karabakh for an Azerbaijani who, for example, was not born in Shusha or Khankendi, but comes from another region?"
"For any Azerbaijani, Karabakh is an integral part of our culture. It is, as they say, the pearl of Azerbaijan. An amazing phenomenon! In all spheres of our culture, Karabakh has always been in the foreground. Even now we can talk about a similar trend. Despite the temporary physical isolation from Karabakh for several decades, the Karabakh cultural traditions continue to live in the creativity of our people. Moreover, these traditions are carefully passed down from generation to generation.
“The most valuable thing in our musical culture is mugham. Having originated in the Middle Ages, the genre reached its peak in the 18th-19th centuries. At this time, various schools of mugham began to form in Azerbaijan: Baku, Shirvan, Absheron and others. So, the very first school is the one in Karabakh. Karabakh stands number one in this genre. That is why Karabakh is called the Conservatoire of the Caucasus! The art of mugham, as well as tar and kamancha performance formed in Karabakh. It spread not only in Azerbaijan, but also throughout the East. Everyone knows the names of our outstanding performers, including Jabbar Garyaghdidoghlu, Muhammed Kechachioghlu, Mashadi Mammad Farzaliyev and others. They were followed by Majid Behbudov, the father of the great Rashid Behbudov, and outstanding Bulbul, the father of Polad Bulbuloghlu, who continued the glorious musical traditions of Azerbaijan.”
"Were the Karabakh khanendes popular in Europe?"
"At the beginning of the 20th century, the recording companies of Poland and Germany invited our khanendes to record their voices. There were gramophone records of outstanding Karabakh mugham performers. All of Europe listened to the first Azerbaijani singers, representatives of the Karabakh school of performers. In the catalogs of that time they wrote the names of Jabbar Garyaghdioghlu, Khan Shushinsky, Seyid Shushinsky. These aliases appeared for a reason, as they speak of the vitality of the Karabakhi traditions, which enriched the Azerbaijani culture."
"Have we lost these traditions for quite objective reasons?"
"Not at all! Subsequent generations of musicians who moved, for example, to Baku, greatly influenced the performing arts, our culture, and enriched it. Karabakhi traditions live in the works of such venerable performers as Arif Babayev, Mansum Ibrahimov, and many others. Their disciples are their worthy successors. In general, those who continue the Karabakhi traditions are distinguished by their voices and manner of performance. The voices of singers from Karabakh are more sonorous and graceful. Our great performer Bulbul considered Jabbar Garyaghdioghlu, a singer with a voice of the broadest range, to be the founder of Azerbaijani vocal art. Here are two geniuses for you, two bearers of the Karabakh musical traditions. By the way, in Karabakh there was such a phenomenon as poetic mugham mejlises, which were founded by the daughter of the Karabakh khan, the poetess Khurshudbanu Natavan. In Shusha, mugham has always been performed. There is even a saying: children cry under Segah and laugh under Shahnaz."
"Can we continue this saying by ‘they celebrate the victory under Karabakh Shikestesi?"
"Of course. Shikeste is generally a genre that includes a lot of features. In addition to musical differences, the region is also very specific. In the 19th century, the Karabakh khans turned to this genre to enrich their repertoire, and included in the performance the love lyrics of the bayaty, which is traditional for a shikeste. The performance of Khan Shushinsky is considered a pinnacle of the performance of Karabakh Shikestesi. The quatrain of Samed Vurghun dedicated to Khan Shushinsky and included by the performer himself in Karabakh Shikestesi has become a classic of this mugham. Everyone liked it very much, and since then Karabakh Shikestesi has been performed with Vurghun’s lines.
“The genre of shikeste is based on the Segah mugham, which is also very touching and sad. During the occupation of Karabakh, mugham did not undergo structural changes, but our pain manifested itself in tones. Every year I can hear an increasing number of courageous, confident intonations that appear in later performances of mugham performers. I hope that the liberation of Karabakh will also affect the intonation of the mugham and it will sound like a victory anthem.”
"Karabakh Shikestesi was also used in academic music..."
"That’s right. Many composers have referred to this theme repeatedly. In the past, these were the works of Uzeyir Hajibeyov, Muslim Magomayev, Reingold Glier, Ashraf Abbasov. For example, at the end of the 1980s, Vasif Adygozalov, one of representatives of the outstanding Karabakh dynasty of musicians, composed the oratorio Karabakh Shikestesi to express his protest against the tragic events in Karabakh. It is impossible to listen to his Shusham, Laylay without tears. The opera Natavan also belongs to the same theme. Karabakh Shikestesi sounds in the works of Sevda Ibrahimova, the granddaughter of the famous Karabakhi tar player Gurban Primov, in the opera Intizar by Firangiz Alizade. So, in spite of everything, Karabakh Shikestesi is our living legacy. I wait for cannons go silent to listen to Karabakh Shikestesi as a harbinger of victory in Shusha."
"To what extent is the Karabakh theme a priority in the work of young composers?"
"It is one of the main parts of their repertoire. For example, the Union of Composers periodically holds a patriotic song contest. Of the almost 50 songs presented to the jury, the majority is based on Karabakhi motives."
"Is Karabakh Shikestesi popularized by our performers outside Azerbaijan?"
"Azerbaijani musicians, in particular mugham performers, go on tours a lot. Because mugham is very popular around the world. By the way, Alim Gasimov has been playing an instrumental role in popularizing mugham in many countries. So, Karabakh Shikestesi has long been in the repertoire of both venerable and young singers. It is constantly played at concerts. I believe that we should promote the musical art of Karabakh as part of Azerbaijani culture. Not least because of the tragic events that took place on this soil. The very name of this mugham already contains proof of its ownership. Karabakh Shikestesi, no matter how unexpected it sounds, is already a music brand. Let me give you an example. An Uzbek singer who performed Karabakh Shikestesi became the winner of the international mugham competition."
"Jamila-khanim, you mentioned the records of our khanende from the beginning of the last century. Is it possible to hear their voices in good quality, on digital media?"
"Yes, it is. The staff of the website Musiqi Dünyası with the support of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation restored the old recordings and released a CD album. It includes the voices of 24 khanende from Jabbar Garyaghdioghlu to the present day. The album is called The Khanendes of Karabakh."
"This is quite a serious and important job to do, especially due to the repeated cases of plagiarism. Look what happened to Uzeyir Hajibeyov's operetta Arshin Mal Alan!"
"Yes, a sad incident. The fact is that the operetta was so popular that it was often staged in Iran, and in the republics of Central Asia, in Europe. The Union of Composers periodically publishes educational brochures about our famous composers. The chairman of the union, Firangiz Alizade, continues this wonderful and useful tradition. Why is it useful? Published brochures are distributed during concerts of our musicians outside Azerbaijan in Germany, France, and Russia. We also published a brochure dedicated to Hajibeyov’s Arshin Mal Alan, where we described the facts of plagiarism in detail, as well as how a group of venturous Armenians staged the operetta in the USA and made a film without showing the real author of this piece of art. It is a fascinating story, by the way. During the Second World War, our troops also confiscated the film as a trophy. That’s how we discovered the scam. Our film with the outstanding Rashid Beibutov was shot in 1945 thanks to Joseph Stalin's great love for this operetta. The film traveled around the whole world, and the authorship of our great Uzeyir-bek was proven. By the way, I would like to note that the events unfolding in Arshin Mal Alan took place in Karabakh, and they are based on real history. Musiqi Dünyası contains recordings of operetta performances in different countries and in different languages of the world, even in Chinese. Arshin Mal Alan has an interesting history and wide geography."
"What can we do to protect our musical heritage?"
"It is necessary to publish works, record them on digital media, which will remain for our children. The Heydar Aliyev Foundation has published all of Hajibeyov’s works, but we have yet another colossal layer - folk songs. Since they are not published, not digitized and not ‘protected’, they can, unfortunately, be used anonymously and appropriated. The saddest thing is that it is very difficult to prove the ownership later.
“We have tremendous wealth in the form of musical folk art that must be preserved for our future generations.”