Author: Zohra FARACEVA Baku
Although she was born in Baku on 31 May 1922, everyone knew her as hailing from Nagornyy Karabakh. Her father Babis was originally from the village of Gulabli in the Agdam District [Azerbaijan's breakaway region of Nagornyy Karabakh]. He came to Baku when he was still very young and continued to live there. But he never stopped thinking about the village where he was born.
A short childhood
He passed on his love for Nagornyy Karabakh and for Gulabli to his children. For Babis's eldest daughter, Sara, every trip to those parts was something for her to celebrate. Her childhood years were spent there. It was there that she first heard the magical voices of Cabbar Qaryagdioglu, Seyid Susinski and Xan Susinski. Her father used to take her to musical soirees in Gulabli with him, where the xanandas [folk music singers] not only played mugam and folk music, but also discussed music. Her mother, who hailed from Baku, really loved music. She taught her daughter the mugam texts and songs.
She was lucky with her parents. But she was not destined to be happy about that for long. First her mother died and then, two years later, she lost her father. Four little girls and two boys were left to put their trust in fate. She was the oldest of them. Although she was only 16 years old, she had to look after her brothers and sisters. The experiences of life that she was subjected to were harsh ones. She frequently recalled the days when she was living with her parents, memories that plunged her into sorrow. Music was the only thing that brought her peace of mind. She recalled the singing of the xanandas in Nagornyy Karabakh and that day when she took part in the public contest for amateur collectives.
…It was 1938. A public contest was being held for amateur collectives. She performed before outstanding maestros for the first time. She was very nervous. When she began to sing the mugam song "Qatar", she stopped worrying. She no longer noticed what was happening on stage and what the jury were doing. When she had finished her performance, the presenter announced her name again. This time she sang the folk song "Galma-galma". The bewitching world of music once again gripped the young girl. As soon as she finished her song, the audience burst into applause. She thought she was dreaming. The jury liked her performance… Seized by joy, she wanted to leave the stage, but suddenly someone in the jury called her back. She was simply dumbfounded, for, you see, it was [the famous composer] Uzeyir bay Hacibayov. He wanted to introduce Sara to Huseyngulu Sarabski. "You have a splendid voice," the great composer said, "who knows, perhaps our opera will get a new Leyli in future. I'm going to put you in the care of Huseynqulu Sarabski. It is vital that you attend his lessons. Make sure you are zealous in your studies." Sara Qadimova was studying on the midwifery course at the medical school at the same time. But her heart was really in music. Uzeyir bay's words had inspired her.
Love for music and hard work
When she graduated from the medical school, at the suggestion of Uzeyir bay, she was enrolled in Huseynqulu Sarabski's mugham class at the Asaf Zeynalli music school in Baku in 1941. From Sarabski she had learned the secrets of the art of mugham. She graduated from the music school in 1943. Recognition and success lay ahead. This short, attractive girl boldly performed among professionals on the stage. Love of the art of music and enormous diligence led her to glory.
After only taking the first steps in the art, the young girl took upon her shoulders the care of looking after a big family. For her brothers and sisters she had to take the place of both parents and resolve the problems at home. When she started to work as a soloist with Azerbaijan's Muslim Magomayev State Philharmonic Society in 1941, her joy was boundless. She was to be a professional on stage and she would have something with which to feed the family. The talented singer soon gained a wide music fan base. During the Second World War she went to the frontline area with her fellow performers and performed in trenches and army hospitals. During that period the song "Safqat bacisi" composed by Uzeyir Hacibayov with words by Samad Vurgun, performed by Sara Qadimova, was very popular.
…She was only 22 years old when an unexpected proposal made to her after a regular concert changed the course of he life. Later Sara Qadimova would recall: "Qadir muallim was the director of the medical school, where I graduated from the midwifery department. One day, after a concert in 1944, Qadir muallim [form of address] came up to me and quite seriously stated, "I want to ask you to marry me". The students at the medical school would tremble before this serious and rather formidable person. But there was another reason for Sara Qadimova to have doubts, for Qadir Islamzada was 24 years older than her. Taking into account the fact that she needed to care for her younger siblings, the young singer consented to that marriage. She soon became a mother herself. They lived in harmony for some time. But the happy life together did not last long, disagreements started and after eight years they eventually separated.
In the 1950s Sara Qadimova was already one of the country's best loved singers. People were constantly singing the songs she performed like "Na vaxta qaldi?", "Ay isiginda", "Picildasan lapalar", "Urakdir sevan sani" and many others. In 1954 she was awarded the title of "Merited Artiste". Fame did not lessen Sara Qadimova's sense of responsibility. She continued to work tirelessly on herself. It had long been her dream to perform in the opera "Leyli and Macnun" at the Opera Theatre, where she was working at the invitation of Uzeyir bay. But recognising what a responsibility this was, she was in no hurry. On 22 February 1957 Sara Qadimova played Leyli at the Opera Theatre for the first time. Everybody loved it. She later sang the part of Asli in the opera "Asli and Karam". Audiences also liked her in this role.
The years1957-1962, when she performed at the Azerbaijani State Theatre of Opera and Ballet, inserted new pages into Sara Qadimova's creative career. Nevertheless, although the theatre's management was opposed to it, she left the theatre, the reason being her numerous concerts. Her fame had extended beyond the bounds of Azerbaijan. Everywhere people welcomed and loved her performances of mugham music and songs. Everyone loved the songs that Sara Qadimova performed in other languages: "Xayalimin nuru", "Yamayila", "Leyla" and "Sili" and "Reftem ki reftem", "Peshiman shodem" and "Bakhori men" in Persian; the Indonesian "Vurgunam"; the song "Muhabbet" in Tajik and many others. The singer showcased Azerbaijani music in 22 countries. She was presented with state awards in Iran, Ethiopia, Uzbekistan and Indonesia. [Soviet female cosmonaut] Valentina Tereshkova was among those in the delegation that went to Indonesia. They got to know one another well during the three-month-long trip. In 1963 Sara Qadimova was awarded the prestigious title of "People's Artiste of Azerbaijan".
The singers' fans were shocked by the news in 1965 that Sara Qadimova had been involved in a car accident and had been seriously injured. When she learned what had happened, her friend Valentina Tereshkova managed to arrange for the eminent trauma specialist Trapeznikov to travel to Baku. She was treated successfully. Although her injuries were healed, there was no end to the rumours. They said that Sara Qadimova had had to have her leg amputated and was wearing an artificial one. She was extremely upset by these rumours, which even made her give up her concert performances.
A song bird
Sixali Qurbanov, one of the leaders of Azerbaijan at that time, who really loved Sara Qadimova's voice and manner of performance, invited her to his home one day. They talked for a long time, and he managed to persuade the singer to return to the stage. He instructed the chairman of the State Radio and Television company, Teymur Aliyev, to arrange a concert for her on television. The latter replied by saying "No matter how many times we have invited her to sing for us, Sara xanim [form of address] has not come to us".
In compliance with another instruction from Sixali Qurbanov, the philharmonic society was also supposed to arrange a concert for Sara Qadimova. Doctor Lev Frankenberg (a prominent trauma specialist, who had treated her after the accident) advised Sara Qadimova to perform at the first concert in a short dress in order to put an end to all the rumours. There were no free seats throughout the three days that the concerts were on. The fans were overjoyed to be able to see Sara Qadimova on the stage again.
Sara Qadimova was the soloist at Azerbaijan's Muslim Magomayev State Philharmonic Society right up until 1978. Then she remained the soloist of the Azerbaijan State Concert till the end of her life. Throughout her more than 60-year-long career all the mughams and songs performed by Sara Qadimova were very popular with her audiences and fans. Many Azerbaijani folk songs and mugams like "Sur", "Segah", "Bayati-Siraz", "Sahnaz", "Xaric seah", "Mahur-hind", "Rast" and "Cahargah" were given a new lease of life by the way she performed them. When music fans heard Sara Qadimova playing composed songs, they started to love them. She also made songs from abroad popular through her performance of them. Many folk songs and mughams have been written down in Sara Qadimova's interpretation and form part of our collection of treasured musical compositions.
One of Sara xanim's two sons, Faiq Islamzada, did not follow in his mother's footsteps. He became a lecturer in the biochemistry department at Azerbaijan State University of Medicine. But the second son, Akif Islamzada, became a singer much loved by everybody. Although he lost his voice early on after an unsuccessful operation, his incomparably soulful singing will not be forgotten.
The last years of Sara Qadimova's life were swathed in sadness. The famous writer and playwright Ilyas Afandiyev wrote of her, "When Sara Qadimova sings, I feel that I am walking along a mountain path alongside fields of red poppies. It is as if I have gone up to Susa [Shusha; town in Karabakh], to the summits of Mounts Kirs, Ziyarat and Salvarti. All my being is filled with the beauty of the nature in Nagornyy Karabakh, a sense of the breath of Susa, Isa bulag and Sakilli bulag. When Sara Qadimova sings, her voice summons me to Isa Bulag, to the plateau of Qirxqiz…" This voice was far away from her native Karabakh that had been seized by the enemy. The 83-year-old singer lived with a longing for Agdam, for the day when she would be able to go to her native village of Gulabli. "I will perform the 'Qarabag Sikastasi,'" she said. Sara Qadimova passed away on 12 May 2003 after a long, serious illness. Her last dream has still not come true…