Land of fire On the shores of the oil-rich Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan comes with an ancient history and culture as rich and colourful as the carpets on sale in the twisting streets of Baku’s Icheri Sheher, or Old City. Centuries as a vital trading post on the border of Europe and Asia have woven a tapestry of intriguing contrasts — from the Sanskrit carvings at the Fire Temple of Surukhani, via the minarets of old Baku to the fin-de-siecle splendours of the first oil boom. And along the way, football referee Tofik Bakhramov — popularly but wrongly known as “The Russian Linesman” — made a crucial intervention as England won the 1966 World Cup. By the time the Nobel brothers — of prize-giving fame — built their fortunes from that black gold of the Caspian, Azerbaijan’s art and music had already been developing for millennia. The carved petroglyphs of Gobustan stake a claim to be some of the oldest known works of art, with scenes of hunting and dancing cut into the rocks thousands of years before the Romans passed through, pausing to leave a few lines of graffiti nearby. The so-called ‘singing stone’, a grand piano-shaped hunk of rock which resonates mysteriously when struck, is in the same reserve. Locals dub it the oldest musical instrument in the world. There’s no shortage of natural inspiration for Azerbaijan’s artists. Though no bigger than England, the country soars to the snow-capped summits of the Caucasus, plunges into the pearl-blue lakes of the interior, crosses the arid semi-desert of the Absheron peninsular and touches the tropics in the tea plantations and steamy forests around Lankaran, close to the Iranian border. With nine of the world’s 11 climatic types found here, the national cuisine benefits from a huge range of local ingredients. Hardy shepherds raise their flocks in the mountains, while warmer lands yield pomegranate and watermelon, and the increasingly rare Caspian sturgeon tantalises with a whiff of caviar. Small wonder this “Land of Fire” has so much to be discovered …
THOUGH NO BIGGER THAN ENGLAND, THE COUNTRY SOARS TO THE SNOW-CAPPED SUMMITS OF THE CAUCASUS, PLUNGES INTO THE PEARL-BLUE LAKES OF THE INTERIOR AND TOUCHES THE TROPICS IN THE TEA PLANTATIONS AROUND LANKARAN
BUTA Arts Centre
Buta means ‘bud’; it is a key decorative element in Azerbaijani ornamental art and personi-
For the first time Azerbaijan’s most celebrated artists will have their work showcased during
fies an unopened flower, the language of fire and the symbol of fertility .
a new London festival encompassing jazz, classical music, photography, poetry, film, art
Nasib Piriyev, the curator of this first London festival of Azerbaijani art, founded the Buta
and food. The Buta Festival of Azerbaijani Art (www.butafestival.com) takes place from
Arts Centre in Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku, in 2005 as a not-for-profit organisation. Now, with
25 November 2009 until 7 March 2010 and is organised by BUTA Arts Centre (www.buta.ru),
offices in London, Moscow and Frankfurt, it has steadily expanded its reach to support and
a foundation dedicated to promoting Azeri culture to the wider world. The festival includes
promote the culture of Azerbaijan internationally. Buta also runs Art November in Moscow, a festival of art and music which is about to celebrate its 16th year. Piriyev’s passion for the arts has driven Buta’s agenda and it is now recognised as the country’s leading arts centre, promoting local musicians, poets and artists through festivals and concerts. Close links with the Ministry of Culture of Azerbaijan have made Buta an influential player in the local arts scene. Last year saw international recognition for the centre’s work as executive director Naida Khalilova was short-listed for the British Council-sponsored International Young Performing Arts Entrepreneur award.
THIS BAKU-BASED ORGANISATION HAS EXPANDED TO LONDON, MOSCOW AND FRANKFURT IN ITS EFFORTS TO SUPPORT AND PROMOTE THE CULTURE OF AZERBAIJAN
world-famous musicians, artists, poets and photographers including renowned violinist Gidon Kremer; the celebrated conductor Ion Marin; artist Tair Salakhov; award-winning jazz musicians Shahin Novrasli and Isfar Sarabski; and photographers Alexandra Kremer and Rena Effendi. The festival will provide Londoners with a fantastic opportunity to discover Azerbaijan’s rich cultural offerings and learn more about a country still unfamiliar to many. Nasib Piriyev, director of the Buta Festival, said: “For this inaugural festival, we have invited the leading performers and artists from Azerbaijan to London for what we hope is the begin-
FOR THIS INAUGURAL FESTIVAL, WE HAVE INVITED THE LEADING PERFORMERS AND ARTISTS FROM AZERBAIJAN TO LONDON
ning of an exchange of artistic ideas between the two countries. We also hope the festival encourages fresh perspectives on Azerbaijan and that visitors to the many events feel they have discovered our country through its culture.”
Festival highlights Shahin Novrasli — an exotic East-West jazz fusion from a rising international star and Montreux laureate, in two performances with Tim Garland and Malcolm Creese. 25 Nov 09 / Queen Elizabeth Hall 26 Nov 09 / 606 Club Rustam Ibragimbekov — A three-month retrospective of the Azerbaijani scriptwriter’s films, including the Oscar-winning film, “Burnt By The Sun”. 27 Nov 09 / Pushkin House 8 Dec 09 / Pushkin House 29 Jan 10 / Pushkin House
Sabina Rakcheyeva — musician, diplomat, festival winner, cultural fusionist, spokeswoman and Azerbaijan’s first Juilliard School alumni. 9 Dec 09 / EBRD Pipedreams — Rena Effendi's unflinching lens exposes the underbelly of the oil boom. 11 Dec 09 Book launch / Frontline Club 17 Dec 09 – 16 Jan 10 / HOST Gallery 12 Jan 10 Talk/ HOST Gallery Slow Food Festival — Dushbara, Kutabi, Narsharab — Azerbaijan created a unique cookbook of its own. 19-22 Dec 09 / Southbank Centre Square
Nigar Hasan Zadeh — lyrical flames from one of London's leading foreign poets. 1 Dec 09 / Pushkin House
Black January — remembering a revolution as a nation was reborn in 1990. 22 Jan 10 / King's College
Isfar Sarabski — an emerging jazz talent shows off his Montreux Prizewinning piano skills. 9 Dec 09 / EBRD
Jeffrey Werbock — Lecture on Mugham, the unique songs which have travelled from the soul of the Azerbaijani people to the depths of outer space. 26 Jan 10 / Pushkin House
Oil & Jazz — oil flows through the veins of Azerbaijan, and jazz is its modern musical heartbeat. This unique audio-visual presentation combines the two. 9 Dec 09 / EBRD
Azerbaijan Decorative Arts — from the twisting streets of Baku’s Icheri Sheher, an array of Azerbaijan’s dazzling carpets February / St Martin-in-the-Fields
Alexander Mashin — jazz musician and photographer found a country full of stories to be told. February / St Martin-in-the-Fields An Evening of Mugham — part Indian raga, part muezzin’s call, yet wholly and distinctively Azerbaijani, Mugham is the song of the nation. 9 Feb 10 / St Martin-in-the-Fields Tair Salakhov — unseen works from a visionary artist who bravely introduced modernism to the USSR. 18–25 Feb 10 / Sotheby’s ‘Ave Maria’ Concert — different interpretations of the popular music theme ‘Ave Maria’. 25 Feb 10 / St Martin-in-the-Fields Gara Garayev — a tour through the musical world of Azerbaijan’s leading composer. 28 Feb 10 / Cadogan Hall Gala Concert — from mysterious Mugham to twentieth-century classics, explore the riches of Azerbaijani music. 7 Mar 10 / Royal Festival Hall
For all details check: www.butafestival.com
Nasib Piriyev A love of art and a determination to overcome all obs tacles have been key parts of Buta’s philosophy since it was founded in 2004 — and our London Festival of Azerbaijani Arts is our biggest event yet. Our dream was to showcase the brightest creative talents from Azerbaijan and bring it to an international stage. From poets to pianists, cinema to singers, photography to food, we’ve tried to present a snapshot of the rich heritage of my homeland to bring to London for the first time. It’s a thrilling chance to explore some fantastic work in worldrenowned venues and help build stronger links between artists and audiences in Britain and Azerbaijan. All that remains is for me to welcome you to the festival, and welcome you to Azerbaijani culture!
25 Nov 09 Queen Elizabeth Hall 26 Nov 09 606 Club
rom cellar bars in downtown Baku to the City Annual International Festival, jazz has grown as the defining sound of modern-day Azerbaijan. And the pianist Shahin Novrasli is most probably the greatest living exponent of the distinctive Mugham jazz style that moved forward in the city despite official disapproval in Soviet times. Daniel Kramer, the world-renowned Russian pianist, describes Novrasli as “a brilliant musician who dazzlingly expresses his own approach”, while Turkish pianist Fazil Say rates him as “one of the best currently performing pianists in the world”. The listener is alternately beguiled by a seductive curl of exotic melody, teased by the caprices of Eastern rhythm and jolted by a bracing Oriental harmony before being swept away by some American jazz quick-fire salvo. Like so much from his homeland, Novrasli’s art is an exhilarating fusion of cultures. That fusion led to the founding of “Eternal Way”, a synthesis of a jazz trio, involving Nathan Peck (bass) and Alexander Mashin (drums), with traditional folk instruments: tar (Arslan Novrasli) and kemancha (Nurlan Novrasli). His early background came in classical music — performing with the State Symphony Orchestra by the time he was 11, before going on to study at the Baku Music Academy, where he first encountered jazz. Since then he has maintained a gruelling international concert schedule, taking rare breaks to work on “Eternal Way” and various classical and jazz solo projects. Novrasli has performed and recorded with Kenny Wheeler, Udai Mazumdar, Allison Miller, Nathan Peck, Alex Peck, Matt Zebrosky, Jeff Lederer, Jon Wikan, Sasha Mashin and other famous musicians.
DANIEL KRAMER DESCRIBES NOVRASLI AS “A BRILLIANT MUSICIAN WHO DAZZLINGLY EXPRESSES HIS OWN APPROACH”
Malcolm Creese Not everyone has heard of Malcolm Creese, but his bass has featured on recordings from the varied likes of Depeche Mode, Stan Tracey, Cleo Laine and John Dankworth and as part of the symphony orchestras that featured on the soundtracks for “Lord of the Rings” and “Cold Mountain”. But it’s his jazz-classical acoustic trio Acoustic Triangle, which also features Tim Garland, which has made this relative late-comer to the double bass best known. Used to blurring musical boundaries, he’s an ideal partner for Novrasli’s cross-cultural improvisations.
Iain Ballamy Renowned in Europe as the “Fantastic Englishman”, Ballamy established himself playing alongside Hermeto Pascoal, the late Gil Evans, George Coleman, Dewey Redman, Mike Gibbs and the New York Composers Orchestra. In parallel, Ballamy has pursued his interest in world music, playing concerts in India and Europe and has forged strong working relationships with renowned musicians from Hungary, Norway, Spain, Sudan, Brazil and beyond. In 2001 he was awarded the BBC Radio 3 special award for innovation at the British Jazz awards. He is also a specialist tutor at the Royal Academy and Trinity College of Music in London.
1 Dec 09 Pushkin House
Nigar Hasan Zadeh mages of fire and flame, so closely associated with Azerbaijan, form a fundamental part of Nigar Hasan Zadeh’s poetic language. Likening herself to a “foolish candle”, she weaves words of warmth and light — and derives the names of some of her characters from Arabic words for “flame”. Rated by the British Library among the top 10 foreign poets currently based in London, Hasan Zadeh is fast becoming one of the most exciting voices in contemporary poetry. Her collection, “On Wings Over the Horizon”, translated into English in 2002 by Richard McKane, drew comparisons with the great writers of the Russian Silver Age, Anna Akhmatova and Marina Tsvetayeva. Like so much created in Azerbaijan, Hasan Zadeh’s verse represents a meeting of different cultures. Having studied Russian literature and chosen to write in Russian rather than Azerbaijani, she nonetheless allows the rhythms of the East to influence her words. Influenced by Sufi philosophies, she creates fairytales which, in her own words, open the door to reality, particularly in her most recent work, “The Mute Fairy Teller and the White Bird Nara”. This collection has already attracted the attention of Finnish playwright Cyamran Shakhmardan, and there are hopes that the finished script will be premiered here in London.
IMAGES OF FIRE AND FLAME, SO CLOSELY ASSOCIATED WITH AZERBAIJAN, FORM A FUNDAMENTAL PART OF NIGAR HASAN ZADEH’S POETIC LANGUAGE
Urga, Territory of Love 27 Nov 09 The shepherd Gombo lives with his family in a tent on the Mongolian steppe. They live a happy, simple rustic life, until Sergei, a Russian truck driver, gets stuck with his truck nearby. The cultural gap between Gombo and Sergei seems insurmountable.
Burnt by the Sun 8 Dec 09 Russia, 1936: revolutionary hero Colonel Kotov is spending an idyllic summer in his dacha with his family and friends. Things change with the arrival of Cousin Dmitry. Kotov isn’t fooled: this is the time of Stalin’s repression — and he knows that Dmitry isn’t paying a social call...
The Barber of Siberia 29 Jan 10 Douglas is a foreign entrepreneur, who ventures to Russia in 1885 with dreams of selling a new steam-driven timber harvester. Jane is his assistant, who falls in love with a young Russian officer, Andrei, who has been exiled to Siberia.
he Oscar-winning 1994 film “Burnt by the Sun” reminded the world that the great cinematic traditions of the USSR were still alive amid the turbulence of independence. It also earned long-overdue international recognition for Baku-born scriptwriter Rustam Ibragimbekov, whose back catalogue would be instantly familiar to any Soviet-era cinema goer. Directed by, and starring, Nikita Mikhalkov, the film’s almost Chekhovian take on Stalin’s terror received rapturous international reviews, with critics invoking the spirit of Ingmar Bergman to praise it. “Burnt by the Sun” also took the Grand Prix at the 47th Cannes Festival and has since been adapted as a stage play by Peter Flannery at the National Theatre. Two years earlier another Ibragimbekov script won global acclaim as “Urga, Territory of Love” won the Golden Lion in Venice and a Felix award in Berlin before being nominated for an Oscar. And towards the end of a prolific spell in the 1990s he teamed up with Mikhalkov once more on “The Barber of Siberia” in 1998. Ibragimbekov’s breakthrough script, “White Sun of the Desert”, which he co-wrote with Valentin Yezhov, was filmed in 1970 and became an instant classic. Its blend of Hollywood Western and Russian folktale was a huge hit, and several of its most famous lines have become part of day-to-day Russian speech. To this day it is an icon in the space complex of Baikonur, Kazakhstan, where cosmonauts ritually watch it in the build-up to take off, regarding it as a lucky omen for their voyage. Since then he has written more than 40 film and TV scripts as well as several plays and an extensive body of prose. He has also directed numerous feature films.
TWO YEARS EARLIER ANOTHER IBRAGIMBEKOV SCRIPT WON GLOBAL ACCLAIM AS “URGA, TERRITORY OF LOVE” WON THE GOLDEN LION IN VENICE
27 Nov 09 Pushkin House
abina Rakcheyeva has scores of impressive accomplishments. A member of the European Cultural Parliament, she was the first Azerbaijani to be accepted to the Juilliard School in New York. She has performed in over forty countries, participated in numerous festivals and has recorded her own compositions for the BBC. Sabina is passionate about the fusion of Eastern and Western music and has performed improvisations on traditional Mugham to great critical acclaim. An active advocate of cultural diplomacy and cross-cultural collaborations, she has spoken at the Davos Economic Forum on behalf of the Music Youth.
SHE HAS PERFORMED IN OVER FORTY COUNTRIES, PARTICIPATED IN NUMEROUS FESTIVALS AND HAS RECORDED HER OWN COMPOSITIONS FOR THE BBC 9 Dec 09 EBRD
THE LIVELY AND EMOTIONAL PERFORMANCE OF ISFAR WAS IMPOSSIBLE TO IGNORE; HE PLAYED WITH GREAT TECHNIQUE AND REVEALED HIS DEEP UNDERSTANDING OF THE MUSIC
ontreux Prize-winning pianist Isfar Sarabski reached new heights in his young career in March 2009 when his playing wowed judges and audiences alike at the celebrated Swiss music festival. But for those who had followed his early progress around Baku’s vibrant jazz scene this success was no surprise. Back in 2007, the Jazz Dunyasi (Jazz World) website in the Azerbaijani capital picked up on his performance at a forum for emerging talent, and concluded: “The lively and emotional performance of Isfar was impossible to ignore; he played with great technique and revealed his deep understanding of the music.” His influences are diverse — from Vagif Mustafazadeh, perhaps the most influential of Azerbaijani jazzmen, to the likes of Keith Jarrett, Brad Mehldau, Bill Evans and Oscar Peterson. Their contrasting styles inform not only Sarabski’s performance, but also his compositions, a facet of his musical life which he is steadily developing. Born into a musical family — his grandfather was a celebrated opera singer — Sarabski took up the piano when he was seven and enrolled in Baku’s famous Bul-Bul music school before moving on to the national conservatoire. And while Montreux was undoubtedly a high note, capturing a share of the piano prize and winning the public vote, it was far from his first international exposure. As well as being a regular fixture at the Baku Caspian Jazz and Blues Festival he has also played at the Silda Jazz festival in Norway, benefitting from the cultural ties developed by Scandinavian energy giant StatoilHydro during its period investing in the Caspian fields. Closer to home, he was a prize-winner at the Stars of Issyk-kul festival in Kyrgyzstan.
JAZZ ITSELF IS A KEY PART The Oil & Jazz project is a unique audio-visual experiment which provides an exciting new exploraOF AZERBAIJAN’S MUSICAL tion of contemporary Azerbaijan. The concept is like a silent movie in reverse — instead of musiHERITAGE — FROM THE cians improvising an accompaniment to a film, a team of “visual DJs” use a computerised image PIONEERING DAYS library to produce a visual interpretation of a live jazz performance. OF VAGIF MUSTAFA- Jazz itself is a key part of Azerbaijan’s musical heritage — from the pioneering days of Vagif ZADEH TO THE Mustafa-Zadeh to the modern sounds of Shahin Novrasli and Vagif’s daughter Aziza it has surMODERN SOUNDS vived the restrictions imposed in the Soviet era and continues to thrive today. The country’s Such versatile and expressive musicians OF SHAHIN jazz stars, including performers at this festi- lend themselves well to a visual accomval such as Shahin Novrasli and Isfar Sarabski, paniment from the country’s incredibly NOVRASLI enjoy a growing international reputation, while diverse landscape and culture. Azerbaijan 9 Dec 10 EBRD
Baku’s annual Jazz Festival regularly attracts pertoday presents an intriguing clash beformers from around the world. The evolution of tween an ancient heritage and the global a Caspian counterpoint, merging Eastern musical rush for oil and gas, contrasting centutraditions with Western jazz, has seen a whole ries-old traditions with a fast-changing new style emerge from the cellar bars of Baku. society and throwing up a sometimes stark contrast between petrodollars and industrial blight. Exploring this rich crop of imagery opens up a new way of interpreting the jazz music which has become embedded in the soul of Azerbaijan. Oil & Jazz offers both a tailor-made starting point for a cultural journey around the country and a drawing together of many of the themes of this festival — as with many aspects of this ever-surprising nation, it pays to expect the unexpected.
11 Dec 09 Book launch Frontline Club 17 Dec 09 — 16 Jan 10 HOST Gallery 12 Jan 10 Talk HOST Gallery
zerbaijan’s oil miracle has transformed the country from a Soviet backwater to a fast-growing economy. The gleaming tower blocks springing up all over Baku’s ever-changing skyline and the raucous revelry of expats spilling out of bars where just a few years ago a strict curfew was imposed tell a confident story of a nation building a prosperous future. Photographer Rena Effendi, however, chose to look beyond the corporate PR and explore the real impact of the oil trade on the ordinary people living in the shadows of heavy industry. Having captured the public face of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline for energy giant BP, she returned to the region to record the everyday realities the project had left behind. The subsequent compilation, “Pipedreams”, juxtaposes the gleaming high-rises and their sought-after sea views with the everyday battle against poverty among the residents of Baku and the diverse rural communities along the route. While petrodollars have doused a select few with unprecedented glamour and wealth, Effendi’s lens also displays the human cost of this. Her unflinching chronicle of the contemporary Caucasus exposes everything from rotting industrial infrastructure, steadily destroying both land and sea, to the ever-growing numbers of stateless, disenfranchised refugees evicted from their home by two decades of unresolved conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh and seemingly sacrificed to their fate by the need to appease the oil monster. Yet, while the artist aims to “un-smile” the happy world of the energy giants, there is still joy and resilience to be found here. The wedding party of an Azeri groom and his half-Armenian, half-Georgian bride offers a message of hope in a region fractured by seemingly irrevocable ethnic conflict. Dedicated to the people of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, this powerful collection gives a vivid voice to their fragile dreams of a happier future.
RENA EFFENDI, HOWEVER, CHOSE TO LOOK BEYOND THE CORPORATE PR, AND EXPLORE THE REAL IMPACT OF THE OIL TRADE ON THE ORDINARY PEOPLE LIVING IN THE SHADOWS OF HEAVY INDUSTRY
YET, WHILE THE ARTIST AIMS TO “UN-SMILE” THE HAPPY WORLD OF THE ENERGY GIANTS, THERE IS STILL JOY AND RESILIENCE TO BE FOUND HERE HAVING CAPTURED THE PUBLIC FACE OF THE PIPELINE FOR BP, SHE RETURNED TO RECORD THE EVERYDAY REALITIES THE PROJECT HAD LEFT BEHIND
Photo courtesy of www.azcookbook.com
19-22 Dec 09 South Bank Sq
Long before fusion food became a fashionable trend in contemporary cuisine, the kitchens of Azerbaijan were absorbing and synthesising a distinctive blend of styles to create a unique cookbook of their own. A culinary tour might start in the north, where the thick “piti” broth of mutton and chickpeas fortifies shepherds on the slopes of the Caucasus. Their flocks also play a big role in many traditional main courses, especially the ubiquitous marinated “shashlyk” kebab, a local invention enthusiastically taken up by neighbouring countries. Another successful export is “plov”, a classic rice dish which comes in more than 40 varieties. The most common version features lamb, onion and dried fruit, seasoned with saffron and cinnamon. Unlike Spanish paella, or Uzbek plov, the Azerbaijani version is not mixed - the rice is served separately. The Caspian also features on local tables, with the much-prized and sadly endangered sturgeon supplying rich caviar and tender meat. Chunks of fish skewered and grilled over an open flame are delicious with the tart pomegranate-based “narsharab” sauce. To finish, any of the abundant fruit grown in the country is popular — but on a special occasion the sinfully sweet “Sheki halva” is the perfect finale. Thin crusts of fried sugar-pastry hold a rich, sticky, pakhlava-like mix of chopped nuts and golden syrup. Surprisingly for a predominantly Muslim country, Azerbaijan is proud of its vineyards and produces a range of sweet red wines. But the national drink, without question, is black tea — especially grown around the southern city of Lankaran. More than a drink, it has become a national symbol of warmth and hospitality.
‘DUSHBARA’, ‘KUTABI’, ‘NARSHARAB’ — AZERBAIJAN HAS A UNIQUE AND ANCIENT COOKBOOK.
s Communist regimes tottered and fell across Europe in the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall, anti-Soviet demonstrators in Azerbaijan played their own brave role in the break-up of the USSR. Tensions in the republic had been running high since 1988, and as the Kremlin’s grip on Eastern Europe weakened, nationalist sentiments grew in Baku. Against this background protestors and supporters of the Popular Front of Azerbaijan gathered in the capital on January 20, 1990, to call for independence from the USSR and freedom for Azerbaijan. The response was ruthless. The tanks rolled in, troops fired into the unarmed crowd — civilians who were unaware that a state of emergency had been declared — and the death toll topped 200 over three days of violence. As the dead were buried, the traditional 40 days of mourning grew into a general strike. While some officials tried to use the threat of Islamic fundamentalism or the rising tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia to justify the massacre, Soviet defence minister Dmitry Yazov later admitted: “We came to destroy the political structure of the Popular Front to prevent their victory in the upcoming elections scheduled for March 19, 1990.” These tragic events, regarded as the birth of the Azerbaijani nation, are marked every year with a day of mourning. High above Baku bay a floodlight memorial marks the ceremonial graveyards where the martyrs of January 20 are buried. Leading Russian director Andrei Konchalovsky included the Black January massacre in his five-part cycle of documentaries chronicling the emergence of modern-day Azerbaijan from the outbreak of war in Nagorno-Karabakh to the presidency of Heydar Aliyev. Konchalovsky, a member of the influential Mikhalkov family which has long dominated Soviet and Russian cinema and literature, co-wrote “Andrei Rublyov” with the great Andrei Tarkovsky. He was able to move to the US in 1980, and directed Hollywood features including “Runaway Train” and “Tango and Cash” before returning to his homeland — and more artistic work — in the 1990s.
Photo RIA Novosti
See www.butafestival.com for details
Jeffrey Werbock 26 Jan 10 SOAS 27 Jan 10 Oxford 28 Jan 10 Pushkin House 29 Jan 10 Azeri House
UGHAM’S CULTURAL IMPORTANCE IS LITERALLY OUT OF THIS WORLD — when NASA put together a greatest hits compilation to travel beyond the solar system on the 1977 Voyager probes, a recording of Azerbaijan’s national treasure was included alongside a Bach fugue, an array of world music and Chuck Berry as part of a hitchhiker’s guide for curious extraterrestrials. Part Indian raga, part muezzin’s call, yet wholly and distinctively Azerbaijani, the Mugham has long been the song of the nation. In the city of Shusha, a historic capital of Azerbaijan, it was even said that babies cried in Mugham verses, while leading performers became the pop idols of their age. The technically challenging and emotionally intense music typically sets lyrics hymning the beauties of the countryside, or bewailing unhappy love affairs — though the punkier Maykhana subgenre pre-echoed hip-hop culture with rival singers competing to improvise songs and lyrics against one another before an enthusiastic audience. Traditional Mugham remains much loved in modern Azerbaijan, with its most popular stars regularly appearing on TV. But, like much else in a fast-changing nation, it has been consistently repackaged and reinterpreted. From the Mugham-opera and symphonic Mugham created by the first generations of classically trained musicians early in the twentieth century, to the illicit Soviet-era blend of Mughamjazz pioneered by Vagif Mustafa-Zadeh — and continued by his daughter Aziza today, the sound has been kept alive and thriving across the centuries. More recently it even made it onto the Eurovision stage — for Azerbaijan’s debut in the song contest in 2008 Elnur Huseynov and Samir Javadzadeh created a unique fusion of glitzy Europop and Mugham, finishing a respectable eighth with one of the most talked-about entries in the Belgrade finals. With the impressive new “Mugam Evi” (Mugham House) Concert Hall opening on Baku’s seafront earlier this year, the old traditions are looking forward to a bright new future. Mr. Werbock has been giving presentations for well over three decades and has performed often at Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History, Asia Society and World Music Institute, and presents lecture demonstrations at colleges and universities all over the Englishspeaking world. He has been awarded an honorary degree by the National Music Conservatory of Azerbaijan, in Baku, and was recently sponsored by the Ministry of Culture of Azerbaijan to perform a solo concert in Baku.
ot so much part of a girl band as leader of a girl orchestra, Nazrin Rashidova has achieved a huge amount since she was born into “a family of crazy violinists” in Baku in 1988. And establishing the women-only ensemble FeMusa in summer 2008 is merely the latest string to an already accomplished bow. Known to friends and family as a girl who can’t live without her violin, the prodigiously talented Nazrin Rashidova has been performing on stage since early childhood. Making her concert debut aged just three in Baku’s 1991 September Festival, she was an experienced international performer by the time the Cairo Opera House awarded her a gold medal after an exceptional recital as a six-year-old. In between times Rashidova had already appeared with two orchestras in the Egyptian capital. Although FeMusa was originally inspired by Elgar’s ‘Serenade for Strings’ — originally written for a group of quintessentially English ladies in Worcester — the twenty-first century version is a multicultural affair, committed to looking beyond the Western classical canon. It’s no surprise to spot a range of showpieces by the Azerbaijani composer Gara Garayev in Rashidova’s own repertoire, as well as several lesser-known Russian works. Rashidova first came to London in 1995 to study at the Purcell School, and went on to graduate with first class honours from the Royal Academy in 2007. Now she is continuing her studies there under Professor Erich Gruenberg, as well as performing regularly as a soloist and with FeMusa, playing a Castelbarco of 1707 violin by Antonio Stradivari loaned to her by the Academy.
THE PRODIGIOUSLY TALENTED NAZRIN RASHIDOVA HAS BEEN PERFORMING ON STAGE SINCE EARLY CHILDHOOD
See www.butafestival.com for details
18–25 Feb 10 Sotheby’s
ff the coast of Azerbaijan’s Absheron peninsular, not far from Baku, the weird city-on-stilts, Oily Rocks, became a symbol for the oil industry and the birthplace of off-shore drilling. And it was here, where man and nature meet head on, that a young Tair Salakhov found inspiration for his art — and threw down a personal challenge to the Soviet system. By the time he visited in 1956, Salakhov had already lost his father to the 1930s purges and with an “enemy of the people” in the family, he had found professional doors firmly shut in his face as he struggled to study as an artist despite the black mark in his files. Yet between the power of the sea and the rugged labourers working on the oil wells, the young artist found a voice not only for himself, but for a creative generation eager to push beyond the boundaries of state-approved Socialist Realism, commissioned by Stalin to paint a gleaming portrait of a people’s utopia where no questions could be asked. The subsequent “severe style” peeled away the gloss of earlier Soviet art. His breakthrough work, 1957’s “The Shift is Over”, was no abstract crowd of happy masses leaving the factory — it showed real people, friends and colleagues, reflecting their exhaustion and relief at the end of another gruelling working day. It was a stylistic shift which introduced elements of modernism to the stifling, state-led artistic world of the USSR. Salakhov’s influence grew as he moved from a precarious place on the margins of official tolerance to becoming the First Secretary of the Union of Artists. He organised exhibitions of leading modern artists including Francis Bacon and Robert Rauschenberg, the American pop-artist who became a friend and whose portrait Salakhov painted. Later works became more peaceful and contemplative, gradually taking on the fluid style of Eastern medieval miniatures. Salakhov now lives and continues to work in Moscow.
THE YOUNG ARTIST FOUND A VOICE NOT ONLY FOR HIMSELF, BUT FOR A CREATIVE GENERATION EAGER TO PUSH BEYOND THE BOUNDARIES OF STATE-APPROVED SOCIALIST REALISM
SALAKHOV’S INFLUENCE GREW AS HE MOVED FROM A PRECARIOUS PLACE ON THE MARGINS OF OFFICIAL TOLERANCE TO BECOMING THE FIRST SECRETARY OF THE UNION OF ARTISTS
“IN GARA GARAYEV’S CREATIVE WORK I AM CAPTIVATED BY SOMETHING WHICH CAN BE DEFINED AS A STRONG AND BRIGHT STORE OF YOUTHFUL ENERGY,” Gidon Kremer 28 Feb 10 Cadogan Hall
idon Kremer is noted for enthusiastic promotion of new music and unusual styles — and especially his commitment to the music of the former USSR. His chamber orchestra, the Kremarata Baltica, based in his native Riga, has recorded several works by the likes of Arvo Part, Giya Kancheli and Peteris Vasks. Meanwhile Kremer himself has championed the works of many leading contemporary composers, writers as varied as Alfred Schnittke, Sofia Gubaidulina and Philip Glass, many of whom have dedicated pieces to him. Such a strong commitment to promoting modern music makes him an ideal interpreter to lead London audiences on a journey through the musical world of Gara Garayev, arguably Azerbaijan’s greatest composer. Kremer himself has long been an admirer of Garayev’s work, and recorded his 1967 Violin Concerto to great acclaim. “In Gara Garayev’s creative work I am captivated by something which can be defined as a strong and bright store of youthful energy,” the performer once said. “That constant charge is the source of the composer’s untiring quest. His music responds to the newest, freshest and most progressive that we have in our artistic life.” Kremer also has a strong connection with Azerbaijan, having performed regularly with one of Baku’s favourite musical sons, Mstislav Rostropovich. The pair were joint dedicatees of “Silent Prayer”, one of Kancheli’s most recent works, which received an emotional performance as part of Baku’s inaugural 2007 festival in memory of the late cellist and conductor. In addition to his enormously active performing and recording career — Kremer has released more than 100 discs on Deutsche Grammophon, ECM and Nonesuch among other labels — he is a respected musical scholar. He has published four books in German based on his artistic philosophies, and seen “Kindelheitssplitter” translated into Latvian, Russian, French and Japanese.
Conductor by royal appointment, Christopher Warren-Green has long been a favourite musician of Prince Charles, who invited him to direct the music at his wedding to Camilla Parker-Bowles. With the London Chamber Orchestra, which he has led since 1988, WarrenGreen also gave a private concert to mark the Queen’s 80th birthday in 2006. More recently he hit the headlines among the common folk as well, appearing in the popular BBC2 TV series “Maestro” – a kind of classical X Factor where Warren-Green acted as musical mentor to actress Jane Asher, who came third in the show. As well as working with the LCO, Warren-Green is a familiar guest conductor with the other London orchestras and appears regularly in Europe and the Far East.
Throughout February, St Martin-In-The-Fields will host a special programme of events on behalf of the Buta Festival. This will include an evening of Mugham music on 9 February and ‘Ave Maria’, played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on 25 February. A series of exhibitions in the crypt will include Azerbaijani Decorative Arts and photographer Alexander Mashin.
‘Ave Maria’ 25 February 2010 The evening will be made up of different interpretations of the popular music theme ‘Ave Maria’ as well as Baroque music from Europe and Azerbaijan. Azeri composer and Director of the Baku Music Academy’s Farhad Badalbeyli’s ‘Ave Maria’ will be performed by the soprano Maria Kulishova and the pianist Murat Husseinov accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The programme will also include Italian composer Astor Piazzolla’s much loved version of ‘Ave Maria’ as well as a rendition of the most famous version by Bach. Natalia Rubenstein and her Brahms Trio will then perform Beethoven’s Triple Concerto for piano, violin and cello in C-major op.56. Natalia Rubenstein will also perform the Bach double concerto with Murat Husseinov.
An Evening of Mugham 9 February 2010 Azeri musicians and singers will perform a range of Mugham music, ancient and modern, using traditional instruments: tar, kemancha, balaban, nagara, kanon, and ud. Mugham has long had spiritual connections to Islam and its performance in a Christian church will create an evening of inter-faith dialogue and connection.
MUGHAM HAS LONG HAD SPIRITUAL CONNECTIONS TO ISLAM AND ITS PERFORMANCE IN A CHRISTIAN CHURCH WILL CREATE AN EVENING OF INTER-FAITH DIALOGUE AND CONNECTION
February 2010 St Martin-In-The-Fields
azz musician and photographer Alexander Mashin first visited Azerbaijan in 2005 — and immediately found it was a country full of stories waiting to be told. Unlike many visitors, he took the chance to visit the refugee settlements which sprang up as a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and began to understand the human cost of a war almost forgotten in the rest of the world. His journey took him to Saatlinsky and Sabirabad, two regions in the south where Azerbaijanis fleeing Armenia and Karabakh have settled. Among his most striking images, an old woman, sick and frail, is caught in a shaft of light as she prays. But, Mashin says, unlike most Muslims, who use their prayers to give thanks to Allah, hers was a rare cry for help. A man returns to his home with a shopping bag — but after a full day’s walking to and from the shops he can only afford a few meagre items: matches, salt, bread. Bringing the viewer inside the spartan refugee huts, made from rubbish, Mashin gently draws attention to the near-ubiquitous portraits of late president Heydar Aliyev, regarded as the father of the nation, and a talisman of hope for an end to the crisis. Mashin and Buta first worked together in a Moscow jazz concert in 2003 — which Mashin describes as “an amazing influence on my creative life”. Since this time Buta has funded his photographic trips to Azerbaijan and he describes the energy and enthusiasm of the Buta team like a creative fuel and instrumental to propelling him to new creative horizons.
ALEXANDER MASHIN FIRST VISITED AZERBAIJAN IN 2005 — AND IMMEDIATELY FOUND IT WAS A COUNTRY FULL OF STORIES WAITING TO BE TOLD
Gala Concert 7 Mar 10 Royal Festival Hall
THE CONCERT WILL SHOWCASE MUSIC BY CLASSICAL AZERI COMPOSERS SUCH AS HAJIBEKOV, AMIROV, NIYAZI, GARAYEV AND AZER RZAYEV
ith the sound of Mugham embedded deep in the Azerbaijani soul, it’s no surprise that the country’s classical music traditions draw heavily on this ancient art. The “father of Azerbaijani classical music”, Uzeyir Hajibekov (1885-1945), picked up on the wave of musical nationalism that swept across Europe in the late nineteenth century to develop the striking new genre of “Mugham opera”. His 1908 breakthrough, ‘Leyli ve Majnun’, tells the story of Azerbaijan’s Romeo and Juliet using recognisable Western recitative and choruses while replacing the arias with reconstructed, semi-improvised Mugham. Further operas, including ‘Shah Abbas’ and ‘Koroglu’, draw strongly on the nation’s history. ‘Koroglu’, telling the story of a popular uprising against repressive rulers, has become a ‘Braveheart’-style touchstone of Azerbaijani freedom and independence which resonates to this day. Ever patriotic, Hajibekov also wrote the national anthem of Azerbaijan, used today and in a brief period of independence after the Russian revolution, and also the anthem of the Azerbaijani Soviet Republic. His work went on to inspire the likes of Fikrat Amirov (1922-1984), the inventor of “symphonic Mugham”, and perhaps the country’s best-known composer Gara Garayev (1918-1982). Amirov’s work was championed in the West by the likes of Leopold Stokowski, and helped create the “Oriental” mood music of a thousand Hollywood soundtracks as he took Hajibekov’s legacy and developed a sophisticated synthesis of native folk idiom and Western orchestral writing. Garayev, widely regarded as Azerbaijan’s most famous composer, was a musician of Stravinsky-like energy and versatility who studied under Shostakovich in Moscow. His music often retains a spiky, percussive edge to its folk idioms, shown to great effect in his ballet score ‘The Seven Beauties’. Artist Tair Salakhov, who painted Garayev, was a great admirer of his work, saying: “I indeed have been fortunate, not only because I had the chance to meet such a talented musical personality but because I got to know him through his music.”
Shlomo Mintz’s career had a fairytale start — as an 11-yearold prodigy the Russian-Israeli violinist was drafted in at a week’s notice to replace Itzhak Perlman in a performance of a Paganini concerto with the Israel Philharmonic. Since then he has become a world-renowned conductor and violinist, pursuing a busy recording, performing and teaching schedule. He has won several prizes, including three Grand Prix du Disques Baku-born violinist Dmitry Sitkovetsky has devoted much of his and two Edison Awards. career to championing new work — particularly from the former Soviet Union. His interpretations of Schnittke, Part and especially Rodion Shchedrin are highly regarded. He also directed the 1999 Silk Route of Music festival in Baku. Recently he played in a Wigmore Hall tribute to Mstislav Rostropovich, and he often appears in London, where he now lives.
BUTA FESTIVAL OF AZERBAIJANI ARTS London, November 2009 — March 2010.
Buta Festival of Azerbaijani Arts. London. November 2009 - March 2010.