It’s the classical music of the Caucasus and of the Turkish-speaking peoples in Central Asia. The notion of Mugham also applies to the performers: the singer, and the ensemble. Within the latter you’ll always find three instruments; tar (lute), the standing kamanche (violin) and the daf (percussion). French paper "Le Monde" described Alim Qasimov as a blessed man with a "Magic Voice", and if one would take time and listen to his music and sounds, one can only agree. "Folk Roots Magazine" called Alim Qasimov "one of the 20th century's greatest singers". Alim is attracting many new fans to Mugham. Russian-educated Azerbaijanis and young people in general don't usually care much for the Mugham genre.
Many prefer listening to Western pop music. But surprisingly, they have been going to Alim's concerts and buying his CD's. In 1999, Alim Qasimov won the prestigious UNESCO Music Prize, one of the highest international accolades that a musician can hope for. Previous laureates have included Dmitri Shostakovich, Leonard Bernstein, Ravi Shankar and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Alim frequently chooses ghazals (poems with an Eastern meter) by classical poets such as Khagani, Fuzuli, Shirvani and [Sabir] as his lyrics for Mugham. As Alim stated: "I used to choose the words that earlier mugham singers performed, but I don't do that anymore.
I select the poetry myself now." However Alim has one condition for selecting a poem - it has to touch him emotionally: "I read the poem and if it makes my heart tremble, I choose it. Some poems are not accessible for me. I don't get meaning from them." The interpretation of these poems depends largely upon the listener. For Alim, the poetry is about philosophical notions rather than lyrical love: "You can say they deal with love," he says, "but everybody interprets them in his own way.
This is very important in mugham; since the music is independent of a strict framework, the poetry should be so, too. At a young age, you might interpret the poems as talking about love for a beautiful woman. The older you grow, the more philosophy you see in them. An older person, for instance, might interpret these poems from a Sufism point of view." Some of the poems are in Arabic or Persian, which means that Alim doesn't know the meaning of every single word. According to Alim, he can't always identify the exact meaning of the words, but he feels and understand by intuition what they imply, Alim stated; Maybe it's even better that I interpret the poetry myself. The word touches my heart and then 'lights a torch' there." From March 3 - March 15, 2001, Alim also had a very successful series of performances in Tabriz, Iran.
It was his first visit to this city, which boasts the largest Azerbaijani population in Iranian Azerbaijan. Tabriz is Iran's third largest city, with a population of more than 2 million. For years, people in Tabriz had been begging Alim to come and give a concert. The only other performance that the Mugham master had ever made in Iran was at a festival in Tehran in 1993. Originally Alim had intended to give five concerts in Tabriz, but interest ran so high that ten concerts were scheduled, two a day.
The auditorium was packed each day. Although the auditorium seats 700 people, more than 1,000 people attended each performance. It became nearly impossible to get tickets for these sell-out performances. Concerts were scheduled to last only one hour each, but they usually lasted 1,5 to 2 hours and the final performance was 2,5 hours long. Reportedly, during Alim's rendition of the Azerbaijani folk song "Sari Galin" (Yellow Bride), the concert organizers had to pass out tissues because so many men and women in the audience were emotionally touched and started crying.
Since the 1960s, Azerbaijani music performances were discouraged. Only recently has the government begun to allow Azerbaijanis to begin performing publicly. Alim's daughter, Farqana, who usually performs with him, did not do so in Iran. Women are not allowed to perform on stage as featured soloists when there are men in the audience. When Alim was leaving the concert, fans surrounded the car.
One girl pushed her hand through the window, begging for Alim to write his autograph on her hand. He didn't oblige, as it is against Iranian rules for a man to sign a woman's hand. Alim Gasimov's career as a Mugham singer nearly ended at age 14. He faced a huge humiliation when he felt while competing in a local music contest; when he started singing what he figured was Mugham, the audience started laughing at him. Alim stepped down from the stage with tears in his eyes.
Fortunately, he didn't give up on Mugham. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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