In the class of the brilliant teacher P.S.Levina Rafik's talent came to the fore. While at the college he worked as musical leader of an instrumental group and from that time his passion for jazz led him to mastery of the art of improvisation. In 1954 in Rafig's final examination for the college, besides the classics included in the program there was also a composition of the American jazz pianist Bill Evans. Later Rafig completely devoted himself to jazz music. In 1959, having graduated from the Baku Conservatoire, Rafig left for a long tour of the Soviet Union as musical leader of a jazz instrumental group. Upon returning to Baku, Rafig made acquaintance with the outstanding singer Rashid Behbudov.
In 1966 the Theatre of Song was established by Rashid Behbudov and Babayev was invited to work as a musical leader. Behbudov and Rafig started to prepare a big concert program adapted for the stage. A huge amount of work was done by Rafig for the organization of the concert performance. During those years he continued to work with great success in the area of jazz music. There were also constant lessons and participation in jazz festivals.
In 1967 Rafig Babayev’s group was a prizewinner at the Jazz Festival in Tallin. Special interest was aroused by one of his compositions composed in the “Bayati-Kurd” form. Rafig Babayev was also a member of the Composers’ Union and of the Cinematographers’ Society. He composed a large number of jazz compositions, plays, songs, and numerous arrangements of national songs as well as the music for more than 20 films. In 1978 the title of Honoured Artist of Azerbaijan was conferred on him for achievement in the development of Azerbaijani musical culture. In 1984 Rafig Babayev was invited to work as artistic director and chief conductor of the Variety and Symphonic Orchestra of Radio and Television.
He worked hard to improve the performance of the orchestra and of the teachers of singing. A jazz group attached to the orchestra was established by Rafig and it performed successfully both in its homeland and abroad. The group consisted of such professional musicians as Gennady Stepanishev (flute and saxophone), Rauf Sultanov (bass guitar), Alesker Abbasov (guitar), Siyavush Kerimi (oud, keyboard), Jamil Amirov (keyboard), Tofig Jabbarov (drums), Firuz Ismaylov (synth), Ramin Sultanov (drums), Emil Gasanov (bass guitar), Vagif Aliyev (drums) and Emil K.Gasanov (bass guitar). During those years he was occupied by public work: he organized various competitions, examinations and festivals. All his activity was constantly accompanied by teaching young musicians, instrumentalists and vocalists. In 1991 Rafig formed the folk and jazz group "Jangi" and established a recording studio which helped the group in its realization of musical projects.
Using folk instruments and a synthesis of the two different genres, he created compositions of great colour, making them richer with unusual harmonies. An original gift, high professionalism and an unusual capacity for work was widely appreciated and in 1993 the title of National Artist of Azerbaijan was conferred on Rafig Babayev. He always worked to improve his skills as a pianist, a composer and besides this he was wonderfully gifted as a teacher. He was a fine organizer and leader who knew the finer points of music and various areas of technology, photography and organization. As Gara Garayev said, "Rafig Babayev can do anything". He was a real musician, constantly seeking perfection and able to work on compositions through the night so that they would not be lost in the confusion of weekdays; to keep and convey them to a younger generation. Rafig Babayev’s tragic death shook both Azerbaijan and the wider world. Like other innocent peaceful people, among them women, children and old men, he was the victim of bloody terror committed by Armenian extremists on 19th March 1994.
The explosion in the Metro abruptly ended the life of a wonderful musician and man of great humour who had lived a full and creative life. He could have done a lot more for his art and for the rising generation. Rafig’s death was a terrible blow for his wife Farida khanum and for his two daughters. They lost a beloved husband, father and reliable supporter of the family at the same time. His closest friends and colleagues were devastated. Director Eldar Guliyev said,"Rafig claimed that he would express himself as a patriot by his creativity.
He drew me into creative cooperation too. I am very grateful to him for that. He believed that only a creative person could be useful to his country!" The death of Rafig, a peace-loving man of the highest sentiments, aroused revulsion against evil and violence, war and terrorism. Rafig Babayev was one of those strong personalities who will live in the memory forever. Read more on Last.fm.
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