"Dear friend" or how one song united Azerbaijan and Dagestan

"Dear friend" or how one song united Azerbaijan and Dagestan

As part of "Story of a Song" series Vestnik Kavkaza continues to tell readers about the masterpieces of cultural heritage of Caucasus peoples. Today we will tell about the composition, which absorbed cultural features of the peoples of Dagestan and Azerbaijan - favorite song of Azerbaijani folk singers "Aziz Dostum" ("Dear Friend"). 

This song was written by famous performer of folk songs, tesnifs and mugam Gulu Askerov, using the verses of national poet of Dagestan Rasul Gamzatov, who played a big role in the development of Russian-Azerbaijani cultural ties. Prominent poets and writers of Azerbaijan, such as Nabi Khazri, Mirza Ibrahimov, Syed Rustam, Tofiq Bayram, Ilyas Efendiyev and great Azerbaijani poet Samad Vurgun were Rasul Gamzatov's friends. Dagestani poet called Vurgun his "old friend and teacher." Azerbaijani literary scholar, professor K. Musaev wrote: "Everything associated with the names of Rasul Gamzatov and Samed Vurgun, their friendship, became the apogee of Azerbaijani-Daghestani artistic and cultural ties, an image and a great example of cooperation and friendship for other literatures." 

This song was written for mugham and it may seem that this is an example of folklore song.  This style is typical for Azerbaijani composers and singers of mid XX century. Gulu Askerov is one of the best examples. He had a great voice, original manner of singing and stage talent. Not only he performed folk songs, tesnifs and mugam perfectly, he also brilliantly performed in the opera and ballet and was a wonderful teacher. He is responsible for many outstanding artists. Gulu Askerov also wrote amazing songs, which have great success to this day.

It's also necessary to give credit to poet Tofiq Bayram, who perfectly translated poems of his friend Gamzatov into Azerbaijani language. In Bayram's translation Gamzatov's poem found melody and became the basis for a stunning composition. Tofiq Bayram added the third verse, that's why sometimes people think he is the true author of this song's text.

Poet further enhances the story about grief from losing a friend. Historically, Azerbaijani ashoughs told about their most powerful feelings, like sadness or declaration of love, using saz - national instrument (a long necked lute), so the appearance of another verse is not surprising.

Əziz dostum məndən küsüb, incidi,
Ayrılıb yad kimi çıxdı evimdən.
Gəldiyi yolları ot basıb indi
O gedib qalmışam həsrətində mən.

Necə nəğmə qoşum, necə dillənim
Dost gedib özümə gələ bilmirəm.
Elə bil əllərim yox olub mənim, 
Gözümün yaşını silə bilmirəm. 

Çaldığım o sazı gətirin mənə,
Görün ki, çalmaqda necə mahirəm.
Əlim dəyən kimi bircə telinə
Simlər haray çəkib qırılır o dəm.

Tofiq Bayram

Mugam is not just a melody - it has a special place in the history of Azerbaijani musical culture. Every Azerbaijani absorbs mugam with his mother's milk. Nine out of ten Azerbaijanis love it. This genre is on the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage and became a hallmark of Azerbaijan. The most prominent modern representative of this genre is a living legend of Azerbaijani mugam - Alim Gasimov. This song has become popular thanks to him. Today he is the People's Artist of Azerbaijan Republic, holder of the Azerbaijani Order "Shohrat" ("Glory"), a member of the European Assembly of rare votes and Paris City Municipal Theatre "Théâtre de la Ville", as well as the winner of many medals and laureth of many awards of different countries. In 1999 he was awarded the UNESCO Prize, experts believe its a musical equivalent of Nobel Prize. He made mugam popular since the 1990s. His concerts were sold out not only in Baku, but also abroad. 

Some musicologists explain fantastic success of mugam performed by Alim Gasimov by the fact that he has something like a mediumistic connection with the past. Even those who don't know Azerbaijani language begin to "see" and "hear" the ancestors, understand them during concerts. This subconscious perception magically affects everyone who hears mugam. 

Alim Gasimov became a pioneer in the art of mugam, adapting this genre for a variety of musical tastes, different musical cultures. He was able to bring this genre to foreign audience, to people, who grew up on a completely different musical culture. 

The song about close friendship was also performed by famous master of balaban Alikhan Samedov, whose performance amazes people even today.