Eldar Mansurov: "Mugam is an integral part of our culture, like a language"
Eldar Mansurov is widely known among music lovers as the author of many popular songs performed on the Azerbaijani stage. A whole generation has grown on his songs. The composer writes music of various genres - symphonic, chamber, choral. Mansurov is the author of the rock ballets "Cleopatra" and "Olympus", the rock opera "Seven Beauties" and the music for several Azerbaijani films. One of his major projects is the Bahramnam symphonic rock mugam, dedicated to the memory of his father, composer, tarist Bahram Mansurov. Vestnik Kavkaza talked to Eldar Mansurov, a connoisseur of Azerbaijani mugams, about the influence of this genre on Azerbaijani contemporary music.
- Your father was one of the first to introduce Azerbaijani mugam to UNESCO. How have mugams influenced your work?
- We have a mugam family. My great-grandfather, grandfather, father, uncles - all were engaged in mugam. From my youth I studied the history of the origin of the names of mugams, the origin of this genre, made the first classification of the names of mugams. Even when I studied at the conservatory, I received a certificate at a student competition for research on the history of mugham.
In mughams, you can often find the names of certain territories. For example, Bayat-Shiraz is associated with the city of Shiraz, Bayat-Isfahan originates in Isfahan, Nava-Nishapur combines the names of two cities, and Herat-Kabili is a reference to the Afghan city.
In 1983, I traveled with my father to the Samarkand International Mugham Symposium. The second time I went to the symposium in 1987 already as a musicologist, folklore researcher.
And in the late 1970s, foreign composers and music theorists came to my father, he told them about mugams in a common language. For them, this was not very clear, and I acted as a kind of bridge between foreigners and my father - translated his theory into musical terminology. After the death of my father, they kept in touch with me, I arranged mugham evenings for them, invited my father’s students and other musicians. Well-known American stone-player Jeffrey Verbock visited me in Baku.
- How did you come up with the idea of creating a rock mugam “Bahramnam”?
- Bahramnam is a very big project. Many creative people devote their works to parents. I wanted to dedicate something meaningful to my father and started writing a concert for packaging with an orchestra. I watched concerts for packaging with the orchestra of Haji Khanmamedov, Said Rustamov and decided to create something that no one had done before, but not lower than their level.
Back in the late 1960s, I played in rock bands. We were all Beatlemen then, and it was under the influence of the Beatles that I formed as a musician. I also liked the synthesis of mugam and jazz performed by Vagif Mustafazade, and the symphonic mugams of Fikret Amirov. After Amirov, conductor Niyazi also wrote a symphonic rast-mugam. Then I thought that you can try to combine mugam with rock. He took fragments of his father’s tunes, a piece of “Bayat-Shiraz”, put them in the beginning, in the middle and at the end, and in between put in his own music. Then I began to enrich this synthesis, to do some kind of counterpoints. It was the first such experience on our stage.
Then I decided to make rock mugam for voice and orchestra. I needed two - a rock singer and a hanande. I opted for the singer Manana, who sings both jazz and rock, and in general she is a good musician, and also attracted Elbrus Abdulzade - a student of Alim Gasimov. The result is what is today called Bahramnam. This was my tribute to my father.
- You were born in a mugam family. What is mugam for you personally?
- Mugam is an integral part of our culture, like a language. The way we talk, how we sing, how we compose - all this is inherent in us from birth. I think our love for mugham originates in the womb. True, today some mugamatists, consider themselves outstanding, like to stick out their "I". I believe that you can never do this - God gave, God took. But we were all born and we all will die with mugham.
- How different is today's mugam from mugam of past years?
- I consider myself a happy person, because I lived at a time when you could see the greatest musicians - these are Kara Karaev, Dzhovdet Hajiyev, Vagif Mustafa-zade, Seyid Shushinsky, Khan Shushinsky. Today they can be heard only in the recording. I lived in the best of times!
At one time, one mugam consisted of 60-70 different sections, that is, gushe and shobe. In the 1920s, the founder of Azerbaijani classical music, Uzeyir Hajibeyov, opened a music school, invited musicians of the older generation and with their help began to create programs for teaching mugam. Thanks to this program, mugams were reduced from an hour and a half to 15-20 minutes. At one time, we had the most complex and richest mugham. Alas, there’s no such thing now.
- What mugam schools stand out in Azerbaijan?
- In Azerbaijan, the Baku school was considered the most famous. Earlier, mugham evenings were held in the Baku Majlis: connoisseurs gathered there, invited several musicians - tarists, kamanchists, singers, announced that today the mugham “Chakhargyakh” or “Shur” would sound. They sang for an hour and a half. Whoever sang something wrong was criticized. Very smart, very competent experts gathered there. They did not finish such conservatories as today. Mugam is another conservatory.
Connoisseurs at such meetings could ask hananda to sing “Rast-Mahur”, “Rast-Humayun”, etc. Can you imagine what it is? These are different mugams! If you are told to sing “Rast” and “Humayun”, then you should start with “Rasta”, then go to “Humayun”. But it’s impossible to go directly from “Rasta” to “Humayun”. You should find an intermediate mugam between "Humayun" and "Rast". Sing some sections of this intermediate mugam, switch from “Rasta” to “Shikesteyi-fars”, then to one of the three mugams - then go to “Shogi”, perform another intermediate mugam and only after that switch to “Humayun” . Now we need to complete all this, but in the same way it is impossible to return. “Humayun” you have no right to finish. However, you must finish and return to Rast again. That is, figuratively speaking, you climbed a mountain, now you have to find a way to get down from there, but you need to find another way to complete the execution. Thus, the level of skill of the hanande was checked.
- That's like a philosophy ...
- It is. Unfortunately, this is not the case today. At that time, if ten tarists played and ten hanenda sang mugam, then they all performed differently. Today you listen to our performers - at least singers, at least instrumentalists - they play the same thing. They just got serrated. It does not come from the heart. This is cramming.
- Did you study the history of the emergence of mugams? Can you tell a little about this?
- Music is a sound. It is believed that the first sound was wind, then there were sounds of water, waves, then sounds made by living beings. Sound appeared earlier than man. Gradually, with the formation of civilization, sounds began to take shape in more complex music. And, as we see, today music has no boundaries.
As the great Uzeyir Hajibeyov said, talking about 12 main mugams, this is a temple with 12 columns on which a musical structure was supported, but after this temple was destroyed, each nation took a piece of its debris to itself, creating its own building materials, its own a musical temple in a style characteristic of every nation.
Let's say Pakistani ragas. Our mugam is very close with Pakistani ragas. We are similar with Iran. We played the same mugam that we played in Iran as far back as the century before last. Music has always been influenced by the course of historical events. Therefore, where exactly did the mugham come from can not be reliably said.
In 1987, at the Samarkand Symposium, I talked about the history of the concept of “mugam”. After my speech, one of the Tajik scientists objected to the Azerbaijani mugam as an independent genre: "You and Iran are one and the same." I suggested that he compare the two mugams - Azerbaijani and Iranian. They even have different sections. Let’s say that the section “Saryanj” in the “Shur” mugam between the Iranian and Azerbaijani is completely different, only one name. Or the same Shikesteyi-Fars, which is present in the Rasta, and in the Mahur-Hindi, and in the Segaha, and in the Shura. It is called "Shikesteyi farce", but the music is different. That is, figuratively speaking, all people are the same on earth, but they dress differently and in music.
- There is a version that mugham developed under the influence of Islam due to its similarity with azans (prayers), and later - under the influence of Sufism ...
- And since what age have Azans become part of the Islamic religion? Since the VII century! Before that there was no music and poetry? Maybe mughams became the basis for azan. I do not presume to say, but I can’t go against either.
My father was a supporter of classical mugam, he studied with his father. But his contemporaries propagated changes in mughams, claiming: "This is all old, useless to anyone! It all pulls us back, we need to get rid of it." Today there are young tarists who perform mugam. They play the sketch on the container, showing technical techniques, and believe that it is high time to forget the classic mugam. But an etude is no longer mugham, it is a variation in the mugham style. Mugam is still a philosophy.
- Is it possible to say that mugham is a purely Azerbaijani phenomenon?
- We in Azerbaijan performed the inherent to us mugam. The classic Azerbaijani mugham was performed by Sadigjan, Gurban Pirimov, Mirza Mansur, my father. With the advent of Soviet power, Azerbaijani mugham began to change a little, to modernize. Modern performers on packaging appeared, in particular Gadzhi Mammadov, Akhsan Dadashov, Mammadaga Muradov and others who relied more on equipment.
The technique of execution varies from generation to generation. My generation loved melodic music, today they love rhythmic music. Previously, they watched a three-hour opera, and today's works are composed no more than an hour and a half. My two-act ballet Cleopatra lasts two and a half hours. I did not put it, because for the current theater it is a very long time. Today, people are striving for simplification - such a time, globalization. Simplified architecture, language, music, in which only the rhythm remains.
- How do you assess the spread of mugam on a global scale?
- I am always in favor of developing mugham, having its listeners all over the world. When the French, Germans, Hungarians came to our house, they just sat and watched their father play. It was with his eyes that he contemplated his game. Not every performance finds its listener. It’s good that the mugam is being propagated today. But in my understanding, these are still variations on the themes of mugham.
- What is the role of mugam in today's Azerbaijani school of composition?
- Everyone, to the best of his knowledge, tries to use it in his music. For example, I showed in “Bahramnam” how I feel about my father’s game. But I also have other compositions in mugham. For example, "Saginame" for packaging and string quartet. In our time, the Saginame genre in Azerbaijani mugham has disappeared, preserved only by my father. “Saginame” used to be sung and performed in the Majlises, it was sung by the famous Hanenda Jabbar Garyagdioglu, and his father kept it. Only two of these mugams are “Saginame” Shur and “Saginame” Humayun. I used one of these Saginamas in my music, and dedicated this piece to my father. I still used classic mugam works as a student. Maybe I even did it unknowingly, but only on the feelings of mugham, which were laid in me from childhood.
- Of the modern mugamatists, the most recognizable internationally is Alim Gasimov. How do you rate his work?
- Alim Gasimov is a phenomenon, a great singer. He knows both classics and modernity. He feels the trends of the time, but this is completely different. He studied under the prominent khanenda of Agahan Abdullayev, Hajibab Huseynov, and Alim still has a divine voice.