Caucasus conservatory

Caucasus conservatory

25th anniversary of occupation of Azerbaijani city Shusha by the Armenian armed forces was marked yesterday. 30 villages were destroyed, 195 people were killed, 165 were injured, 58 disappeared, more than 24000 people became victims cleansing as a result of the occupation. Before the occupation, Shusha was a "cradle" of Azerbaijani music. In 1977, on the initiative of national leader Heydar Aliyev, historic part of Shusha became historic and architectural reserve. Museums of great cultural and art figures, like Uzeyir Hajibeyov, Khurshudbanu Natavan and Bulbul, as well as mausoleum of outstanding poet Molla Panah Vagif were created.

Shusha is known as a temple and cradle of Azerbaijani music for a long time. Almost all famous Azerbaijani musicians and singers were born in Shusha, also called the Caucasus conservatory. Musicologist Viktor Vinogradov said back in 1938: "From steep slopes of green mountains and rocks you can see unbelievable panorama of Shusha. The beauty of its natural landscapes attracts travelers every year, travelers always admire beautiful green mountains. But aesthetic impression Shusha gives doesn't end there. In comparison to other regions of Azerbaijan, there is much more music here. Here you can always listen to folk songs, singers, musicians and watch dances. For a long time Shusha has been known as a musical center and has become famous in Transcaucasus as an inexhaustible school of folk musical talents. "Musicians of Shusha" created the history of Azerbaijani music and presented it not only in their homeland, but also in other countries of the East."

Musicologist Vasily Korganov wrote in his work "Caucasian Music": "Shusha supplies Transcaucasia with musicians and singers. It's a blessed homeland of poetry, music and songs, it serves as a conservatory of the entire Transcaucasia, supplying it with new songs and new motives for each season and month."

That's why people joke that even babies cry is accompanied by mugham in Shusha, because sounds of native land are concentrated in mugham.

Mugham is one of the main genres of Azerbaijani traditional music. It is a highly complex art form that weds classical poetry and musical improvisation in specific local modes. The history of development of Azerbaijani classical mughams was closely associated with the performance of singer-soloist. As People's Artist Bulbul wrote, "only Azerbaijan had singers, whose performance continued for hour and a half or two hours. Sattar, Jabbar Karyagdy, Shekili Alesker, Abdulbagi Ali oglu Zulalov, Seid Shushinsky, were among those singers. In 2003, UNESCO recognized mugam as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Seid Shushinsky

As a synthetic art, mugham relies on Azerbaijani classical poetry, full of deep allegories and symbols. Noise of mountain rivers, echo of mountains, rustle of leaves in the Karabakh gardens - all these sounds of native nature can be heard in mugham improvisations of the Karabakh singers. Сrystal-clear springs are very famous. The most famous of them - Isa Bulag spring, is viewed by many as a symbol of Shusha. Mountains surround amazingly beautiful plateau and create an unprecedented acoustics room for music in the open air. In XVIII - early XIX centuries, Shusha's school of mugham was formed. In different years it consisted of several creative individual schools, led by biggest singers. This school was famous not only in Transcaucasia, but also in the Middle East. The singers of Shusha played a huge role in enriching the Azerbaijani mugham with fresh and bold techniques, with bright expressive colors, with a new approach to drama of complex musical melodies.

Their popularity reached its peak in the second half of XIX century, when special musical schools began to operate in Shusha. This school was created by Harrat Gulu and Molla Ibrahim. Students, whose age ranged between 13 and 14 years, received music lessons at Molla Ibrahim's school, while those who were older at Harrat Gulu's school. 

Shusha school was the most famous in the entire Azerbaijan at that time. It can be explained by geographical location and wide cultural and economic ties of the city. "Almost all famous singers and musicians of Azerbaijan were born in Shusha. No wonder Shusha was called a cradle of music and poetry," famous poet Samed Vurgun wrote. In one of his letters Sergey Yesenin talks about Shusha's residents love for singing: "If you're not a poet, then you're not from Shiraz, if you're not a singer - you're not from Shusha."

The creator of popular in Shusha "Mejlisi-uns" (Mejlis of Communication) was a talented poetess and artist, last princess of Karabakh, Khurshidbanu Natavan. Interesting information about the Mejlis, created in Shusha by connoisseur of classical Oriental music Harrat Gulu (1823-1883), can still be found. Haci Husu, Mashadi Jabbar Karjagdyoglu and his ensemble, Abdulbagi Zulalov, Deli Ismail, Keshtazly Gashim, Kechachioglu Muhammed and Jabbar Karyagdyoglu were all representatives of Harrat Gulu's school.

In the 1880s, the "Mejlis Faramushan" (Mejlis of the Forgotten) and the "Society of Musicians" were established in Shusha. They were headed by Mir-Mohsun Navvab (1833-1918), progressive Azerbaijani scholar, musicologist, poet, calligrapher. The "Society of Musicians" discussed performances of singers, poems accompanying classical mughams, and many other creative issues. The society included famous musicians of that time - singers and instrumentalists Haci Husu, Meshadi Jamil Amirov, Islam Abdullaev, Seyid Shushinski. It was created at the time when, the musical traditions of the Middle East have almost exhausted themselves. New works were not created, only medieval ones were rewritten. However, this tradition was continued in Shusha. It was revived by Navvab.

One of the brightest representatives of Shusha's school was outstanding tarist Mirza Sadig Asadoglu (1846-1902), also known as Sadigjan. He often accompanied performances of Haci Husu, gaining wide fame and love of the population of the entire Caucasus with his skills. He was called Sadigjan because people truly loved him. His achievements, what he did for the Azerbaijani music cannot be overestimated, after all, he reconstructed and perfected centuries-old tar. Mirza Sadig Was the most famous tar performer of that time. He always knew how to charm people.

Tar is a long-necked, waisted instrument, shared by many cultures and countries like Iran, Armenia, Georgia, Republic of Azerbaijan, and other areas near the Caucasus region. In 2012 art of Azerbaijani craftsmanship and performance art of the tar was added to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Another representative of Shusha's mugham school is Jabbar Karjagdy (1861-1944). He was widely known both as singer and as a composer. He wrote his own songs. He had no quals in performance of various mughams. His voice was compared to the voice of great Caruso. Sergey Yesenin, who heard his singing when he was in Azerbaijan, called him "the prophet of Eastern music".

Honored Artist of Azerbaijan SSR Jalilbek Bagdadbekov wrote in his "Memoirs of Karyagdy": "Sometimes Jabbar's concerts were held at wide city squares, or at some picturesque streets, gardens near cities, since it was impossible to find a place, where everyone who wanted to listen to his songs can gather. He had a huge repertoire. It's interesting that Jabbar sang songs in Armenian, Georgian, Turkmen, Uzbek and Persian languages. When he performed in Armenia, he sang Turkish and other songs in Armenian. Armenian audience really liked "Mene ne Oldu" song. Later it was performed by Armenian singers under the name "Anghut Ahchik". Jabbar also successfully performed Armenian folk songs. When he went to weddings or tours, Jabbar was sometimes forced to stay there for months, since people didn't want to let him go."

Jalilbek Bagdadbekov writes about Jabbar: "In 1911 we staged a play in Iravani. At the beginning of the summer, Jabbar, Shirin Akhundov and Gulu arrived there. When I came to see Jabbar he asked me to prepare a poster for one concert. Less than an hour later - all the tickets were sold out. In the evening something unbelievable happened. About thousand spectators, who were too late to buy tickets, demanded them. They were mostly Armenians who came from distant villages. Then Jabbar's second concert was announced. Next day there were even more people, and I didn't know what to do Since there were no tickets or seats, people without tickets were really angered. Then Jabbar himself announced that he will sing near the Khurram spring, and everyone calmed down. 95% of the audience were Armenians and Azerbaijanis." A day later Khachaturov, a correspondent, wrote in a local newspaper: "There is no doubt that Jabbar is the greatest and most famous singer. There's no accent when he sings in Armenian. He has exceptional talent. Jabbar charms the audience."

It's not surprising that Armenians loved Azerbaijani national music and listened to Azerbaijani mugham singers. Armenian tarists accompanied Azerbaijani singers, and Azerbaijani musicians often sang in Armenian. 

Tatevos Harutyunyan, Lazar Ter-Vartanesov, who was Sadigjan's student, and many others grew on Azerbaijani music school. Then they brought up more than one generation of tarists.

Meshadi Suleiman bek Mansurov (right), Lazar Ter-Vartanesov (in the middle, with a tar in his hands), Arshak Khydyrov (left), and priest daughter Masho (Margo) Azizyants. Baku, 1908.

This was the era of renaissance of not only Azerbaijani music - Karabakh was the center of culture of the entire Caucasus, attracting different nations. This can be seen in the works of another great Azerbaijani singer, a native of Shusha, Seyid Shushinski (1889-1965). Karyagdy considered him "the gem of Eastern music." Seyid Shushinski sang not only Azerbaijani mughams and songs, but also songs of other peoples of Transcaucasia - Armenians, Georgians, Lezgins. During his concerts in Tbilisi he was accompanied by famous Armenian Levon Karakhanov. Azerbaijanis, Armenians, Georgians, Lezgins came to his concerts in Tiflis. Reports about his concerts were published in local newspapers. The "Horizon" newspaper, published in Armenian, often published photos and articles about his work. Owners of theaters and clubs, after seeing his success, constantly invited him to sing in interludes, which attracted even more people.

In late XIX - early XX centuries, Karabakh gave the world a founder of the first opera in the East, a playwrighter, author of the first libretto, creator of musical comedy genre, author of the Azerbaijani anthem, Uzeyir Hajibeyov. The formation of modern Azerbaijani musical art is directly associated with the name of this great man, a native of Shusha. On the day of his birthday - September 18 - Azerbaijani public marks the holiday of art - the Music Day.

The name of another singer from Shusha - Bulbul - is also associated with Gadzhibekov. Uzeyir Hajibeyov has admitted several times that while creating his opera "Koroglu", he counted on the voice of Bulbul, on his talent and skill. Bulbul became a classical performer in this immortal opera, and soon received pseudonym "Nightingale" for his amazing voice. He was a mugham performer until 1920. He became the founder of a new Azerbaijani singing school, which used the experience of world vocal. 

Eight natives of Shusha were awarded the title of People's Artist of the USSR in the Soviet era, 30 people were awarded the title of People's Artist of Azerbaijan, more than 50 cultural figures were awarded the title of Honored Artist of the Republic. 

No country in the world gave us as many talented performers as Shusha. It's the birthplace of Islam Abdullayev, Rashid Behbudov, Meshedi Jamil Amirov, Gurban Pirimov, as well as composers Zulfugar Gadzhibekov, Fikret Amirov, Niyazi, Afrasiyab Badalbeyli, Soltan Gajibekov, Ashraf Abbasov, Suleiman Aleskerov.

Shusha's vocal school has the same place in the history of Eastern music as Italian vocal school in the history of European music. Shushu was even called "Italy of Caucasus". One of the most famous children's mugham ensembles "Karabakh Nightingales" was created in Shusha by art director Murad Rzayev in 1971. Despite the Armenian occupation, the collective of this ensemble continues its creative activity in exile to this day.

Throughout XX century, Karabakh mugham school gave music world many new bright musicians. In 1987 it hosted the international mugham festival "Kharybulbul", named after the unique flower, growing in the mountains of Karabakh. This festival revealed a lot of young talents, who turned into refugees five years later.

During Vladimir Putin's visit to Baku in 2006, during the concert in honor of the Year of Russia in Azerbaijan, Russian President and his Azerbaijani colleague listened to one of the masterpieces of Azerbaijan's mugham school - "Karabakh Sikestesini". It's one of Azerbaijani rhythmic mughams, and the name of this composition is associated with the occupied lands. Created in XIX century, this genre was used in the operas "Asli and Kerem" by Uzeyir Hajibeyov, "Shah Ismail" by Muslim Magomaev, "Shahsenem" by Reinhold Gliere.