Azerbaijan has been playing host to the third International Space of Mugham Festival – a renowned spectacle amongst mugham folk enthusiasts, held in the capital Baku.
Performers from more than 24 different countries took part in the event, including, Alim Gasymov, celebrated worldwide as one of the great masters of improvisation – the key principle of mugham music.
“We have prepared this concert in one way, but sang in another,” he noted. “My vision of this performance has been changed, I was influenced by what I saw, by the sound of our voices in this particular moment and by the feelings of my soul.”
One of the foreign performers welcomed at the week-long event was Jeffrey Werbock, an American who discovered mugham back in Los Angeles in 1971.
For Werbock, a student of the tar (a traditional Azeri stringed instrument) for more than 30 years and the Chairman of the Mugham Society of America, mugham is the music of our existence.
“We have a singing universe, the scientists have misnamed it completely, called it the Big Bang, it is not, it is the Big Note. Everything is in vibratory musical activity and mugham is a representation on Earth of this cosmic principle,” he said.
Some mugham researchers argue that the structure of this vocal art is linked to the geometrical forms and mystifying shapes of Azerbaijan’s famous carpets. Both of these popular exports weave abstract elements at their sides, with often violently bright spots marking their centres.
The Artistic Director of the Third International Space of Mugham Festival and UNESCO Peace Artist, Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, observed: “There are patterns in the carpets and patterns in mugham. And the structure of mugham is a reflection of those (carpet) patterns.”
The most important slots in the festival programme have been given to a new form of mugham music: the unique hybrid of the two kings of improvisation – mugham and jazz.
In the last century mugham has broadened its borders and as well as jazz, mugham artists can also add classical music and opera as new influences on this ancient art form.