When I first met Georgi Vanyan back in 2009, I couldn’t hide my excitement. For me that middle-aged man who smoked one cigarette after another and had sadness in his eyes, even when he smiled, was equal to a rockstar. I couldn’t believe I was talking to the person who organized Days of Azerbaijan as well as Turkish Film Festival in Armenia, despite regular threats he received and a very little support he had among the Armenian public. He was also the only Armenian I knew, who publicly called Nagorno-Karabakh region an “occupied” territory, not “liberated.”
Our meeting was completely random, we just happened to have common friends in Georgian capital Tbilisi. Nevertheless, we talked for three hours straight, sharing our insights on Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict and possible scenarios for its resolution. He told me about his future project – Azerbaijani Film Festival in Armenia. I said he was out of his mind, but he explained it was “a logical continuation of the previous events,” and that it was worth a try.
"Björk "adores" a whole range of singers: "Chaka Khan, Beyoncé, Antony" – the latter being Antony Hegarty, a former collaborator who is here in the audience – though her "favourite singer alive today" is Azerbaijani devotional singer Alim Qasimov."
I've heard him sing live only once but it was enough. It was my friend's wedding, where Alim Qasimov was invited as a guest. During the wedding, people would surround him trying to chat or take pictures. He would response affably to each and one of them and never refused any of the requests. By the end of the wedding he was invited to the stage and asked to sing.
It wasn't just singing, it was him making music and us feeling it. His performance took me to the deepest corners of my soul and I felt goose bumps all over my body. Most of the people stood up enchanted and listened in silence. When he finished, I felt tears in my eyes, while people burst into applause.
I've heard him sing only once, but it was enough to realize his value.
Alim Qasimov (1957) is a prominent mugham singer named a "Living National Treasure" of Azerbaijan. He has been passionate about mugham since his early childhood, but initially Qasimov sang mugham solely for his own enjoyment. Only at the age of nineteen, after having held various jobs as an agricultural worker and driver, did he decide to pursue a career in music. Qasimov studied at the Asaf Zeynalli Music College (1978-1982) and the Azerbaijan University of Arts (1982-1989). His teacher was well-known mugham singer Aghakhan Abdullayev.
Qasimov's first remarkable international success occurred in 1988 when he won first prize at the International Festival and Symposium on Traditional Music in Samargand, Uzbekistan. Since then, he has been traveling worldwide to spread the art of Azerbaijani mugham.
Alim appears on 12 CDs released in Europe and the United States, on one of them, Love's Deep Ocean (1999, Network Medien, Frankfurt, Germany) together with his daughter and student Fargana Qasimova. In addition to performing with the Silk Road Ensemble, Qasimov performs with the Kronos Quartet as part of his collaboration with the Aga Khan Initiative in Central Asia.
In 1969, a 14-year-old Beatles fanatic named Jerry Levitan snuck into John Lennon's hotel room in Toronto and convinced him to do an interview. 38 years later, Levitan, director Josh Raskin and illustrators James Braithwaite and Alex Kurina have collaborated to create an animated short film using the original interview recording as the soundtrack. A spellbinding vessel for Lennon's boundless wit and timeless message, I Met the Walrus was nominated for the 2008 Academy Award for Animated Short and won the 2009 Emmy for 'New Approaches' (making it the first film to win an Emmy on behalf of the internet).
This is without doubt one of the best things I've ever seen.
So, yesterday after few margaritas we decided to join the Eurovision Party organized by a close friend of mine.
We arrived at the place, ordered drinks, took pictures, listened to the songs, which, I have to admit, were mostly much better than all the other Eurovision contests I remember.
Anyway, then the TV showed the Armenian contestants.
The crowd started whistling, boo-ing and finally demanded that the organisators turn off the sound. They did. Armenian girls danced and opened their mouths in total silence to the accompaniment of Azerbaijani whistling. As I expected such thing to happen, the only question I asked my friends was: "Is it gonna help return the lands?". Of course, no one have had the answer.
Then there were Turkish chick and Azerbaijani legs with Arash jumping up and down around them. Have to admit, Aysel looked gorgeous.
And of course, my favourite Norwegian who kicked the big Eurovision ass with his simple but adorable song and forget-about-your-boyfriend smile.
When the traditionally predictable voting started the crowd stood up on their feet cursing one countries and making plans on visiting the most generous to Azerbaijan ones. They were happy to discover they are still alowed to love Ukraine and Netherlands.
I didn't notice the picture Sirusho held in her hands but I saw it today on TV and it made me think. I finally realized that there's no chance for this region to become a civilized one unless we rewrite the whole history which makes us all think we're fucking special.
We might have had plenty of lands and legendary kings but what do we have today? 3 major and several minor conflicts in a tiny region and headlines in the world news? Is this something to be proud of? Are hating-the-neigbor zombie generations good future for us? Not for me or the kids I will eventually have. Not for any of us.
Perhaps, it's time to switch from Kindergarten approach to the real Conflict Resolution one, don't you think?
Our kids need fairytales not war tales, love, not hatred.
Our kids deserve the peaceful happiness we have never had.