Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Games of a Lifetime: The First European Games in Baku

     Like many Azerbaijani people, I was overcome with excitement for the 1st European Games in Baku. I remember the city pull together for the Eurovision Song contest in 2012 and was pleasantly surprised with the city’s transformation and level of organization. Therefore, I had high expectations for the European Games. But after watching the opening ceremony I found that it exceeded all my expectations. I would go so far as to say it was as breath taking as the Beijing Olympic Games, demonstrating Azerbaijan’s dedication to the European Games. It was both visually and aurally impressive: the fireworks, dancers, and music showed so much of the history and culture of Azerbaijan. I felt so proud to be from Baku!

Opening Ceremony

    Unfortunately, I was not able to be in Baku for the opening ceremony, which started on 12 June in the Olympic Stadium. Luckily, the Azerbaijani Student Network (ASN) in Berlin organized a public viewing in Charlie's Beach, so I was still able to celebrate this event with other Azerbaijani people from Berlin and also with many other nationalities who were there at the public viewing.

    Right after work, my sister and I joined a virtual community of millions of Azerbaijani people watching the ceremony around the world. I was so proud from the first minutes of watching the ceremony. It was a very beautiful and colorful show, with great content showing the culture, history, traditions and specialties of our country. Azerbaijan is a country which is often misunderstood in the international community. The opening ceremony allowed for the international community to understand that Azerbaijan is a well-developed country with many fine traditions, bright young people, and a unique culture. One of the main cultural traditions showcased was rug weaving. An amazing choreographed dance displayed the most beautiful traditional patterns, using colour-changing skirts. It was stunning, and I’m proud that our people have such great taste. In my opinion, the show couldn’t have been better. We all felt that there was a lot of effort invested and they really did their best to benefit all of Europe.

    Some people complained that it was immoral to invest such a large amount of money into an event rather than into social services for the Azerbaijani people. However, I think that hosting these games was an important step for Azerbaijan.

    Firstly, it raised awareness about our country and dispelled the wrong impressions and stereotypes. Secondly, it created a positive view of Azerbaijan as a developed country that can stand on its own and do amazing things. Thirdly, for so many homesick Azerbaijani people living abroad, it was just amazing to watch this ceremony and be proud of how our city is getting more and more beautiful every day. It’s becoming an impressive modern city, tall and stunning.

    After 17 days of amazing games which were participated in by many European countries (I encourage you to watch them to see how great they are!), on the 29th of June I watched the closing ceremony at home on TV. It was as epic as the opening ceremony. Contributors and volunteers were acknowledged, athletes were celebrated. It was a perfect celebration for the first European games. At the end, there was another brilliant fireworks display even better than the one at the opening ceremony coupled with celebrities singing popular songs, dancing, and live-performance artwork. Azerbaijan’s history, traditions, and culture were all celebrated by the most talented performers in the country. It was a perfect way to mark the closing of the 1st European Games. You are welcome to watch both ceremonies under the following links:

    I encourage people to come and visit our beautiful country and see how it is visitor friendly, with its own traditions and culture, delicious food, nice weather and so much more. Come enjoy the beaches by Caspian Sea, the beautiful scenery, our colorful traditions, and many other things! The Azerbaijani people will be happy to show you around our country.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Bizmklier 3.0 – An introduction to Azerbaijani Music and Traditions

    Couple of days ago I was amazed with a video I saw on YouTube and want to share my impressions with you. Today I would like to introduce a beautiful, yet often overlooked, musical project: Bizimkiler 3.0. This group has covered many world-famous songs relying upon Azerbaijani national instruments. Some artists they’ve covered include Michael Jackson, Ray Charles, Muslim Magomayev, Chuck Berry, U2, among many others.

    The “Bizimkiler" projects’ first edition came out on TV and in the internet in 2012, right before the Eurovision 2012 song contest, and has since been developed in order to attract the attention of tourists and visitors. The author of the project is Seyfulla Mustafayev, Samira Safaraliyeva is the project editor and the producer is Aynur Huseynova. The project immediately became a Youtube phenomen. “Bizimkiler" is not a music band with fixed team, but a project with many different invited musicians and every time changing performers and singers.

    During "Bizimkiler" project, world famous pop and classic hit songs were performed in modern improvisation, with the help of Azerbaijani instruments and mugham performers (Mugham or mugam is one of the many folk musical compositions from Azerbaijan, contrast with Tasnif, Ashugs). These musicians are true professionals and their talent is remarkable! Feel free to listen to some covers on the links below. You won’t be disappointed:

Ray Charles - Hit the Road Jack!

t.A.T.u. - Not gonna get us

Michael Jackson - They don't care about us

Chuck Berry - You Never Can Tell

U2 - With Or Without You

    So other than this music project, I would also like to introduce you Azerbaijani music instruments. Our music instruments are: the
tar (skin faced lute), the kamancha (skin faced spike fiddle), and the saz (long necked lute); the double-reed wind instrument balaban, the frame drum ghaval, the cylindrical double faced drum nagara (davul), and the goshe nagara (naqareh) (pair of small kettle drums). Azerbijanis also play the garmon (small accordion), tutek (whistle flute), and daf (frame drum).

    Azerbaijani music is the result of a long historical process, resulting from the formation and development of unique, deeply realistic traditions. Until the 20th century, these traditions were primarily oral in nature. However, over time, they developed into folk music and began acquiring the features of professional art, particularly in the works of ashugs and mugham.

    So go ahead and follow the links attached above and familiarize yourself with some traditional Azerbijiani musical instruments and styles!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Eurovision 2012: Introducing Azerbaijan to the World

    The Eurovision song contest is the longest running TV song competition show in the world. The competition has been held annually since 1956 and each country in Europe selects a musical act to go forward and represent their nation in the song contest. Each country is required to submit an original song to be performed on live television and then citizens vote to select the most popular show in the competition.

    During the 2012 competition, which took place in Baku, I was in Beijing. I was desperate to go back to Baku to celebrate this momentous event with all other Azeri people but unfortunately, I couldn't because I had exams. But later I watched the show in Internet and was amazed by the level of organization. Especially for this event the Crystal Hall was built and also many other constructions in the city. It was a big change of Baku city and it became even more beautiful and attractive. After Eurovision I came to Baku on my holidays and was amazed with the positive change of the city.

    You can watch the Grand Final of the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest on

    I remember in 2011, when Azerbaijan was performing in Eurovision in Germany, I was also in Beijing. Because of time difference and low Internet speed, it was impossible for me to watch it online and I went to sleep hoping and dreaming that my country would win. That year, the Azerbaijani song was fantastic - I liked it very much and really believed that Azerbaijan would perform well. In the morning, I had a message from my mother saying that Azerbaijan won and I was in shock from happiness! I was jumping up and down – I couldn’t believe it was true. Then I went online and confirmed the wonderful news. I was so proud for my country! Next day I was so excited and shared the good news with all my university friends.

    Here is the performance of Azerbaijan Eurovision 2011 - Ell and Nikki - Running Scared:

    Similar to The First European Games in Baku, I believe these kinds of events are very important for Azerbaijan’s economical development. Now living in Europe, I know that many people are more familiar with our country thanks to Eurovision 2012. Now that Azerbaijan is becoming more well-known around Europe and the world, I hope that more people will come to visit our beautiful country.