Archive for the ‘ People ’ Category

The Azeris: Alim Qasimov


“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.”

Björk’s  yesterday’s interview to Guardian

I read this today and couldn’t be more proud.

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.

He did.

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.

Info:

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.

http://www.worldmusic.co.uk/alim_qasimov_ensemble

“Alim Qasimov is simply one of the greatest singers alive, with a searing spontaneity that conjures passion and devotion, contemplation and incantation.”

The New York Times

Here he is – one of the greatest Azerbaijanis, legendary mugam singer Alim Qasimov.

Alim Qasimov performing “What will you say” with Jeff Buckley in 1995 on Festival of Sacred Music in France.

 

Alim Qasimov with daughter Fargana

Alim Qasimov on Facebook

Alim Qasimov on Wikipedia

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“5 years ago I was a minority opposition, today – I am the people.”

He was the first person I called when I saw news from Egypt. “I can’t talk, dear, I’m pretty teargased right now”, he said.

I met him in Berlin. It was a blogger conference with participants coming from all around the world. For him it wasn’t the first official international event he was invited to because of his activity. Very soon, we found a lot in common – he would tell me about his society, I would tell him about mine. When the uprise in Egypt began, I couldn’t think of a better person to interview about it.

My interview with him for RFE/RL:

“Sandmonkey” is one of a number of bloggers and activists in Egypt getting the message out of the country through Twitter (he is sending his tweets via a friend in Jordan). RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service correspondent Nigar Fatali spoke with him about Internet activism in Egypt and its role in the country’s uprising.

RFE/RL: What does it feel like to live in a country where Internet and mobile phone connections can be shut down by the government at any time?

Sandmonkey: It is not fun [laughing]. It clearly affects you. People are being transported back to 1980; they have to go back from technological progress to using landlines. And most of them don’t even know the landline numbers of their friends to call and check on them. Having no access to the Internet and a curfew are driving people insane. For activists it means the inability to upload pictures and videos of the horrors that are taking place here, while for many other people it basically means the inability to do their job. No one goes to work because there’s no Internet. The banks don’t work because of that; the country in general is in paralysis. The fact that the government can shut down the Internet and phone connection anytime they want is simply unnerving.  

RFE/RL: Why do you blog under a nickname? Do you plan to reveal yourself?

Sandmonkey: I’ve always kept my identity anonymous and I’m not planning to reveal it because some members of my family are affiliated with the ruling NDP party and I don’t want to put them at risk. 

RFE/RL: What is it like to be an activist in Egypt? Do you get oppressed or threatened?

Sandmonkey: These days it actually feels strange; scarier and more exciting. One day you’re breaking barricades, the next day you get tear gassed, and the day after that you try to escape the gunshots of street thugs. But it’s very rewarding because we see ourselves and our people being validated. We’re proud of them for taking responsibility for their destiny and saying “No” for the first time in their lives. Everything about being an Egyptian got redefined in the last days. Before, many people would not agree with us. No one would believe that we could take action or do anything together, as a nation. Today, everybody is with us. Now people believe it’s possible. Five years ago I was a minority opposition. Today, I am the people. And this feeling is indescribable.

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Быть египтянином сегодня…

My interview with Egyptian blogger and my friend Sandmonkey for Radio Liberty in Russian. Soon to be published in English.

Sandmonkey – никнейм, который выбрал для себя один египетский блоггер и активист, начавший вести свой блог в 2004-м году. Он взял себе ник и скрывает свое настоящее имя из соображений безопасности.

На сегодняшний день sandmonkey является одним из самых популярных блоггеров в Египте – его блог насчитываыет более 5 300 000 просмотров, а его страничку на Twitter отслеживают почти 6 000 человек.

В Египте почти с начала событий введены ограничения на Интернет, а с понедельника прекратил работу последний провайдер. Нигяр Фатали взяла интервью для РадиоАзадлыг у sandmonkey по телефону вечером 31 января.

– Каково это – жить в стране, где правительство может отключить интернет и мобильную связь в любое время?

– Это невесело (смеется). Воздействует на человека. Сейчас люди перенесены обратно в 1980, из технологического прогресса им приходится возвращаться к наземным линиям связи, проще говоря, к городским телефонам. И большинство из них даже и не знает домашних номеров своих друзей и близких. Комендантский час и отсутствие интернета сводит людей с ума.

Активисты лишены возможности загружать фотографии и видео тех страшных событий, которые здесь происходят. Для других отсутствие интернета означает невозможность работать – люди просто перестали выходить на работу. Банки тоже не работают, страна в подвешенном состоянии. Сам факт, что правительство может отключить нашу связь с миром в любой момент настораживает и откровенно нервирует.

– Почему Вы пишите под псевдонимом? Вы планируете раскрыть свое имя своим читателям в свое время?

– Я всегда писал под никнеймом и не собираюсь раскрывать свое имя, потому что некоторые мои родственники тесно связаны с правящей партией и я не хочу подвергать их опасности.

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I Met the Walrus

In 1969, a 14-year-old Beatle 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.

Mehriban Afandiyeva

The first person I thought of, when the Women’s Forum told me about the new column Azeris Abroad, was Mehriban Afandiyeva. You probably wonder why.

Well, you know how while being a junior in high school, you always remember the elder classes. People there seem more confident, attractive, smart, and lucky. However, I’m sure you’ll agree that life usually proves these expectations to be wrong.

I was no exception. The object of my admiration among the seniors was a girl named Mehriban. Years later, social networks reunited us, and of course, she didn’t remember me well. But I did. And it turned out my impression of her had been proved with the years.

So, my first interview will be with this smart, attractive, confident and worth-being-proud-of Azerbaijani lady, currently living in Houston, TX.


Mehriban, please tell us about yourself?

I was born in Baku in 1985, graduated from Tusi gymnasium and entered Secondary high school No.160 in 2000. I followed my mother to the US in 2003 when she accepted a position in Chicago, IL. In 2006 I got accepted to The Fund for American Studies program and moved to the city of my dreams, Washington DC. There graduated from George Mason University with a degree in Economics in May 2009. Shortly after that I joined Marcus & Millichap as a Transaction Analyst in Houston, TX. I am a member of Azerbaijani Women of America and the Board of Directors of the U.S. Azerbaijanis Network (USAN)…

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Three Worlds

There are three worlds: the one you want to live in, the one that’s good for you, and the one you actually live in.”


***


Even though I did refer to women’s stories in some of my posts I have never actually written about gender issues. Maybe because I have never been interested in this topic enough to write.


I have never divided people by gender, race or nationality. I’m more cynical. For me people are either meaningful or meaningless. Regardless if they’re men or women.


My one and only place of work – Foundation A, where I spent two years of my life and changed in so many ways, I will not be able to count – was not only perfect because of the work I got to do and the people I got to meet, but also because of one person there – my boss.


Besides actually teaching me how to do my work he was also a close friend, someone I could tell about my problems, concerns, and fears. After one of such conversations he told me something I keep in my mind ever since: “You have two options in your life: (1) To become your mom; (2) To become yourself”. And I knew exactly what he meant by that.


***


D. is an absolutely amazing person. Because of her capacity, attitude and natural networking skills, she can make friends with literally anyone. She was a popular kid at the university. She would travel around the USSR and meet people everywhere she would go.


She got married at 26, which is considered pretty late for an Azeri girl even today. Her husband was 12 years older. Right after the wedding she had to quit her job, since the husband wanted her to stay home with the kids. She did not mind – it was the right thing to do.


Two kids and several years later her husband lost his job due to an unstable situation in the country and principles he could not break. He went abroad to earn money. She stayed.


She was 42 when she found her first job after a 15-year break. She changed several places of work and positions in six years. She worked in a bank, insurance company, concrete factory and perfume company. She learned how to use a computer and had to overcome all kinds of difficulties coming her way. And every day she would come home to the apartment that was not actually hers, to see her two teenage kids, an empty fridge and think what to do next.


When her husband came back after two years of absence and unsuccessful attempts to do something he was not meant to, in order to earn for his family, she had a good job and at least some confidence about the future. Several months later he received a good proposal and everything went back to normal. And of course, he asked her to quit the job again. She did.


Today, her life is mostly about her family, online friends and going out to karaoke or dinners with friends on weekends. And the huge potential she still has is lost somewhere in the labyrinths of everyday routine. Nothing more, nothing less.


She’s happy. Or at least seems so.


She is the one I take my inner freedom from and the reason for my commitment issues.


She’s my mom.


***

I have never divided people by race, nationality and especially gender. Simply because some examples around me clearly show that both men and women can be equally strong or weak, special or ordinary, meaningful or meaningless.


I am lucky enough to have a non-
traditional Azerbaijani brother, who has always respected my right for privacy and would never interfere in my life. I grew up in a family that tried to understand me even when it was a difficult thing for them to do. I would also meet people who would try to take “me” from me and I had to lose parts of myself again and again.


But lucky as I am, I woke up before it was too late. I brought myself back together, realized who I am and chose my path, full of new territories, right and wrong decisions, different people and self-
analysis. I am trying to be meaningful.


I’m neither woman, nor man here.


I’m me.


And no one can take this away anymore.


***


There are three worlds: the one you want to live in, the one that’s good for you, and the one you actually live in.


Choose one.


Written for www.women-forum.net


Nino&Insight. Baku. 30.05.09.

Nino Katamadze & Insight in Baku. Singing ‘Olei’ with Azeri jazz singer Ulviyya Rahimova.

I’ve been waiting for her for 4 years. Now I have a hug and a picture from her as well as memories from the breathtaking concert. What else would I need? )

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