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Azerbaijan in London!

Published 18 December 2009

The first part of the programme series dedicated to Azerbaijan was the Azerbaijan Cultural Weekend, held in the prestigeous Cadogan Hall on 21-22 November 2009. This offered an invaluable opportunity to get an insight into the vibrant culture of Azeri people. Azerbaijan is a former Soviet state is located in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. The country, called the Land of Fire due to its burning hillsides caused by gas seeping through the strata – which phenomena would be enough of its own to overawe us – merges Western and Eastern motifs and styles in a unique way.

Azerbaijan Cultural Weekend - Dancer - London The event, organized by The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS), brought the Azerbaijan State Dance Ensemble to London, whose performance on the first day made the audience forget about the rainy and crisp early winter weather. The Ensemble includes acclaimed dancers like Tarana Muradova, Eteri Jafarova or Sevinj Huseynli. The elegant but lusty and proud choreography with delightful costumes showed us a remarkable slice of Azeri culture. Following this entrancing dance, one of the leading bands of the country, the Bakustic Jazz, fascinated us with elements of traditional Mugham music.

The state-of-the-art performances on the first day ensured a full house for the second day of performances. On the 22nd November, the main attraction was the London-based Orion Symphony Orchestra’s play, conducted by Yalchin Adigezalov, one of the most revered figures of Azerbaijani classical music.

Over the two days, the audience was given the opportunity to indulge in Azerbaijani food, compliments of the organizer’s hospitality. In addition, a stunning exhibition of photographs introduced the other side of Azeri history, the tragic Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict of the 1990s, which originated in the early 20th century and ended in the Khojali Massacre on 26th of February 1992.

Azerbaijan Mugham Orchestra For those who missed the event, please note that as mentioned, these two days were only the opening of a series, ending in March 2010. The Buta Festival of Azerbaijani Arts (November 2009-March 2010) promises the same performances of high standard. The Moscow-based Buta Art Center aims to promote the culture of Azerbaijan in Europe. Their first performance was Shahin Novrasli’s concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (Southbank Centre). This rising international star and his band presented an unforgettable night of exotic jazz. Forthcoming events include Rena Effendi’s photo exhibition on BP’s Baku-Tibilisi Ceyham pipeline in the Host Gallery (1 Honduras Street, EC1Y 0TH) from December 17th till the 16th January. On the 12th of January, Rena will give a talk on the real impact of the oil trade.

The Slow Food Festival at Southbank Centre (19-22 December) is a great opportunity to try some of the Azerbaijani food specialities like dushbara, kutabi, or narsharab. The discussion at Frontline Club on the events of 20 January 1990 will demonstrate the situation of Azerbaijan before the break-up of the USSR. The Pushkin House, London’s Russian Cultural Centre, will host a lecture and performance on Mugham at the end of January. Next we can enjoy an evening of this music on the 9th of February in the Church of St Martin-in-the-Fields at the north eastern corner of Trafalgar Square. Vice president of the Russian Arts Academy, Tair Salakov’s exhibition will be received by Sotheby’s from 18 to 25 February. The Gala Concert on the 7th  of March takes aim to celebrate both traditional Mugham and contemporary Azeri music.

This rich and varied program ensures there is something interesting for everyone, from art-lovers to history buffs. This series of exhibitions and performances is one of the rare few creative insights into the culture and society of Azerbaijan, and should not be missed.

Written by Adrienn Gecse.