Vagif Mustafazadeh

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Vagif Mustafazadeh
Vaqif Mustafazadə
Born(1940-03-16)March 16, 1940
Baku, USSR
DiedDecember 16, 1979(1979-12-16) (aged 39)
Tashkent, Uzbekistan SSR
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s)Composer, musician
Years active13 years

Vagif Mustafazadeh (Azerbaijani : Vaqif Mustafazadə; March 16, 1940 – December 16, 1979), also known as Vaqif Mustafa-Zadeh, was an Azerbaijani jazz pianist and composer, acclaimed for fusing jazz and the traditional Azerbaijani folk music known as mugham. According to many world famous jazz musicians, [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] Mustafazadeh is one of the pioneers and "the architect of jazz in Azerbaijan". [2]

Azerbaijani language Turkic language

Azerbaijani or Azeri, sometimes also Azeri Turkic or Azeri Turkish, is a term referring to two Turkic lects that are spoken primarily by the Azerbaijanis, who live mainly in Transcaucasia and Iran. North Azerbaijani and South Azerbaijani have significant differences in phonology, lexicon, morphology, syntax, and loanwords. ISO 639-3 groups the two lects as a "macrolanguage".

Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, United States, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and developed from roots in blues and ragtime. Jazz is seen by many as "America's classical music". Since the 1920s Jazz Age, jazz has become recognized as a major form of musical expression. It then emerged in the form of independent traditional and popular musical styles, all linked by the common bonds of African-American and European-American musical parentage with a performance orientation. Jazz is characterized by swing and blue notes, call and response vocals, polyrhythms and improvisation. Jazz has roots in West African cultural and musical expression, and in African-American music traditions including blues and ragtime, as well as European military band music. Intellectuals around the world have hailed jazz as "one of America's original art forms".

Mugham folk musical composition from Azerbaijan

Mugham is one of the many folk musical compositions from Azerbaijan, contrasting with tasnif and ashiks.


Early life

Mustafazadeh was born in Old City, the historic core of Baku, on March 16, 1940. His name was chosen by the renowned poet, Samed Vurgun, on the request of his mother, who was a piano teacher in local music school and played very influential and immeasurable role in his success. [6]

Old City (Baku) the historical core of Baku, World Heritage Site

Old City or Inner City is the historical core of Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. The Old City is the most ancient part of Baku, which is surrounded by walls were well protected. In 2007, the Old City had a population of about 3000 people. In December 2000, the Old City of Baku, including the Palace of the Shirvanshahs and Maiden Tower, became the first location in Azerbaijan to be classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Baku Place in Azerbaijan

Baku is the capital and largest city of Azerbaijan, as well as the largest city on the Caspian Sea and of the Caucasus region. Baku is located 28 metres (92 ft) below sea level, which makes it the lowest lying national capital in the world and also the largest city in the world located below sea level. Baku lies on the southern shore of the Absheron Peninsula, alongside the Bay of Baku. At the beginning of 2009, Baku's urban population was estimated at just over 2,000,000 people. Officially, about 25 percent of all inhabitants of the country live in Baku's metropolitan area. Baku is the sole metropolis in Azerbaijan.

In 1963, he graduated from Baku State Musical School named after Asaf Zeynally and a year later accepted to Azerbaijan State Conservatoire. He first achieved fame at the Music School where he studied by giving concerts there, later on performing at the parties and evenings held at the universities and clubs, shortly after he became one of the most influential musical performers in Azerbaijan. While performing at the clubs, he mainly played classical jazz, as well as blues and dance music.

Asaf Zeynally Azerbaijani composer

Asaf Zeynalabdin oglu Zeynally, also spelled Zeynalli, was an Azerbaijani composer.

Baku Academy of Music university

The Hajibeyov Baku Academy of Music is a music school in Baku, Azerbaijan. It was established in 1920 in Baku and was previously known as the Hajibeyov Azerbaijan State Conservatoire.

Blues is a music genre and musical form which was originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1870s by African Americans from roots in African musical traditions, African-American work songs, spirituals, and the folk music of white Americans of European heritage. Blues incorporated spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts, chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads. The blues form, ubiquitous in jazz, rhythm and blues and rock and roll, is characterized by the call-and-response pattern, the blues scale and specific chord progressions, of which the twelve-bar blues is the most common. Blue notes, usually thirds or fifths flattened in pitch, are also an essential part of the sound. Blues shuffles or walking bass reinforce the trance-like rhythm and form a repetitive effect known as the groove.

Soviet prohibition

Musical prohibitions during the 1940s and 1950s meant that the playing of jazz was banned in the USSR, including Azerbaijan. Since there was no opportunity to get jazz records from anywhere, Mustafazade listened to jazz pieces, learning from movies where he heard jazz music and BBC radio and sang Meykhana, rhythmic poetry, which had also been banned. After listening on the radio, he and his friend Vagif Samadoglu attempted to recreate the music on the piano.


Meykhana is a distinctive Azerbaijani literary and folk rap tradition, consisting of an unaccompanied song performed by one or more people improvising on a particular subject. Meykhana is distinct from spoken word poetry in that it is performed in time to a beat.

Popularity and recognition

From the 1960s, prohibitions put on jazz music were gradually lifted and thus the late 1960s and 70s became a time when Baku was a real center of locally inspired jazz. By this time, Mustafazade was making his way to his audience and his popularity grew. His name was often mentioned among other jazz musicians and he participated in festivals held in his native land, as well as in and outside the Soviet countries. Since making a strong impression in his early years at college, his music progressed and popularity grew; he appeared in many festivals.

In 1966, Willis Conover, conductor of the "Jazz Time" radio program, even went as far as to say, "Vagif Mustafazadeh is an extraordinary pianist. It is impossible to identify his equal. He is the most lyrical pianist I have ever known. [2]

Willis Conover American radio producer

Willis Clark Conover, Jr. was a jazz producer and broadcaster on the Voice of America for over forty years. He produced jazz concerts at the White House, the Newport Jazz Festival, and for movies and television. By arranging concerts where people of all races were welcome, he is credited with desegregating Washington D.C. nightclubs. Conover is credited with keeping interest in jazz alive in the countries of Eastern Europe through his nightly broadcasts during the Cold War.

In 1965, he quit the conservatoire and went to Tbilisi to lead the "Orero" musical ensemble. Later he created the "Qafqaz" jazz trio at Georgian State Philarmony. In 1970 the "Leyli" women's quartet and in 1971 "Sevil" vocal-instrumental ensemble were assembled by him. Until 1977 he guided the groups. Between 1977-1979 until his death he led the "Mugham" instrumental ensemble which was also organized by him.Vagif attended "Tallinn-66" All-Soviet Union Jazz Festival and "Caz-69" Azerbaijani jazz festivals and was awarded as laureate there. Mustafazadeh was also elected as laureate at Donetsk All-Soviet Union Jazz Festival held in 1977. He was elected as the best pianist in "Tbilisi-78". He won first prize at the 8th International Competition of Jazz Composers for his composition "Waiting for Aziza" in Monaco in 1978, and was awarded a white grand piano, but died the next year. Vagif Mustafazadeh was named Honored Artist of Azerbaijan SSR and after his death was honoured with an Azerbaijani State Prize.

Tbilisi Capital city in Georgia

Tbilisi, in some countries also still known by its pre-1936 international designation Tiflis, is the capital and the largest city of Georgia, lying on the banks of the Kura River with a population of approximately 1.5 million people. Founded in the 5th century AD by Vakhtang I of Iberia, since then Tbilisi served as the capital of various Georgian kingdoms and republics. Between 1801 and 1917, then part of the Russian Empire, Tbilisi was the seat of the Imperial Viceroy, governing both Southern and Northern Caucasus.

Donetsk City of regional significance in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine

Donetsk is an industrial city in Ukraine on the Kalmius River. The population was estimated at 929,063 (2016 est.) in the city, and over 2,000,000 in the metropolitan area (2011). According to the 2001 Ukrainian Census, Donetsk was the fifth-largest city in Ukraine.

The Tbilisi Jazz Festival is an annual international jazz festival held in Tbilisi, Georgia, which, along with Batumi's Black Sea Jazz Festival, is the country's main jazz event. It was first held in 1978 and became an annual event in 2000. Its traditional venue is the Tbilisi Concert Hall.

Jazz mugham

Mustafazadeh is the founder of Azerbaijani jazz mugham movement that emerged in the late 1960s and 1970s in Baku, as a result of the mixture of these two styles. He began searching for new ways to structure his improvisations by exploring modal music. More innovative approaches were taken by him and its influence stretched into later developments of this style.


Grave of Vagif Mustafazadeh in Baku Vaqif Mustafazad@nin m@zari.jpg
Grave of Vagif Mustafazadeh in Baku

Mustafazadeh died of a heart attack shortly after a concert in Tashkent and also shortly before the birthdays of his wife (December 17) and daughter (December 19).

Personal life

Mustafazadeh was married twice; from his first marriage he had a daughter named Lala, a talented classical pianist. She won the Grand Prize in the Epinal Piano Competition, France, in 1991. His second marriage was to Eliza, and from that union was born Aziza Mustafa Zadeh, also a jazz musician. [7]


His works and performance were praised by internationally known leading world musicians, such as Willis Conover and B.B. King. Once when King shared the same stage with Mustafazade, he heard him playing the blues piano and said nobody could play the blues like him and afterwards said to Vagif that "people call me the king of the blues, but if I could play the piano like you do, I would call myself God." [8]

More than three decades since Mustafazade's death, a larger number of his recordings from all periods of his career are more widely available in stores than at any time during his lifetime.

House museum

The building housing Vagif Mustafazadeh House museum Mustafazadeh Museum Baku.jpg
The building housing Vagif Mustafazadeh House museum

With the initiative of Former Minister of Culture, Polad Bulbuloglu, Vagif Mustafazadeh's House museum was established. First, the museum was run by Jazzman's mother, Zivar khanum. Afterwards, she behested the museum to her niece, Afag. Afag Aliyeva has been head of the museum since 1997. In 2004, the expositions as well as the building of the museum was restored with her initiative. Beginning from 2004, the museum operates as a state museum under the control of Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Azerbaijan. [9]

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Music of Azerbaijan overview of music traditions in Azerbaijan

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Franghiz Ali-Zadeh Azerbaijani composer

Franghiz Ali-Zadeh is an Azerbaijani composer and pianist, currently living in Germany. She is best known for her works that combine the musical tradition of the Azerbaijani mugam and 20th century Western compositional techniques, especially those of Arnold Schoenberg and Gara Garayev. Her works have been performed by Yo-Yo Ma and the Kronos Quartet. On June 20, 2007, Ali-Zadeh was elected chair of the Composers' Union of Azerbaijan.

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The Azerbaijani jazz is a popular variety of jazz, widespread in Azerbaijan. It covers a broad range of styles and often features a blend with traditional Azeri music. Among modern famed Azeri jazz musicians are Aziza Mustafazadeh, who was influenced by Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett, Isfar Sarabski, Salman Gambarov and Rain Sultanov.

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House-museum of Vagif Mustafazadeh is a memorial museum of the Azerbaijani jazz-pianist and composer, Vagif Mustafazadeh, and it was established on July 28, 1989. In 1994, it became a branch of the Azerbaijan State Museum of Musical Culture. From 1989 to 1997, the director of the museum was Zivar Agasaf qizi Aliyeva.

Jazz mugham

The Jazz mugham is a variant of a musical fusion genre that developed from mixing Azerbaijani jazz with mugham, typically instrumental compositions with a jazz approach to lengthy group improvisations, often using wind and vocal music and displaying a high level of instrumental technique.

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Vagif Jazz Festival – traditional jazz festival dedicated to the 75th anniversary of Vagif Mustafazadeh, composer, pianist, the founder of jazz-mugham style in Azerbaijan.

The festivals in Azerbaijan are held throughout the year in different regions of the country. The city of Baku is considered as the most important center of the festivals due to their scale and types. The festivals in each region, on other hand represent its own local characteristics mostly related to its food, fruit and so on.


  1. Azerbaijan's traditional music back from brink
  2. 1 2 3 В Баку представлена Всемирная энциклопедия джаза, в которую вошли имена Вагифа и Азизы Мустафазаде
  3. Continuum encyclopedia of popular music of the world
  4. Continuum encyclopedia of popular music of the world Song of the Land of Fire
  5. Soviet music and society under Lenin and Stalin: the baton and sickle
  6. Tsypylma Darieva, Wolfgang Kaschuba, Melanie Krebs. Urban Spaces After Socialism: Ethnographies of Public Places in Eurasian Cities. — Campus Verlag, 2011 — p. 236 — ISBN   9783593393841
  7. «Вагиф Мустафа-заде: маэстро, сын, отец…» Archived 2016-02-06 at the Wayback Machine .
  8. «Больше, чем обычная любовь». Archived 2016-03-13 at the Wayback Machine . Azərbaycan gadını
  9. "Vagif Mustafazadeh's House Museum".