Mugham, Meykhana, Jazz: Musical Performances, Traditionalism and National Identity in Contemporary Azerbaijan

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    • Presentation speakers
      • Aneta Strzemżalska, European University at Saint Petersburg, Russia


    After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Azerbaijan again proclaimed its independence. Seceding from a superpower with a population of 250 million, and becoming a nation of its own with a population of 8 million, the Azerbaijanis started looking for answers to basic questions: Who are we? What new values should we acquire? Using music as a way to study the new national identity the researcher observed participation inmusic festivals in Baku and other South Caucasian cities, conducted in-depth interviews with local elites, musicians, people in show business, and analyzed discourse about the musicalperformances. In particular the researcher examined Azerbaijani co-called “traditional” music movements. The study explores why mugham, meykhana, and jazz have come to represent Azerbaijan, how they have been approached and produced, and why memory and tradition, in these particular forms, have taken on particular significance in different historical periods: the beginning of the past century, the Soviet times, and nowadays. Above all it the research points to music “traditions” in Azerbaijan as being an artificial cultural construct, which is periodically reinvented. It also demonstrates how “folk revival” has played a key role in strengthening Azerbaijani national consciousness in the post-Soviet period.