Uzeyir Hajibeyov

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Uzeyir Hajibeyov
Üzeyir bəy Hacıbəyov
Üzeyir Hacıbəyov6.gif
Hajibeyov in 1945
Background information
Also known as Uzeyir Bey
Born (1885-09-18)September 18, 1885
Origin Azerbaijan Agjabadi, Azerbaijan
Died November 23, 1948(1948-11-23) (aged 63)
Genres Classical
Occupation(s) Composer, conductor, publicist, playwright, teacher, translator
Years active 51 years

Uzeyir bey Abdul Huseyn oglu Hajibeyov (Azerbaijani: Üzeyir bəy Əbdülhüseyn oğlu Hacıbəyov, Azerbaijani pronunciation: [yzeˈjiɾ ˌhɑd͡ʒɯˈbæjov] / عزیر حاجی‌بیوو; Russian: Узеир Абдул-Гусейн оглы Гаджибеков; September 18, 1885, Shusha (Aghjabadi village), Russian Empire – November 23, 1948, Baku, Azerbaijani SSR, Soviet Union) was an Azerbaijani and Soviet composer, conductor, publicist, playwright, teacher, translator, and social figure from Azerbaijan. He is recognized as the father of Azerbaijani composed classical music and opera. Uzeyir Hajibeyov composed the music of the national anthem of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (which was re-adopted after Azerbaijan regained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991). He also composed the anthem used by Azerbaijan during the Soviet period. He was the first composer of an opera in the Islamic world.[1][2]

Early life

Uzeyir Hajibeyov was born in Agjabadi in the Elisabethpol Governorate of the Russian Empire, which is now part of Azerbaijan. His father, Abdul Huseyn Hajibeyov, was the secretary to Khurshidbanu Natavan for many years, and his mother, Shirin, grew up in the Natavan household.[3] Growing up, Hajibeyov was strongly influenced by Natavan's work.[4]

Shusha, often dubbed as the cradle of Azerbaijani music and culture, had a reputation for its musical heritage. The town was also referred to as "the Music Conservatory of the Caucasus" because of its many talented musicians and singers. And the fact that Hajibeyov grew up in Shusha explains how at 22, in 1908, with very little formal musical education, he was capable of writing a full-length opera.

File:First "Majnun" of "Leyli and Majnun" opera - G.Sarabsky, Baku. 1908.jpg
Huseyngulu Sarabski as the first Majnun in the opera Leyli and Majnun (Baku, 1908).

Hajibeyov received his early education in a religious school (madrasah), where he perfected his Arabic and Persian. Later he studied at a two-year Russian-Azerbaijani school. Here, with the help of his favourite teacher Mirza Mehdi Hasanzadeh, he familiarized himself with the heritage of the famous classic writers of the East and the West. The richness of the musical performance tradition of Shusha greatly influenced the musical education of Uzeyir Hajibeyov. He would later reflect on his experiences: "The first musical education I got as a child in Shusha came from best singers and saz-players. At that time I sang mughams and tasnifs. The singers liked my voice. They would make me sing and teach me at the same time." Uzeyir Hajibeyov's first teacher was his uncle Agalar Aliverdibeyov, an excellent connoisseur of Azeri folk music. In 1897–1898, when Azerbaijani playwright Abdurrahim Hagverdiyev and singer Jabbar Garyagdyoglu staged the episode Majnun on Leyli's grave from Leyli and Majnun, 13-year-old Uzeyir sang in the choir.[5] From 1899 to 1904 Uzeyir Hajibeyov studied at the Gori Pedagogical Seminary. There, along with general education, he also acquired music. In this school Hajibeyov learned to play the violin, the violoncello and the brass instrument. After his graduation from the Pedagogical Seminary, Uzeyir Hajibeyov was appointed a teacher to the village of Hadrut in Upper Karabakh. Having worked there for a year, Hajibeyov permanently settled in Baku, where he carried on his career in teaching mathematics, geography, history, Azeri and Russian languages, and music. He wrote the Turkic-Russian and Russian-Turkic Dictionary of Political, Legal, Economic and Military Terms, Used in Press in 1907 and the textbook Arithmetic Problems in 1908, and had them published by the Orujov Brothers Publishing House in Baku.[6]

Hajibeyov was no stranger to the tragic chaos of war; he lived through the Revolutions of 1905 and 1917, the fall of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan in 1920, and both World Wars. The political repercussions of these military conquests often manifested in other forms of chaos. For example, between 1920 and 1940, the alphabet systems for writing Azeri were changed three times — from Arabic to Latin, and from Latin to Cyrillic[7] — a process which greatly hindered and interrupted the educational and cultural process and may well have been one of the factors influencing Uzeyir Hajibeyov to present his ideas verbally on the musical stage.

Merging traditional and Western styles

File:Üzeyir Hacıbəyov3.gif
Uzeyir Hajibeyov with his wife

Throughout all the tumultuous change in Azerbaijan that took place between 1900 and 1940, one characteristic consistently reflects the character of Uzeyir Hajibeyov. He always searched for ways to merge and integrate the past with the present rather than to discard either form. Rather curiously, even files at the Gori Pedagogical Seminary have shown his persistence in holding on to his own roots even under pressure. On December 3, 1900, when he was 15, it is noted that "the student, Uzeyir Hajibeyov, was rebuked because he was talking in his native language." Conversely, when Russian-influenced musicians tried to ban traditional Azerbaijani instruments like the tar, zurna and kamancha, Hajibeyov and his colleagues pushed to incorporate them into the Western orchestra, thereby, giving them an even higher status and ultimately a chance to survive.

Musical contributions

File:Uzeir Hajibeyov's manuscript Arshin-mal-alan.jpg
Uzeyir Hajibeyov's manuscript of Arshin Mal Alan, written in 1913.

In 1908, Hajibeyov wrote his first opera, Leyli and Majnun, based on the tragic love story[8] by the 15th century poet Fuzûlî. This would be the first of 7 operas and 3 musical comedies that Hajibeyov would compose throughout his life. In Leyli and Majnun, the uniqueness of the traditional modal music of mugham was incorporated into a Western genre with the use of instruments indigenous to both traditions.

Hajibeyov's second opera Sheikh Sanan was written in 1909 in a form that was entirely opposite to the first. This time Hajibeyov employed a purely European style. Sheikh Sanan received raves as a musical composition, but the content was too progressive for the period. In this opera, Hajibeyov advocated that marriage should not be bound by nationality or religion - in essence, it was another form of integration. But this time, it backfired. The story line follows a religious sheikh on his way to Mecca who meets a very beautiful Georgian lady. To his horror, the lovely creature's father turns out to be a swineherd, caring for what, to him, was a forbidden animal. In the end, the sheikh denounces his religion to win the woman. It is said that when the opera was performed, many people were offended and walked out, leaving Hajibeyov with the realization that he had outpaced his generation too much this time. As a result, he made a drastic decision and burned the score. When asked by Ramazan Khalilov, his assistant, how he could do that, Hajibeyov replied: "I didn't destroy my opera. It's my own creation so it's always in my head." Khalilov said that Hajibeyov went on to use this same magnificent music 27 years later to create Koroğlu, an opera that many acclaim to be his finest.[9][10]

In contrast to Sheikh Sanan, Hajibeyov's operas Rustam and Sohrab (1910), Asli and Karam (1912), Shah Abbas and Khurshid Banu (1912), and Harun and Leyli (1915) were entirely based on Azeri folk music elements, primarily mugham.

In October 2006, the musical comedy Arshin Mal Alan ("The Cloth Peddler") by Uzeyir Hajibeyov, written in 1913, was announced to be performed on western stages for the first time.

File:Poster, "Arshin mal alan" comedy at Femina theatre of Paris, 1925.jpg
A poster of "Arshin Mal Alan" at Femina theatre of Paris in 1925.

One of Hajibeyov's greatest legacies was bringing forward the idea of establishing a professional music school. Hence the Baku Academy of Music (known then as the Azerbaijan State Conservatoire), was founded in 1920 and named after Hajibeyov after his death. The school has trained Azerbaijan's finest composers such as Gara Garayev, Fikrat Amirov, Jovdat Hajiyev, Soltan Hajibeyov, Tofig Guliyev, and Vagif Mustafazade. His statue "sits" in front of this grand building that is still devoted to the synthesizing Eastern and Western musical traditions.

In 1931, Hajibeyov helped in establishing the Azeri Folk Instruments Orchestra affiliated with the Radio Committee. This orchestra performed European classical pieces, such as those by Mikhail Glinka, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Schubert, Georges Bizet and others. Hajibeyov thus was the first musician to adapt the note system to traditional Azeri musical instruments.

In 1936, Hajibeyov assisted in founding of the Azerbaijani State Choir within the Azerbaijan Philharmonic Society. One of the most serious problems he faced was the mono-voiced repertoire of Azeri folk songs, which allowed harmonization distort style of the song and, on occasion, even alter the melody line when it changed modes. Hajibeyov resolved this problem by using contrapuntal polyphony and unison-doubling rather than four-part singing in the problematic sections.

Hajibeyov devoted much energy to the idea of integrating woman's role and status into the male-dominated world. The concept of women's emancipation runs through many of his works often in the form of comedy or satirization as in the case when he makes fun of the process of selecting marriage partners, a process hindered by the fact that women were still wearing veils until the 1920s when the Soviet regime prohibited them.


From 1919 to 1920 Hajibeyov served as editor-in-chief for the newspaper Azerbaijan, the main governmental media body of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan.

In 1927, Hajibeyov published Collection of Azerbaijani Folk Songs along with composer Muslim Magomayev. For the first time, more than 300 pieces of Azeri folk music were documented by notation. In 1945, he published the book entitled The Basis of Folk Music in Azerbaijan, which has been translated into several languages including English.

Official honours

Commemorative stelae in Donaupark, Vienna.

Hajibeyov was the creator of the first operas and operettas in the Orient.[11] In 1938, he was awarded with the title of People's Artist of the USSR. He was also honored with the Order of Lenin and the Stalin Prize which he won twice, once in 1941 for the opera Koroghlu (1936), and the other time in 1946 for the 1945 film based on his opera Arshin Mal Alan.

Hajibeyov was a professor at the Baku Academy of Music (of which he was also head in 1928–1929 and 1939–1948) and Active Member of the Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan. For the last 10 years of his life, he was Chairman of the Union of Azerbaijani Composers.

Hajibeyov joined the Communist Party in 1938.[12] He served twice as a deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union, the highest legislative institution in the Union.

Hajibeyov died of diabetes at the age of 63, and was buried at the Alley of Honor in Baku.

On September 18, 1995 the 110th anniversary of Hajibeyov's birth has been celebrated. No one in the history of modern music in Azerbaijan is recognized for having done more to lay the foundation for Azerbaijani music as it exists today, especially with its unique synthesis of Eastern and Western traditional musical instruments and musical forms.

In 2008 the National Bank of Azerbaijan minted a 100 manat gold commemorative coin dedicated to Hajibeyov's memory.[13]

In June 2011 President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and President of Serbia Tadic unveiled a monument of Hajibeyov on the Dunavski kej in Novi Sad, Serbia.[14]

On the occasion of the 130th birthday anniversary of the composer, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti proclaimed September 18, 2015 as the "Uzeyir Hajibeyli Memorial Day" in the City of Los Angeles and called on all residents to join this celebration.[15] Also U.S. Congressman Paul Gosar from Arizona extended a Congressional Record recognizing Hajibeyov's achievements.[16]

Stage works

In popular culture

In 2013, Google celebrated Hajibeyov's 128th Birthday with Google Doodle on its Azerbaijani version.[17][18]

See also


  1. Matthew O'Brien (2004). Uzeir Hajibeyov and his role in the development of musical life in Azerbaijan. Routledge. p. 211. ISBN 9780415302197. Leyli and Majnun was not only the first opera by an Azeri composer, but also the Islamic world's first opera<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. William O. McCagg, Brian D. Silver (1979). Soviet Asian ethnic frontiers. Pergamon Press. ISBN 978-0-08-024637-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Abasova, L. V. et al. (eds.) (1992) Istoria azerbaijanskoi muziki Maarif, Baku, pp. 85-86, in Russian
  4. Naroditskaya, Inna (2000) "Azerbaijanian Female Musicians: Women's Voices Defying and Defining the Culture" Ethnomusicology 44(2): pp. 234-256, p.242
  5. Uzeyir Hajibeyov.
  6. Biography of Uzeyir Hajibeyov at
  7. "Alphabet Transitions: The Latin Script: A Chronology" Azerbaijan International, Vol. 5:2 (Summer 1997), pp. 22-24.
  8. "Leyli and Majnun - 90th Jubilee: The Opera that Shaped the Music of a Nation" Azerbaijan International, Vol. 5:4 (Winter 1997), p. 25.
  9. "Composer Uzeyir Hajibeyov: 110 Jubilee" Azerbaijan International, Vol. 3:3 (Autumn 1995), pp. 76 ff.
  10. "Why Uzeyir Hajibeyov wrote Koroghlu at Height of Stalin's Repressions" by Betty Blair, Azerbaijan International, Vol. 14:2 (Summer 2006), p. 61.
  11. Eight of Hajibeyov's librettos of operas and operettas in Azeri Latin and English translation at
  12. "Гаджибеков Узеир Абдул Гусейн оглы" ("Hajibeyov, Uzeyir Abdul Hussein oglu"). Большая Советская Энциклопедия (The Great Soviet Encyclopedia). Third Edition. Ed. Alexander Prokhorov. Moscow: Soviet Encyclopedia, 1969-1978. (Russian)
  13. Central Bank of Azerbaijan. Commemorative coins. Coins produced within 1992-2010: Gold coin dedicated to the memory of Uzeyir Hajibeyov. – Retrieved on 25 February 2010.
  14. "News - Serbia, Azerbaijan "moving toward strategic partnership"". B92. Retrieved 2012-02-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Missing or empty |title= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Missing or empty |title= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "Uzeyir Hacibeyov's 128th Birthday (Azerbaijan)". Google. Retrieved 6 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "Google создал "дудл" в честь Узеира Гаджибекова". (in Russian). Retrieved 6 November 2014.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links