The story of the Azerbaijani jazz of the 20th and 21st centuries, shown through the photos of a jazz festival in Baku
The price of the tickets is quite high, which means most of the festival attendees are either wealthier Azerbaijanis or foreigners. Still, jazz is popular in Baku.
Neither the invasion of the Red Army, nor the establishment of the Soviet rule in 1920 could put a damper on jazz music in Baku. In 1922, the city held its first jazz concert.
However, before long the Soviet government’s attitude to jazz started to change. After Stalin came into power, those who played or listened to the music risked being arrested. In one of his essays, influential writer Maxim Gorky wrote: “Jazz is tantamount to homosexuality, drugs and eroticism”.
Jazz was banned in the Soviet Union after World War II, forcing the musicians to emigrate or go underground. One of the places where underground jazz did relatively well was Baku.
The museum caretaker woman said Vagif spent hours playing the piano, composing music that would go on to become famous due to its unique mix of jazz and Azerbaijani folk - Mugham.
Things changed after Stalin's death. Jazz started to come out of the shadows. In the 1960s, the bands could perform openly again. One of the first post-ban jazz festivals took place in Baku in 1969. It was Vagif Mustafazadeh who won the festival’s first prize. He became an inspiration for the next generations of musicians and made Azerbaijani jazz famous around the world.
Still, there are jazz musicians in Baku, and many of them are famous and popular.
Raul Sultanov says the festival is a way to support these musicians and put Azerbaijan back on the world map of Jazz.