Bongo Joe are back again with more psychedelic wedding music – this time Azerbaijan Gitara is a nine-track reissue compilation of legendary Azerbaijani guitarist, Rüstəm Quliyev (we loved previous BJ compilation Maghreb K7 Club Synth that explored electronic folk music from Algeria via Lyon – Ed.). The styles that BJ unearth and reissue are so valuable, extraordinary and wonderful (check out our interview with the label). It’s released on September 18th on CD, LP and digital, and includes extensive liner notes from compliers Ben Wheeler and Stefan Williamson Fa.
First single Əfqan Musiqisi is out now, translating to “Afghan Music” and featuring on a cassette of Quliyev’s with the same name. Əfqan Musiqisi is a fusion of Azerbaijani gitara and Afghan dance-pop with Quilyev’s love of the latter really coming to the fore since meeting an Afghan student who introduced him to the music of Afghan pop legend Ahmad Zair in the 1990s.
This live performance is quite something also, fusing a range of electronic elements and a very deep intro. The rest of the compilation will wow listeners too.
The music meets at the intersection of Eastern Europe, Russia and the Middle East, where Quliyev is a legend in the culturally vibrant expanse of Azerbaijan, a country abound with rich folk culture and a vast music tradition deeply rooted in the electric guitar. The electric guitar (gitara in Azerbaijani) first entered the music scene in Azerbaijan in the 1960s, however it was not until the arrival of trailblazing Azerbaijani guitarist, Rafiq Hüseynov (AKA Rəmiş), that gitara music. became so popularised. Rəmiş’ technique (altering the tuning by quarter tones to match local Azerbaijani musics) was radically different from American or European players at the time and would go on to inspire a new generation of musicians, including a young Rüstəm Quliyev.
Rüstəm Quliyev was born in 1969 in the village of Kosalar, Nagorno Karabakh, a mountainous region in South East Azerbaijan. Having mastered the tar (a long-necked, lute-like, traditional Azerbaijani string instrument) by the age of seven, Quliyev began to play the saz, before discovering the instrument that would go on to change his life forever. After moving to Baku in the early 1990s and whilst hip-hop, acid house and electro-pop swept the western world, Quliyev performed at weddings, made TV appearances and recorded numerous cassettes with small local labels.
One thing that distinguished Rüstəm’s guitar playing was the global scope of his musical influences. According to his brothers, Rüstəm was constantly searching for new music and songs. When he watched a new film, he would instantly pick up melodies from their soundtracks to play along on guitar and collected cassettes from neighbouring countries and incorporated pieces from Turkey and Iran into his wedding sets.
After a short battle with lung cancer, Rüstəm Quliyev sadly passed away in 2005. Quliyev remains a cherished figure in modern Azerbaijani popular music and his memory lives on with this forthcoming compilation of a pioneer and taste maker.