The people of Shusha made it the pearl of the Caucasus, the cradle of our culture, the mugham-singing heart of Azerbaijan
Jabbar Garyaghdioghlu (31 March 1861 – 20 April 1944) was an Azerbaijani folk singer (khananda). He is known as the first khananda to perform mughamats (mugam) in the Azerbaijan language. He mostly sang in Azerbaijani and Persian. He was widely known both as a khananda and as a composer who performed both folk songs and his own song compositions. He was the author of new texts – tesnifs. His song “Baku” enjoyed great popularity in the 1930s-1940s. Jabbar Garyaghdioghlu was also known outside the Caucasus and his art was admired by various musicians, such as, Uzeir Hajibeyov, Fedor Shalyapin, Sergei Yesenin, Bulbul, Reingold Glier. In 1906-1912 his voice was recorded by a number of joint stock companies (record companies) in Kiev, Moscow, and Warsaw. Therefore, in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia Jabbar Garyaghdioghlu is called the biggest khananda and an expert in Azerbaijani folk music.
Jabbar Garyaghdioghlu was born in the Seyidlar neighbourhood of Shusha to a family of a dyer. His stage name Garyaghdioghlu literally translates from Azerbaijan language as Son of Snow-Has-Fallen. According to an urban legend, Jabbar’s father Mashadi Ismayil was an extremely reserved and taciturn man and as a result, would often be asked in an idiomatic way, common to Azerbaijani: “Why are you so gloomy? Has the snow fallen?”. Therefore, he was nicknamed Garyaghdi (Anglicization of gar yaghdi – “snow has fallen”). Mashadi Ismail wanted to teach little Jabbar the craft of the dyer. However, this did not happen. His son, who dreamed of becoming a singer, never learned the craft of his father. In the second half of the 19th century, most residents of Shusha were engaged in trade and crafts. But there were many servants of faith. Mashadi Ismail himself was a strong believer. He, along with his sons, took part in religious ceremonies. Despite his father’s plans, Jabbar did not take up his business and decided to become a singer. His older brother, an amateur folk singer, played an important role in young Jabbar’s passion for music. In 1871-1876 Garyaghdioghlu attended school where he took vocal lessons, studied the theory of music and the Persian language. While still in his teens, he was accepted into the ensemble of the notable musician Sadigjan. Until age 20, he performed primarily in his native Karabakh, but soon he became famous in other parts of the South Caucasus, and later would make tours to Iran and Central Asia.
Until his 20, Jabbar Garyaghdioghlu was known only in his native Shusha, but soon he will be recognized far beyond his native city and invited to Baku, Ganja, Shamakhi, Agdash. One night in the village of Agdash in the Mejlis in the carvansaray Sadikhjan began to play “Karabakh shikastasi”, and Jabbar began to sing along with him. Waking up townspeople gathered at the carvansaray to listen to the performance of the Shusha musicians. Cossacks of the mayor tried to disperse the crowd, but people dispersed to their homes only after the singing ended. At the result, the glory of young Garyaghdioghlu reached Georgia, Central Asia, Iran and Turkey. He was the first khananda who sang mugham in theatrical and concert stage. Thus, in the Shusha in 1897 under the leadership of the prominent writer-playwright Abdurrahimbey Hakhverdiyev, the musical scene “Majnun on the Tomb of Leili” by Nizami Ganjavi’s poem “Leili and Majnun” was played by Jabbar Garyaghdioghlu. The performance made a huge impression on the audience. Uzeyir Hajibeyov, who at that time was thirteen years old, watched with great excitement the game of Jabbar Garyaghdioghlu during the performance. In 1900 in Shusha a musical scene based on the poem of Alishir Navai “Farhad and Shirin” was held. The role of Farhad was also performed by Jabbar Garyaghdioghlu. In 1901, Garyaghdioghlu moved to the oil-booming Baku that at the time was rapidly becoming an important social and cultural city of the region. Together with Uzeyir Hajibeyov and other prominent musicians he founded a club in the Baku suburb of Balakhani and would give charity concerts to support the poor. Between 1906 and 1912 he visited Kiev, Moscow and Warsaw together with other Azerbaijani khanandas, where a vinyl recording of his performance was made. On his way back from Warsaw, he and his ensemble gave a successful two-day Oriental concert in Moscow. Garyaghdioghlu mostly sang in Azerbaijani and Persian, however some mughamats were performed in Georgian, Armenian, Uzbek, and Turkmen. For 20 years, he was accompanied by sazandas Gurban Pirimov (tar) and Sasha Ohanezashvili (kamancha). In 1916, he appeared in the Azerbaijani film “Neft va milyonlar saltanatinda” (“In the Realm of Oil and Millions”). After Sovietization, he taught classical music at the Azerbaijan State Conservatoire and was the soloist of the Azerbaijan State Philharmonic Society. During his long musical career, he collected and recorded around 500 folk’s songs and tunes, which became part of the conservatoire’s record library.
From the beginning of the 1920s, Garyaghdioghlu took an active part in the public life of the republic. The singer stood at the origins of the creation of the national conservatory and played an important role in the formation of new cadres. In addition to teaching, he was a consultant to the research room of Azerbaijani music at the Conservatory. Jabbar Garyaghdioghlu was a supporter of the transposition of mugams to notes and in this work assisted the composer Fikret Amirov. The singer for a long time was the soloist of the Azerbaijan State Philharmonic named after Muslim Magomayev. Over more than half a century of creative way khananda collected more than 500 folk’s songs and musical fragments. Uzeyir Hajibeyov and Muslim Magomayev put on more than 30 songs of his songs. The singer has greatly assisted Rheingold Gliere in studying Azerbaijani folk music. Bulbul records the voice of Jabbar Garyaghdioghlu and in 1934, with the assistance of Jabbar Garyaghdioghlu, the research room of Azerbaijani music, headed by Bulbul, recorded about 300 folk’s songs and tesnifs. Jabbar Garyaghdioghlu sang these songs and Bulbul recorded them on a phonvalik. Over 50 songs have been translated and published in a separate book in Azerbaijani and Russian languages. In May 30, 1934 the Olympics of the art of the peoples of Transcaucasia was hosted in Tbilisi. It was attended by 1,900 people representing 17 nationalities. 74-year-old Jabbar Garyaghdioghlu was awarded the first prize during the event. He lived to a very old age and performed music to the last days of his life. At the age of seventy-two he sang one of the most difficult parts of mugam “Uzzal”, accompanied by tar player Gurban Pirimov. Jabbar Garyaghdioghlu died on 20 April 1944 at the age of 83 years.