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Lezghin Star of Madrid

Interview with Karina Azizova, telented Lezghin pianist

The Lezghin people are rich with talents in various spheres. But unfortunately many of them remain unknown to us. Our recent meeting with our compatriot and at the same time an outstanding pianist Karina Azizova was a FLNCA very pleasant "discovery”.

Welcome to the native land and thank you for the opportunity to talk to you. Please tell us about yourself.

I was born in Ashkhabad, Turkmenistan, where I studied music since early childhood, since I started to attend kindergarten. Later I continued my education in primary school for gifted children. After five years at that school I was sent to study music to Moscow as my teachers thought that I escalated the level of the school in Ashkhabad. You know that the highest level of music education in Moscow and Saint Petersburg is recognized worldwide.

Thus at the age of 12 years old I found myself in Moscow and continued my music education in a school affiliated with the Chaikovsky State Conservatory to where the most gifted children from all the republics of the former Soviet Union came to study music. I am very thankful to my parents for allowing me to come to Moscow. It was not typical, particularly for Lezghin families, to allow girls to live apart from their families. But my parents, having special reverence for art and respect to my musical abilities and passionate desire to study music, after long considerations took the decision to allow me to go to Moscow. And, as it turned out, they were absolutely right.

Did your parents study music as well?

No, they did not. I am the only one in the family who did. No more music talents in the family. But I was lucky to have understanding parents who let me go to the most prestigious center of musical culture where I got in the classes of famous pianists Victor Bunin at the Moscow music school and Lev Naumov at the Conservatory.

Was it difficult for you to live all alone in Moscow since the age of 12, far from your family?

Of course it took some time to get used to the new life in Moscow. I missed my family. But I always knew that music is everything in my life, it is my guiding star.

Did you know that music is the sense of your life since so early childhood?

Absolutely! I knew about it when I was six years old when in my kindergarten I saw as our music teacher was playing the piano while we were dancing. I then were shorter than the keys on the piano and looked up fascinated by the fluttering hands of the pianist. The eyes of the child saw a real miracle – when touching white and black keys the teacher generated enchanting sounds of beautiful melodies. And I wished so much to be involved into this magic process. First my parents bought me a baby piano and then later, when I was 7 years old, a real piano and then I started to study music seriously.

My first award I received when I was 15 years old in Raguza, Italy, at the International Music Contest, then, a year later, in Ostun, Italy. We toured the USA and other countries with concerts. I liked travelling as it enriched me with new impressions and ideas.

Karina, how did you get in Spain?

After six years of classes with Lev Naumov I graduated from the Conservatory and by that time the situation in Russia changed for the worst for musicians who played classic music. Many of them emigrated to other countries in the end of the 90s and beginning of 2000s. They were leaving for Europe and the USA. At that time I happened to be at an audition arranged by Spanish conductor Victor Pablo and the next day I was offered a contract. That’s how I got to Spain.

I like Spain, its warm climate is good for the mood. I am a quick learner so I am fluent in Spanish and can already be taken for a native resident.

Spain provides very good conditions for classic music. Despite the crisis the budgets provided for its development were not cut and there are a lot of classic music concerts organized throughout the country.
I have regular concerts at the Madrid National Auditorium, the Palace of Catalonian Music in Barcelona, the Monumental Theatre, the Palace of Festivals in Santander, the Theatre of Rosalia de Castro in La Corunier etc..

At the concerts I perform music of Rakhmaninov, Prokofyev, Stravinski, Brums and other masters. 

Whose music do you prefer?

I prefer romantic trend in the Russian and European music, though I also play music of modern composers. I am close in spirit to Rakhmaninov, Skryabin, Shuman and Brums. Rakhmaninov is particularly dear to me. When I play his music I feel like his spirit settles in me. May be it is because he himself was a pianist his musical masterpieces disclose piano sounds in the entire palette of colours.   

Do you like listening ethnic Lezghin music? May be some folklore melodies could be included into your concert programme?

I listen to Lezghin music mainly at our Lezghin weddings. I enjoy various types of music. It could be Sting or Led Zeppelin. But definitely I prefer classic music to all the other musical trends. 

As to classic music of the Caucasus, I used to play music of Adyg composer Gyssa Chicha, and a composer from the North Ossetia Tamerlan Khosroev. I play Lezghin music mainly for myself and my family.

The idea to include ethnic music into my concert programme seems very interesting. I have never thought of it before. But I can try to do it in the future. I can think of Gotfrid Gasanov, who is a famous Daghestani composer, the creator of the Daghesatni opera and at the same time he is an ethnic Lezghin. He used ethnic melodies for his classic music masterpieces thus demonstrating that fact that classic music can very well be combined with ethnic music. I would like to perform Gasanov’s music and may be even dedicate to it one of my concerts.

Anyway, the music of my people is always in my blood and it will stay in me wherever I am.
Can I ask you one more question now not related to music? Have you ever been in your native land? In Lezghistan?

I was in my native land only as a child, in the Ismailinsky region of Azerbaijan, the villages of Kalajukh and Rushan. I travelled there from Turkmenia every year with my parents and spent a month or so in completely Lezghin environment. Thanks to these voyages I know my native language quite well and even now I can understand everything and even speak Lezghin. My parents also spoke Lezghin at home. But I have been out of practice for so long that started to forget it. I have not been in my native land since I left for Moscow and it is very sad. And I have never been to Dagestan. 

Do they know anything about Lezghins in Europe? Are they surprised to learn about your ethic origin?

It is very difficult to explain to the majority of the Europeans how many identities I have. I am from Russia but was born in Turkmenia. I have dual citizenship – Russian and Turkmen. But I am neither Russian nor Turkmen. My parents are from Azerbaijan but I am an ethnic Lezghin. When I try to explain all this to the Europeans they understand absolutely nothing. They are used to identify people by their citizenship. If you have Russian passport it means for them that you are Russian. Very few people know that Lezghins are divided between Russia and Azerbaijan. As far as I know the FLNCA’s website is the only one that publish information in English about Lezghins, thus making it accessible for all Europeans and other people worldwide. Moreover I have recently learnt that the FLNCA is active at the international arena and I was very pleased to know about it. It means that more people worldwide will be aware of our people’s history and the contemporary problems they face.

Being abroad do you feel the ownership of life and the aspirations of the Lezghin people?

No doubt I feel part of my people, I am happy to have a command of my native language because language is a very important part of any ethnic culture. It has, I believe, some historical code.

My ethnic belonging is first of all realized through my close ties with my family. I often visit my parents and other relatives in Turkmenia where we all get together. And through this family atmosphere I feel that I belong to a bigger Lezghin family and it is invaluable for me.

And one more thing to mention here. It is our famous dance "Lezghinka” that made us known far beyond the borders of our native land. Many famous composers, such as Glynka and Hachaturyan, used this dance melody in their music. This dance music reflects the character of my people – their courage, passion, energy and manliness. When I hear the first sounds of Lezghinka some unbridled energy wakes up in me. It is the moment when I more than ever feel  myself Lezghin.

Thanks a lot for the interesting and detailed conversation. We hope to see you one day in the Lezghin land playing piano at a concert. It will encourage talented Lezghin children to dedicate themselves to the high art of music.





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