Speech of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev in the ceremony held in memory of great singer Rashid Behbudov – October 13, 2001

Dear friends!

Ladies and gentlemen!

Dear guests!

In holiday ceremonies, held on occasion of the tenth anniversary of the independent Azerbaijan, solemn celebration of the memorial night of the great son of Azerbaijan, great singer Rashid Behbudov, demonstrates the rich culture of the Azerbaijani people with its ancient history and contribution to the treasury of culture of the world.

Rashid Behbudov was a unique personality. He was a matchless master of art in the history of culture of Azerbaijan. Our scholars have been writing books about the creative works of Rashid Behbudov and about his heritage. I think that his contribution to the development of the Azerbaijani culture in 20th century will be perceived more deeply with the lapse of time. However, the memorial night today is the appreciation of the Azerbaijani people to the creative work of Rashid Behbudov.

Rashid Behbudov was a great musician and singer with his unique, charming voice, appearance and artistic talent. There are several stages of the arrival of Rashid Behbudov to the Azerbaijani culture. Each of them has improved the culture, music, songs and art of our people and given to them a new form.

For the first time, I listened to Rashid Behbudov in 1943, in the hard periods of the World War Second in the House of Officers. Since then I am an admirer of the art and voice of Rashid Behbudov, and later of his songs, plays. His beautiful voice always amazed me.

Immediately after his first appearance on the Azerbaijani stage Rashid Behbudov won respect and fame. Naturally, all of them were connected with his innate talent. In dialect it is called a gift from God, because it is a rare phenomenon that a person brings together all these beautiful features. That is why, Rashid Behbudov was engraved in the history of the people as one of the most valuable pearls of the Azerbaijani culture.

Rashid Behbudov was the creator of the first pop songs in Azerbaijan with the late Tofig Guliyev. You know that in 1940s pop music was very attractive. However, mostly it was stencil. Rashid Behbudov used to perform modern pop songs skillfully and modernize the Azerbaijani national songs and raise them to the level of modern pop music. Thus, I can say that Rashid Behbudov was able to create synthesis of the national Azerbaijani folk and modern pop music.

I think that Rashid Behbudov occupies a special place in the history of our music and art. Remember how he used to modernize and perform ancient folk music. We begin to wonder whether it is an ancient folk music or a modern pop music. He never broke with his national roots. His songs always were national in character. He used to perform the words coming from the national Azerbaijani folk-lore and dialect in his songs so sweetly and skillfully that it made people twice happy and delighted them.

Today, our beautiful girls performed here the song «Lebuleb», which was always sung by Rashid Behbudov very well. However, Rashid Behbudov sang it completely different. What I noticed here is the style of Rashid Behbudov. For example, in one of his songs, there are the words: «Irehmin gelsin, nene» (have mercy upon me, grandma). In the Azerbaijani literary language it is used as «rehmin gelsin». However, from the ancient times people used «irehmin gelsin» instead of «rehmin gelsin». It means that while he was modernizing the songs, he did not lose specific characteristic of songs related to the people and taste. You did not understand whether he was singing an ancient folk music or a modern pop music when he sang. That is why, I think that the creative work of Rashid Behbudov occupies a special place in the history of music of Azerbaijan.

Rashid Behbudov was a versatile person as a singer and musician. He always was improving his art and enriching it. As an admirer of his music along years, when I remember those times in this hall, I think about how the art of Rashid Behbudov was improving and going ahead.

The role of Askar, which Rashid Behbudov performed in the film version of the operetta «Clothes paddler» by Uzeyir Hajibeyov, was the peak of art activity and life of Rashid Behbudov. It is known that Uzeyir Hajibeyov wrote «Clothes Paddler» in the beginning of the 20th century. I can say that it has been living for a century and will live in future, too. As it is very meaningful with its very beautiful music, despite the repetition it never loses its urgency and never exhausts people, who love music and art. On the contrary, each time it brings happiness and inspires human.

The operetta «Clothes Paddler» has always been demonstrated on the Azerbaijani stage since its creation by Uzeyir Hajibeyov. Not only in Azerbaijan, but also in some Central Asian countries and in countries close to us in terms of language and culture, the operetta «Clothes Paddler» was being demonstrated successfully. However, screening of «Clothes Paddler», which was not only a transformation from the stage to the screen, but also a new production, by the great composer Uzeyir Hajibeyov, singer Rashid Behbudov and by one of the most famous producers of Azerbaijan Rza Tehmasib in those hard days – in 1944, the War was not over yet -was a great event. If I am not mistaken the film was demonstrated in 1945. Within a short time it spread not only in Azerbaijan, but also in all the cities, regions and republics of the former USSR.

Besides his beautiful voice, as a craftsman Rashid Behbudov was also able to recite the text of the song nicely. Sometimes a song is sung, words clash and it is impossible to comprehend. However, Rashid Behbudov was pronouncing words clearly and distinctly, and this was improving his art.

However, besides this, he had another advantage, he knew both Azerbaijani and Russian. Generally, his ability to sing in the foreign language almost was absent in the repertoires of other singers.

The film «Clothes Paddler» was a historical event in Azerbaijan. However, if it remained within the frames of Azerbaijan, of course, today we could not talk a lot about it. It was translated into the Russian language. The main aspect is that Rashid himself was singing in Russian, it was his voice and songs. Thus, he travelled with the Russian language, familiar to all the nations in the former Soviet Union.

I remember well, I was studying in Leningrad in those years. The film «Clothes Paddler» was very successfully displayed there as everyone repeatedly was watching it. However the core of the issue is not that. There people enjoyed the songs performed by Rashid Behbudov as a beautiful music and were singing them everywhere. Even sometimes in families, parties or meetings I witnessed that a Russian man sang the song of Rashid Behbudov with love. It was the first work that introduced the Azerbaijani culture, music and songs to the world. In other words, from its birth till its screening it was a step. Our nation and close to us, nations know this work well. However, after screening and translation into Russian and after being performed by Rashid these songs in Russian, the film travelled all over the world. It is possible to say that there was not any second event that presented the Azerbaijani music, culture, art, and music to new masses better than it.

You know, in general, culture, especially music culture and songs are the most prominent and famous field among the nations. Doubtless, an invention of any scientist or any other event is included to the history of the world. However, most of them, probably all remain within the frames of certain nations, peoples or countries.

For example, one the most famous scientists of the world Einstein is familiar to all, however some people do not know him. If we ask in this hall who knows him, probably, there will be few people. However, culture or music culture is not only for us, but for all. It is so attractive that it introduces the people to the world better than any other achievements.

Again I remembered. In the 50s an Indian film «Loafer» and Raj Kapur came to the USSR, as well as, to Azerbaijan for the first time. Until then we had not known that what the Indian music, songs and film were. However, India became known in Azerbaijan with the film «Loafer» and the great actor Raj Kapur more than before. We can give such examples. However, on the world scale they are few.

However, Reshid Behbudov did not popularise the Azerbaijani culture and people only with the film «Clothes Paddler». He travelled a lot of countries of the world, gave concerts in big halls and won the people’s confidence with his beautiful style and performance.

I can say that Reshid Behbudov was the first Azerbaijani singer and musician who travelled around the world. There is not a second one.

Again an event came into my memory. Once some friends of mine and I went to Reshid Behbudov. We were talking and having tea. He had just returned from Turkey. In those days there was no television. Radio could not broadcast music sufficiently. Reshid Behbudov almost was the first representative of Azerbaijan, first singer among our craftsmen who visited Turkey during the Soviet years.

Niyazi also visited foreign countries, and staged some opera and ballets. However, Reshid Behbudov sang the Azerbaijani songs among broad masses and in big halls. You know that the Azerbaijani songs delight and evoke interest among the brother Turkish people, as the Turkish music does in Azerbaijan.

I remember that Reshid Behbudov turned on a tape-recorder which played his song. His first feature was to link the visited place with a song. I do not remember which song he sang, but at the end of each couplet he was saying: «Istanbul –Baku, Istanbul – Azerbaijan, Turkey -Azerbaijan».

Whenever he went, he prepared some of the beautiful songs in the language of the local people in advance and then sang there and won the respect. We can talk about this a lot.

I only tell some of my memories, because everyone and the future generations should know how much Reshid Behbudov contributed to the music culture of Azerbaijani people and its recognition in the world. I cannot forget the words from the conversation with my elder brother, the late academician Hasan Aliyev. He used to say: «We have been giving oil to the world for hundred years, but we cannot introduce ourselves to the world with it. But Rashid Behbudov introduced Azerbaijan to the whole world with his music, the Azerbaijani music. These words were spoken correctly. I will never forget them, because it is true. Reshid Behbudov showed himself skillfully almost in all the fields of the vocal art. The Opera «Sevil»... I remember that in 1953 the premiere of «Sevil» opera was held in the Opera and Ballet Theatre. Of course, I was there. I frequented such events. The opera «Sevil», composed by Fikret Amirov impressed me a lot. I want to add that only after «Koroglu» opera, written by Uzeyir Hajibeyov, the opera genre developed in Azerbaijan. However, there was not any opera like «Sevil», which has valuable, high level and professional music.

May be this is my subjective opinion. However, I think that it is close to the truth. Reshid Behbudov performed the role of Balash very skillfully. We knew that «Sevil» is written by Jafar Jabbarli. In our youth it was staged frequently. That is why, we were remembering «Sevil» as a drama. However, to create an opera through keeping its dramatic traits, of course, was one of the successful achievements of out great composer Fikret Amirov. «Sevil» then evoked a great reverberation and remained on the stage for a long time. Recently it was on the stage again. I was thinking in those times and now I want to talk about my thoughts. I think that while Uzeyir Hajibeyov was writing «Koroglu», he had the great singer Bulbul in his mind, as it is known that for a long time he prepared to write this opera. Bulbul and Koroglu. As if the part of Koroglu was created for Bulbul. That is why, «Koroglu» has been remaining on the stage since 1938. It will be on the stage in future, too. New performers are appearing. Opera and vocal masters emerge and they perform the part of Koroglu. However, each of them is trying to perform it like Bulbul, because all of us remember Koroglu on horseback with the beautiful and charming voice of Bulbul.

The same can be said about Fikret Amirov and his opera «Sevil» … if Reshid Behbudov was not there, perhaps, he could not write «Sevil». In other words, he could, but could not present it to the public, to the people and society like him.

Thus, as I said the creative activity of Reshid Behbudov is versatile. Pop music, modernization of folk music and beautiful performance through pop music…

«Clothes Paddler» will live forever. I am used to watch pieces of this film from time to time. Unfortunately, they are getting older over years. I think that, the Ministry of Culture and other organizations, engaged in this work, should restore such kind of immortal pieces. Books live forever, but a film also should live as well. Now modern technology creates conditions to restore them. This must be done absolutely.

«Clothes Paddler» is one of the biggest achievements of the Azerbaijani culture. That is why, this film must live. It should live in order to convey to the new generations the truth about the greatness of Uzeyir Hajibeyov. We must do it by all means. We have already seen all of them, but we should think about future generations.

I touched upon some points of the creative work of Reshid Behbudov. However, I have more memories. We had personal friendly relations with him. Before being President of Azerbaijan I had personal relation and friendship with him. His beautiful profession made me close to him in this friendship. He also respected me due to some reasons, which I do not know, because I was not in the leadership of the country.

I remember that once in the club of «Shehriyar» there was a concert of a popular foreign famous singer and I went there. There was a small lodge. Then I was already chairman of the State Security Committee, or it was before, probably it was in the middle of the 60s years. Reshid was also there. We listened together. Later we left the concert and walked. Reshid was living in the seaside, and you know where I lived. In the intersection of the avenues of Azerbaijan and Bulbul, there was a house in the corner, I lived there, and we a had three-room flat. We were passing by our house, I invited Reshid to have a tea. He accepted my invitation with pleasure. We went to our house, had a tea and talked. My late wife Ms. Zarifa served us. I disclosed my opinion about his songs to him. I don’t know why, I immediately asked him why he had not performed the song «Azerbaijan» by Rauf Hajiyev until then? He said that he had not thought about it before. I asked whether he knew that song. Answered that he knew. Zarifa sat and played it on piano. Rashid began singing a piece of this song. After 10-15 days he called me and said that the song was ready. Today that song sounded in the film, before I stepped on the stage. A very beautiful song… Rauf Hajiyev composed this song to the words of Anvar Alibeyli.

A lot of people sang that song, but nobody has sung it like Rashid until now, as nobody can sing like Bulbul.

Muslum Magomayev is among us. He is one of the organizers of this event. But nobody can sing «Azerbaijan» written by Nebi Khazri and Muslum Mogamayev, like him. That is why, none of the singers are trying to sing it, because this song has been carved in our minds in the performance of Muslum Magomayev. Nobody can sing that song like him even today, and cannot sing in future, either. This song was also composed in the 1970s. Muslum Mogamayev is also one of the close friends of mine and since his youth I have been taking care of him as an elder brother. For the first time he sang this song in a hall in 1974 or 1978 and later he wrote on the notes that he dedicated that song to me. I said him «do not tell this anyone. I accept it and will keep it at home», because in the Soviet times such actions could cause jealousy that a great singer like Muslum Mogamayev dedicated a song to Heydar Aliyev. Now I disclose it, because it is now possible.

As a person Reshid Behbudov was also very interesting. In other words, mostly people saw him on the stage, but I spent a lot of time with him. In an ordinary condition, in 1970, when I was elected head of Azerbaijan, we went to Kazakhstan with a large delegation; the 50th anniversary of Kazakhstan was celebrated. Breznev, first secretary of the USSR came there. That is why, heads of all the union republics came there. It was my first visit abroad as the head of Azerbaijan. I included Reshid Behbudov into the list of the delegation. Then, he was both a singer and member of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, he became famous. But including him to the delegation, first of all I demonstrated my friendly attitude to him, and secondly I said him that he would adorn our delegation, because he was known better than us.

We went there. Whenever we went, everyone said «Reshid Behbudov, Reshid Behbudov, Reshid Behbudov «. Then I saw that everyone loved him up to the seventy-seven.

We stayed together in the same hotel. Once we went to an official dinner party. You know that it is one of the prominent dinners in Kazakhstan. I ate horse meat and asked to Rashid to have it. He asked me, what it was. I said that it is lamb meat. Rashid ate it willingly. When we stood up I asked him whether he knew what he had eaten. He said: «You told me that it was lamb.» I said him that he had eaten horse meat. He became disappointed. Why did you do it? He was angry with me in heart. I am sorry, but I talk about it, he vomited in his room. It means that he was used to eat national meals. He could not have anything which was not national, even the meat of horse. I always asked him about his favorite meal and he named dovga. Every day he had dovga. His wife is here, may be, she knows it better than me, but I tell what he said me.

Later Reshid Behbudov began to establish this Theatre of Song. It was also difficult. You know when a person leaves the world, his value increases. People become more objective. However, in those days he had problems. You know that there is a kind of jealousy among the men of art. There could be jealousy, but it cannot be said about Reshid Behbudov. Because, when you are jealous, choose a person who is equal to you, or a step ahead of you. A jealous person compares himself with a person, who is a step higher. That is why, he had such problems. Sometimes he was complaining to me, but every time I helped him in solving these problems. It was not due to our personal relations, but he was one of the valuable people for Azerbaijan.

In the recent years, when I was in Moscow, I met him when he came to the sessions of the Supreme Soviet. Naturally, his death grieved and disappointed us. However, he did not leave life. He lives in our hearts, his works and music live. Today in this memorial night, in the tenth anniversary of the independence of Azerbaijan, we remembered his contributions. Thank you.

Translated from «Azerbaijan» newspaper, October 14, 2001