Alim Qasimov Ensemble

Tagged with: Alim Qasimov Mugham daf ashiq Azerbaijan Aga Khan Ferghana Fargana World Music Kronos

Alim Qasimov was born in 1957 and is one of the foremost mugam singers in Azerbaijan as well as being an musician (on the daf - the single-headed frame drum of the Middle East and Central Asia) .  

Mugham has a thousand years of musical tradition and is a highly complex art form that weds classical poetry and musical improvisation in specific local modes accompanying an orally transmitted collection of melodies and melodic fragments that performers can draw on when improvising.

"The choice of a particular mugham and a style of performance fits a specific event. The dramatic unfolding in performance is typically associated with increasing intensity and rising pitches, and a form of poetic-musical communication between performers and initiated listeners". (Wikipedia)

According to the New York Times, Alim Qasimov is simply one of the greatest singers alive, with a searing spontaneity that conjures passion and devotion, contemplation and incantation.

"Alim Qasimov is a prominent mugham singer named a "Living National Treasure" of Azerbaijan. He has been passionate about mugham since his early childhood, but initially Qasimov sang mugham solely for his own enjoyment. Only at the age of nineteen, after having held various jobs as an agricultural worker and driver, did he decide to pursue a career in music. Qasimov studied at the Asaf Zeynalli Music College (1978-1982) and the Azerbaijan University of Arts (1982-1989). His teacher was well-known mugham singer Aghakhan Abdullayev.

Qasimov's first remarkable international success occurred in 1988 when he won first prize at the International Festival and Symposium on Traditional Music in Samargand, Uzbekistan. Since then, he has been traveling worldwide to spread the art of Azerbaijani mugham.

Alim appears on 12 CDs released in Europe and the United States, on one of them, Love's Deep Ocean (1999, Network Medien, Frankfurt, Germany) together with his daughter and student Fargana Qasimova. In addition to performing with the Silk Road Ensemble, Qasimov performs with the Kronos Quartet as part of his collaboration with the Aga Khan Initiative in Central Asia.

Qasimov has performed on Azerbaijan’s most prestigious stages, such as the Heydar Aliyev Palace and the Azerbaijan Philharmonic Hall. Since 1989, he has been a soloist at the Azerbaijan Opera and Ballet Theater. Qasimov teaches mugham classes at the Asaf Zeynalli Music College and the Azerbaijan National Conservatory.

Qasimov perceives and presents mugham not only as an ancient art and a part of Azerbaijan's musical and cultural heritage but also as a constantly developing tradition. His performing style is unique, as it combines deep knowledge of centuries-old rules of mugham with challenging innovations. It is distinguished by extreme intensity, which takes audiences to a spiritual world. Qasimov's approach to mugham is far from conservative, and he willingly juxtaposes mugham with other music styles, such as jazz and contemporary composition.

In 1999, in recognition for his musical contributions to world peace, Qasimov was awarded the coveted International IMC-UNESCO Music Prize. Past winners of this prize include Yehudi Menuhin, Ravi Shankar, Olivier Messiaen and Daniel Barenboim. Qasimov's numerous awards also include the title of the People's Artist of Azerbaijan, the highest artistic rank in the country. In 2007, on the occasion of Qasimov’s 50th birthday, the President of Azerbaijan awarded him the Medal of Glory."  

(above taken from

He was also included in a book on the 500 Most Influential Muslims of The World (2009).

"The heart-aching soul music of Eurasia"
"Alim Qasimov certainly has his fans. The late Jeff Buckley described his singing as "pure and effortless" while The Guardian's Robin Denselow claimed him to be "one of the most thrilling, unashamedly emotional performers on the planet". The Kronos Quartet's David Harrington put a figure on it, announcing that, vocally, Alim is in "the top five of all-time". His is certainly an astonishing voice, pricking the skin and riding undulating air currents as he dramatically interprets the ancient poetic works of his homelands.

One of the most cherished citizens of Azerbaijan, he sings both the homegrown classical music known as mugham and the ballads of the ashiqs, the local lute-playing troubadours. But whatever the song's origin, when that voice begins to ascend, you just know that Alim Qasimov means every single word of it. A genuine soulman.
The Alim Qasimov Ensemble are produced in association with Serious and the Aga Khan Music Initiative, a programme of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture."  (Taken from website - Biography written by Nige Tassell 2010)

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