FROSTY FESTIVAL

A warm and comfortable atmosphere, the Presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan, the Ambassadors of France and Germany to Azerbaijan, the Ministers of Culture of Russia and Azerbaijan, the Mayors of Baku and Moscow, Muslim Magomayev and Tamara Sinyavskaya, Vakhtang Kikabidze, Nani Bregvadze, Tamara Gverdsiteli, video-link to Aziza Mustafa-zadeh, a triumph of Azerbaijani music and hospitality - none of the above were present at a 'festival' dedicated to the memory of Vagif Mustafa-zadeh.



After this, whenever we hear the word 'festival' we'll die of embarrassment.

On Saturday 17th December 2005 at the Jazz-Mugham festival dedicated to the memory of Vagif Mustafa-zadeh, hundreds of Azerbaijani jazz enthusiasts felt cheated and insulted. Nobody could have expected to witness such lack of professionalism or respect for the audience. Expectations were, however, lowered on the eve of the concert.

The first warning signs appeared when the organization of the 'festival' was entrusted to the Moscow Academy of Security, Defence and Safety, which had absolutely no experience of such an event, with Etibar (Eduard) Jafarov as producer and head of the organizing committee. The advertised participation of Presidents Putin and Ilham Aliyev and other VIPs, and the noise emerging from the organizers should have put us on our guard.



The second warning sign came with the constant change of date and the deteriorating programme. These changes gave us pause for thought. Some people began to give up on the event. But, later, posters re-appeared and it was clear that the 'festival' would go ahead. Even the posters, however, contained a mistake; they printed a 'g' on the end of our beloved musician's surname. Such a mistake led you to question how much the organizers knew about his work.

Finally, the third warning sign was the venue for the 'festival' - the 'Mir Kinotavra' hall. In interviews with the Azerbaijani press, the organizers declared that this was almost the best hall in Moscow, they must have been joking. The announcement of ticket prices (from 1000 to 5000 roubles) surprised with its audacity, and the nature of the festival changed from cultural to commercial.

The reaction to all this is one of anger rather than surprise. The fabrication of the Presidents' attendance, the lies told about a video-link with Germany, the sale of expensive tickets for a hall without decent chairs, without seat numbers, the enticement of people into a hall in disrepair, without heating, with only one toilet (men and women queuing together), the floor in a terrible state, immigrant labourers wandering throughout the hall, stage and foyer and discarded cement bags littering the corners of the room - what can you say?



Can you imagine groups of labourers humping chairs across the snow-covered boulevard? At first we thought there must have been too many people in attendance, but no, there was certainly plenty of space, just an absence of chairs and they were being rented from somewhere nearby. These chairs were distributed throughout the hall. The advice from workers, sitting with chattering teeth in the cloakroom, was, "Don't take off your coats, the hall is cool." What! Cool! No, it was cold! Everyone was sitting in coats and furs and some of the musicians were playing in their coats. It was like sitting in an open stadium in winter.



It's hard to expect you to believe this, but it's not the whole story. In a hall in which the temperature was close to that in the street, the audience was made to wait two hours for the concert to begin. Wasn't this shameless?
It was embarrassing to meet the eyes of Muscovites in the audience. It may have seemed funny to them but for us, believe me, it wasn't. Some were unable to contain themselves, shouting, "Shame!" - Unfortunately they were right.
It seems that the organising principle in all this chaos was, "First sell the tickets; let the rest take care of itself."

This 'rest' was before our eyes. By the end of the first half, the remaining audience was outnumbered by the orchestra of Viktor Livshitz, which opened the second half. Yuli Gusman finally left the concert in the hands of his co-host, a girl whose dress was hardly suitable for the conditions. On her first appearance on stage she was shaking so much that the audience forgot its own discomfort, feeling so sorry for her.



Only the musicians did their best. At one point the organizers wanted to cut the programme, but the audience whistled its disapproval and was supported by the musicians. Before letting the organizers totally ruin this commemoration, we thank the jazzmen and festival guests, and salute them. Throughout a concert which lasted for four hours, their energy and heartfelt playing warmed our souls. The playing of Felix Lakhuti, Anatoly Gerasimov and the 'Che Guevara' group was truly memorable. The finale was especially so. Azerbaijani jazzmen - pianist Emil Ibrahimov, bassist Ruslan Huseynov and familiar drummer Alexander Mashin, nurtured a love for their art in the 20 or 30 or so who remained in the audience. However strange it seems, the music we knew from Vagif Mustafa-zadeh was only brought to life in their playing and in that of Salman Gambarov, who opened the evening.



The festival was finally closed by the organizers. The Director of the Security Academy, in his "high falutin'" speech, compared Vagif Mustafa-zadeh with guess who? Perhaps you won't believe this…. with Lomonosov! And to 'prove' his own words, he presented the musician's relative, Afaq Aliyeva, with a homemade, Lomonosov medal.

Etibar (Eduard) Jafarov revealed some of the festival's secrets and boasted of his own 'heroism': "Yesterday there were no chairs or carpets in this hall and the stage was not finished, we completed all this in the course of a night."
You see what a 'hero' he was!



The question naturally arises: if there was nothing here, no heating, no chairs, no toilets, no video-link with Germany, absent musicians - why did they go ahead with this disgrace they called a 'festival'? It is sad, but not funny. I wonder where they found these organizers. Can you believe that they invited presidents to this kind of unfinished barracks, where you could have frozen to death?



Why does this always happen to us? People organize festivals for musicians whose names they can't even spell! People organize festivals who don't respect their audience. How long must we live with these jacks of all trades? They really are masters of none!

Etibar (Eduard) Jafarov, at the end of his self-satisfied speech, promised that this festival would be an annual event. How audacious!



If the next festival is organized like this, and organized by these dilettantes, for God's sake, DON'T DO IT! Don't be so disrespectful to Vagif's memory, don't disgrace us! We don't need this kind of festival any more! Please!