In an exclusive interview with AZERTAC, Sami Yusuf, who composes music and leads the growth of a new global music genre that engages millions of listeners, spoke of his love for Nasimi, mugham and Azerbaijan
Baku, October 5
British musician of Azerbaijani origin Sami Yusuf, who participated in the first Nasimi Festival of Poetry, Arts and Spirituality held in Azerbaijan, has given an exclusive interview to AZERTAC. The following is the text of the interview.
The first Nasimi Festival of Poetry, Arts and Spirituality was held in Baku. What do you know about Nasimi creativity?
SY: Nasimi is one of the great mystical poets and thinkers whose works I heard from an early age through my family and the musicians and poets who frequented our house as I was growing up. He was legendary among the Azeris as the author of the first Divans in the Azerbaijani language, but his influence extends far beyond this one nation. While being lauded as a renowned Turkic-speaking poet-mystic, he is also recognized for his writings in Persian and Arabic. The genius of Nasimi is that his message, his thought, and his unparalleled eloquence was not limited to his own time and place. It originated in the Eternal and that is why its echo is heard as clearly in our time as it was in his.
How do you evaluate the festival?
SY: The Festival was brilliantly conceived and executed. By joining the past and present around the themes expressed in the writings of Nasimi – themes of the underlying unity of all life amid multiplicity and the essential human potential for touching the Divine – the Festival presentations also pointed a way forward into the future. And that way incorporates the multiculturalism and tolerance that is expressed in Nasimi’s thought and that Azerbaijan is famous for.
The performances, exhibits, and lectures that took place throughout Baku were remarkable in their diversity while maintaining a unity of purpose. I applaud the work of the organizers, especially president of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation Mehriban Aliyeva and vice-president Leyla Aliyeva, as well as the dedicated people at the Ministry of Culture.
As far as we know the “New global music genre” was created by you. Is that true?
SY: When I began my music career, nothing like my sound had been heard before; it didn’t fit into existing categories. I named the genre Spiritique. It is a sound meant to evoke a sense of spirituality, and the lyrics at times celebrate the sacred, at times have an uplifting message promoting positive values of social cohesion, tolerance, and unity.
In this context, I’ll mention that I was awarded an honourary Doctor of Letters degree from Roehampton University for what they termed my extraordinary contribution to the field of music, and I remain (to the best of my knowledge) the youngest recipient of that award. It was in recognition of my work through Spiritique and my creation of this new genre of music.
Preserving tradition and legacy through music is a priority for me and I have been devoting much of my energy to that over the past several years. This is not a departure from the Spiritique genre, since Spiritique encompasses these musical expressions.