As is often the way on my travels, I didn’t have an agenda for my visit to Washington DC other than catching up with a dear friend and seeing the fireworks. My friend’s brother mentioned that the Smithsonian were holding a folklife festival, so when I went off exploring the city, I decided to check it out. There was the AIDS Memorial Quilt stretching out across the Mall as far as the eye could see, food tents and stalls everywhere, and a full schedule of performances.
I was fortunate enough to happen by on Azerbaijani Thursday during a breathtakingly beautiful performance of mugham music, sponsored by the Karabakh Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to the preservation and sharing of the culture, arts and heritage of Azerbaijan.
On stage were two exceptionally talented musicians. Pezhham Akhavass, percussionist, is a modern day master of the tombak; a goblet-shaped drum carved from a single block of wood. I have never seen anyone’s hands move as quickly as his did when he was drumming.
With him on stage was the extraordinary Imamyar Hasanov, virtuoso on the kamancha; an ancient stringed instrument made of mulberry or walnut wood and played with a bow of horse hair.
The concert, entitled “Undiscovered Treasure: The Kamancha of Azerbaijan,” focused on the power and beauty of this delicate stringed instrument, and was so dazzling, it made me wish I could go back in time to witness their concert the previous week, “Music from the Land of Fire.” I shot a short video of Imamyar in action on the kamancha; you’ll hear Pezhham’s drumming too.
If you ever have a chance to see either of these guys in performance, do!
For another unusual DC adventure, see here.