Imamyar Hasanov: Arranger, bridging vast divide between cultures

Text by Amina Nazarli


After the performance, a young man and his girlfriend, who sobbed on his shoulder, approached to the musician and said: “Listen, my friend, you made my girlfriend cry.”

The musician did not know what to say and just apologized. “Do not. Do not apologize,” said the girl, wiping her eyes. “Your performance so emotionally and touches the heart, that I could not restrain myself. Thank you." The American girl, who for the first time heard such kind of music, was unable to resist the sounds of kamancha, the national “sad” musical instrument, characterized with a charming, tender and melodic sounding, plunging one into the world of dreams.


Kamancha, to comparison with other national instruments, takes special place in the heart of Azerbaijanis. The ancient stringed national musical instrument played with a bow has been improved throughout centuries and survived till our times. Global Music Director for the San Francisco World Music, Azerbaijani musician Imamyar Hasanov is an internationally acclaimed virtuoso on kamancha, who could conquer the hearts of American audience, and make them fall in love with Azerbaijani music.

For his versatility as an arranger, who could bridge the vast divide between his traditional scales and those of other cultures.


In 2000, Imamyar together with his wife Nargiz moved to the U.S. for permanent residence. At the time Americans knew very few about Azerbaijani mugham and the national musical instruments in general.

Very soon, unusual sounds of string national instrument, attracted the attention of local residents.

Having impressive credentials, he leads the field with his experience and vision to catapult Azerbaijani music onto the world stage. Hasanov, who is also called "a virtuoso kamancha" has become the first Azerbaijani kamancha performer, who gave a master class at the Juilliard School of Music in New York.

Head of Azerbaijani music courses at the University of Stanford in California, Imamyar is also an outstanding teacher and today his students not only play Azerbaijani melodies, but also singing in the Azerbaijani language, what makes the country and its culture closer to the world.


Imamyar was interested in music since his childhood, and it is not surprising, since his father being an avid fan of mugham, was fond of playing nagara (national musical instrument), often inviting his musician friends to home. Therefore, the musical atmosphere that reigned in their house one day prompted in seven-year Imamyar the wish to take music lessons. The boy wanted to play the clarinet, but soon he changed his mind in favor of another musical instrument, which was preceded by one curious occasion.

Once he and his parents went to visit their neighbors, where little Imamyar saw an old and dusty kamancha, standing alone in the corner. Unusual and beautiful shape of the musical instrument attracted the boy's attention.


Talking about this case, the musician said that he did not remember exactly what happened with him at the time, but he felt a charge of energy transferring from the instrument to him. He picked kamancha up, and from that moment was determined to learn playing on it, forever forgetting about the clarinet.

Once, at the International Festival of Folk Music took place at the Montana state, Imamyar presented Azerbaijan, performing the national masterpiece “Sari Gelin.” Kamancha was always one of the integral part of the “mugham trio,” spread in Azerbaijan since the late 19th century, which is also include the national instruments such as tar and a singer-khanende, playing on gaval.


Despite this, Imamyar, breaking with tradition wanted to perform solo. In 2005 his dream came true, when his first solo concert took place at the Georgetown University in Washington, aimed to familiarize American students with the Azerbaijani folklore and works by the national composers on the background of the foreign authors’ compositions. Later, Imamyar succeeded in implementing an interesting project called "Meeting of Mugham and Jazz," where the national musicians played together with American jazz group.


Thanks to this synthesis, American audience attends Hasanov’s concerts to taste the sweetness of Azerbaijan folklore, realizing all its beauty.


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