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Jazz concert launches new Belgian/Azeri friendship group 

A concert by a renowned Azerbaijani jazz musician has also helped launch a new friendship group between the Central Asian state and Belgium.

The concert, at Brussels’ Music Village (15 January), featured Salman Gambarov and his band, “Bakustic Jazz”, who delighted a packed audience with a combination of traditional and more contemporary jazz.

But it also marked the official launch of the new Belgium-Azerbaijan Cultural Society which aims to foster friendship and facilitate cultural exchanges between the two countries.

The Society hopes to arrange for Azerbaijani artists to appear in Belgium and vice versa.

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Gambarov is one of Azerbaijan’s best known musicians and has won worldwide acclaim for his jazz playing.

His appearance in Brussels was a rare opportunity for a Belgian audience to appreciate his wonderful talent, along with other Azeri musicians.

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The concert was split into two parts: in the first set, Gambarov, backed by “Bakustic Jazz” which he founded in the mid-1990s, play more classical, traditional jazz.

With Gambarov on piano, he was backed in a 45-minute session by Nijat Bayramov on drums and a third  Azeri, Fuad Jafar, on bass.

The second of the two sets featured Gambarov, again on piano, but this time backed by Eyvaz Hashimov, who played the Naqara, a traditional drum instrument, and Fakhraddin Dadashov, who played the Kamancha, a traditional chord instrument typical from Azerbaijan.

This session was more avant-garde jazz and “improvised”, with the music being accompanied (as was tradition in the old days) by an old black and white Azerbaijani movie which lasted nearly 50  minutes.

The aim here was for the emphasis to be slightly less on the music and more on images.

The concert was greeted with acclaim by the 100-strong audience, including a representative of EUReporter, who packed into the premier jazz club in Brussels despite a bitterly cold January night.

Gambarov’s talent was spotted from a very early age.

At the tender age of four, Salman was playing the grand piano no less and mastering even the most difficult compositions. Later, studying at musical school he amazed people with his playing and approach to music.

He is credited with being self-taught in jazz and, according to his own words, “jazz is music which compares everything in itself.”

The classically trained musician has built up an impressive reputation for his skills and has played at the famous Montreux jazz festival and at concerts all over the globe.

His first composition was met with widespread acclaim at the All-Union Contest of Composers in 1987 in Moscow and, in 1996, he founded “Bakustic Jazz”. Several famous musicians have performed with it in jazz clubs in Baku and overseas, including the Netherlands, Germany, France, the UK and United States. “Bakustic Jazz” has also participated at music festivals in Azerbaijan.

The concert in Brussels, sponsored by the Azerbaijan embassy to the European Union, was a rare chance for a Belgian audience to acquaint itself with the skills and musicianship of both Gambarov and his band.

It was also a chance to launch the new Belgian-Azerbaijani Cultural Society which aims to foster friendship and cultural exchanges between the two countries.

The co-founder is Belgian-born Kevin van Nuffel who is married to a well-known Azeri artist and hopes the new group will help facilitate cultural exchanges between the two nations.

He told this website: “It is wonderful to be able to launch the Society with an appearance by such a talented jazz musician.

“The aim is simple: to promote peace and understanding via culture. Azerbaijan has a real passion for many forms of music including jazz. Many may not necessarily associate the country with jazz but it embraced jazz a very long time ago and has a vibrant jazz scene with at least three jazz clubs in Baku alone.

“The concert tonight is also timely as it comes during the Brussels Jazz Festival which is ongoing.”

The actor and entrepreneur added, “With this new grouping we just want to bring people together through culture. The idea is to build on this event and get more Azeri artists over here to perform and more artists from Belgium to go to do the same in Azerbaijan.”

He said such future events might range from dance and theatre to photography and music.

The idea is backed by Lucie Saeys, who owns the Music Village which was founded by her late husband nearly 25 years ago.

She told EUReporter: “It is a great idea and also wonderful that so many people turned out tonight in such bad weather to come and see this wonderful artist here. We hope there will be many more similar events involving the new Society in the future.

“It is good to collaborate like this and, in this case, to reach out to Azeri people living in Brussels and Belgium.”

The Music Village, located close to the Grand Place, is the best known jazz club in Belgium and features live music six days a week, all year long with more than 300 concerts a year. It attracts not just jazz lovers but a wide audience. It celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2020. Lucie continues to grow its reputation as one of the world’s foremost jazz clubs.

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