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June 28, 2012

Azerbaijan at the 2012 Festival

Photo courtesy of Karabakh Foundation

The 2012 Smithsonian Folklife Festival is proud to host two evening events featuring the tastes and sounds of Azerbaijan. Located on the western shore of the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan shares borders with Armenia, Georgia, Iran, and Russia. Its population of 8.4 million people is roughly the same as that of New York City, in a country slightly smaller than the state of Maine.

While a full Festival program on Azerbaijan may take place in a future year, the 2012 Festival will offer a taste (and we mean that quite literally) of the country’s rich cultural traditions.

On June 28 and July 5, two very talented musicians will transport you to another world with love songs and improvisation. Imamyar Hasanov, born in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku, plays the kamancha, a stringed instrument known for its tender and melodic sound. Hasanov began playing the kamancha at age seven, and became the youngest soloist in Azerbaijan’s National Music Instruments Orchestra. He currently resides in the Washington, D.C., area.

Pezhham Akhavass plays two percussion instruments—the tombak and daf. Originally from Iran, Akhavass began learning music theory at age five. He has performed and recorded with many musical artists, including Hasanov, and currently lives in San Francisco.

Adding to this musical experience will be Azerbaijani dishes, available for Festival visitors to enjoy at one of four food concessions. The menu offers savory kebobs with lamb, chicken and beef; fresh salad with olives and feta cheese; and a flavorful rice pudding for dessert.

Imamyar Hasanov and Pezhham Akhavass perform from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on June 28 and July 5 in the Justin S. Morrill Performing Arts Center stage.

Johanna Medlin is an intern with the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, helping to inventory the Center’s collection of material culture. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in anthropology.

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