Mansum Ibrahimov: Majnun of national stage

By: Amina Nazarli

With his notable voice and intelligence, mugham singer Mansum Ibrahimov has conquered the hearts of millions. Considered the Majnun of the national stage, Ibrahimov is the man who breathed new life into the world-renowned Azerbaijani operetta “Leyli and Majnun.”

Either the air or water of Karabakh, the cradle of Mugham, where he was born, appears to have inspired and instilled a sense of love for this magical music in the singer.

Since early childhood, Ibrahimov had a clear voice and a good grasp of the music. Mansum’s grandfather and some of his seven brothers were also gifted with a smooth voice, but they never thought of exploring a career in singing and demonstrated their talent exclusively among their relatives.

However, the young musician always knew that this profession would accompany him throughout his life, despite the fact that he was torn between choosing medicine or arts.

“When I was young,” the khanende (performer of mugham) says, “medicine no less attracted me, but I quickly realized that medicine is not a continuation of my life’s journey. Despite this, each time I met people in white coats, I felt a lot of respect for them. There is a parallel between medicine and music: the first heals the body, and the second cures the soul.”

He is, undoubtedly, the best performer of the Majnun hero from the famous “Leyli and Majnun” operetta written by great Azerbaijani composer Uzeyir Hajibeyli.

Playing the role of Majnun made him a famous singer and the brightest star of mugham in the international arena. The reason why this role mainly played a significant part in his career was due to the fact that the love story opera “Leyli and Majnun” is the first opera of the Muslim East, which laid the foundation for the mugham opera and national opera, in general.

In fact, the performance of the young musician at the Republican Vocal Competition, dedicated to the 100th anniversary of Uzeyir Hajibeyli, prejudged his fate.

The young man’s melodious singing and clean voice left a mark on the spectators and the jury of the festival, among whom was the outstanding Azerbaijani singer, Shovket Alekperova.

Congratulating him on the victory, Alekperova stressed that Ibrahimov was born for the serious arias.

“You should be in opera,” she said.

“You should perform Majnun!” Alekperova emphasized.

This phrase turned out to be prophetic, soon completely changing the life of the young man.

After the rehearsals lasting for more than a year and half, he got accustomed to the role of his main hero Majnun, whom the singer has performed more than 125 times at various international venues, so far.

The father-of-four, Ibrahimov, with his divine voice, enthralls not only his homeland but also foreign audiences who have got familiarized with this gifted musician.

Among the middle generation of contemporary musicians, Ibrahimov is the biggest khanende and a connoisseur of mugham. Unlike some modern mugham performers, he preserves the classical style of singing of this unique musical and poetic phenomenon and has an in-depth understanding of all its ins and outs.

Those who did not grow up listening to mugham, or are first-time listeners often describe it as evoking feelings of melancholy and proffering a sort of relaxation to the mind. Most of the mugham compositions use minor scales, and all use unusual microtones, which lend themselves at first to impressions of mugham as a melancholic music.

Mugham became part of the global cultural heritage at the beginning of the last century by drawing the attention of cultural experts and music critics around the globe. In 2003, the UNESCO recognized the Azerbaijani mugham as a masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Over the years, Ibrahimov has performed alongside two of the brightest musicians Elchin Hashimov (tar) and Elnur Ahmadov (kemancha), forming an irreplaceable trio, who have gained the love of both national and foreign audiences.

During the World Music Expo in 2011 held in Copenhagen, one of the media representatives took to the stage with the Azerbaijani flag when Ibrahimov’s famous “Karabakh” trio were performing. The journalist said he bows to the people having such a unique culture and kissed the flag.

“Today, mugham is known and loved by many across the world. In 2013, we performed at a concert in Latvia. After the concert, the Latvian president held a meeting with us,” he said.

“I do not know your language, and I do not understand the essence of what you sang. However, one thing is clear that this is cosmic music,” the Latvian president affirmed, Ibrahimov remembers.

Besides this, Ibrahimov is also a competent teacher and has nurtured several talented students who continue to carry forward the legacy of mugham traditions, which have existed since centuries in Azerbaijan.

So far, the holder of the “Shohrat” (“Glory”) order has delivered brilliant concerts in the United States, Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Germany, Ukraine, Latvia, and Iran, and all his concerts have been immensely successful, with packed arenas.

If you have not yet got acquainted with the magnificent Majnun performance of the famous singer, then you can still experience it at the Azerbaijan State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater on November 22.

The play is dedicated to the 55th birthday of the theater’s soloist, Ibrahimov, who has been the lead performer in the play for over 22 years.

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