• Polymath Weekly

Uzeyir Hajibeyli: frontman of Azerbaijan's 20th century music revival

Updated: Sep 23

Though in his home country Hajibeyli is famous for his contributions to the world of music, he should be equally recognized as a publicist, playwright, teacher and public figure. Here is an overview of his upbringing and legacy.


Uzeyir Hajibeyli
Uzeyir Hajibeyli (1885-1948) [Image Credit: National Music & Global Culture Society]

Childhood and early years


Soon after his birthday (September 18, 1885), Hajibeyli's family moved from Aghjabadi to Shusha, the cultural hub of Azerbaijan, where Hajibeyli's upbringing was strongly influenced by local prestigious musical communities and figures like Khurshidbanu Natavan (one of the most famous lyrical poets of Azerbaijan).


Hajibeyli's musical talent had been unfolded in many ways: at early age, the future composer mastered mugham singing and Azerbaijani traditional musical instruments. Having moved to eastern Georgia to complete his secondary education, Hajibeyli learned to play the violin, cello and wind instruments.

Hajibeyli the Polymath

Uzeyir Hajibeyli
Uzeyir Hajibeyli, 1913 [Image Credit: U. Hajibeyli's house museum]

After moving to Baku at the age of 20, Hajibeyli took on several jobs, such as teaching Azerbaijani and Russian languages, geography, history and maths in several schools. Hajibeyli was also heavily involved with the press: throughout his lifetime, he edited for a number of important Azerbaijani newspapers, including political journals. In 1945, he published the first Azerbaijani music theory book The Principles of Azerbaijani Folk Music.


Major accomplishments: a summary

  • Composed the first opera in the Islamic world, called Leyli and Majnun (1908), where he combined elements of Western and Eastern musical genres

  • Wrote the music for Azerbaijan's national anthem (1918)


  • Author of 7 operas and 3 operettas in total, for all of which (except one operetta) he also wrote the texts for

  • Founder of major musical institutions in Azerbaijan such as Azerbaijan State Conservatoire (1920) (now Baku Music Academy) and the Orchestra of Azerbaijani Folk Instruments (1931)

  • Recipient of official honors of USSR, including Order of Lenin and Stalin Prize (won twice) and People's Artist of the USSR (after 1938)

Remembering Uzeyir Hajibeyli

The outstanding nature and great value of Hajibeyli's work is not only commemorated among his countrymen:

there are also memorials built in his honor in countries such as Serbia and Austria. Throughout Azerbaijan, there are multiple monuments of Hajibeyli, including in his childhood town of Shusha. The image of the monument on the right is located in Baku, in front of the Baku Music Academy.


Uzeyir Hajibeyli's art has always been integral to Azerbaijan's culture and so, inevitably, it has made its way into people's daily life, including when it was part of the Soviet Union. The 1966 stamp on the lower right, for example, depicts a scene from Hajibeyli's opera Koroghlu.


A brilliant figure like Uzeyir Hajibeyli, who served the culture, music and education in Azerbaijan deserves to be celebrated not just on 18th of September each year, but all year round. Among people of Azerbaijan and music scholars across the world, Hajibeyli shall forever be remembered as the embodiment of 20th century Azerbaijan's music revival.




Monument Image Credit: Monuments reveal

Stamp Image Credit: Unknown

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