Sunday 2 June 2019, 2pm
Please note that this is a matinee – doors will open at 2pm and the event will start shortly after.
Mountains of Tongues celebrate the new cassette release of archival recordings by Azerbaijani electric guitarist Rustem Quliyev and features exclusive footage from our upcoming film "Gitara," tracing the history and culture of the electric guitar in Azerbaijan. Each event includes a short film screening and discussion followed by a DJ-set of field-recordings and favourites from the Mountains of Tongues archives.
"The joy of Mountains of Tongues is that it leaves the ethnic, self-identifying dimenion of these unfamiliar musical utterances intact, and the poetry still shines through" – The Wire
Mountains of Tongues, founded by ethnomusicologist Ben Wheeler and anthropologist Stefan Williamson-Fa, have spent the last seven years traveling across the Caucasus region making recordings and collecting examples of lesser known musical traditions. Through selected samples from their hours of field recordings, coupled with carefully curated tracks from a personal archive of collected LPs, tapes, CDs, and home VHS recordings from across the region, their live shows present a unique and vibrant take on the soundscapes and cultures of the Caucasus, highlighting the music’s diverse forms and settings and the local musicians that make all of it possible.
Whether it’s lo-fi bootlegs of Azeri guitarists, the vocal gymnastics of Gurian polyphony, blaring Yezidi woodwinds at an engagement party, auto-tuned Dagestani techno, circling Chechen Sufi rituals, or vintage Yamaha synthesizers accompany songs in isolate languages, Mountains of Tongues presents music at the intersection of the modern/traditional, the participatory/presentational, and the sacred/secular.
Since the late 1960s the guitar has been adopted and transformed by musicians across the Caucasus. Inspired by traditional genres, such as the courtly mugham and the songs and tunes of ashiq bards, guitarists have developed a unique sound, new techniques and styles of playing. Gitara traces the development of this musical subculture, following the lives of guitarists from the suburbs of Azerbaijan's capital Baku to the rural villages of Borçalı (Kvemo Kartli) in Georgia.
Rüstəm Quliyev was born in 1969 in the village of Kosalar, Nagorno Karabakh. At the age of seven he had already mastered the tar before moving on to play the saz. He first encountered the guitar whilst doing his military service for the USSR in Russia and quickly made a name for himself as a guitarist after returning to Azerbaijan. During the early 1990s, after years of intense fighting, he had to flee his home due to the conflict in Karabakh and settled in the capital city Baku where his guitar playing took on a new character. Here he played at weddings, made TV appearances and recorded numerous cassettes with small labels in the city.
Rüstəm’s guitar playing not only drew on the rich traditional music of Azerbaijan but his thirst and passion for music also meant that he incorporated styles from across the globe into his repertoire- from Bollywood disco tunes and Afghan pop songs to Iranian street melodies and Spanish flamenco. He crafted a unique sound within an already idiosyncratic subculture of Azerbaijani electric guitar music. Sadly his career was brought to a sudden end in 2005 after a short battle with lung cancer. His music, however, lives on remaining popular throughout the country.
This cassette of archival recordings, produced in collaboration with Rüstəm Quliyev’s family, marks the first international release of this guitar legend's music.