Rapping for freedom and democracy in Azerbaijan (updated)


ShirBand ft Slang. Qorxaga ver cesaret: The title means ‘show courage to coward(s). The chorus is saying that this imprisonment, enslavement won’t go on for much longer; ‘your protesting tongue, your words are golden; your arms that rise fearlessly in the Square are golden.’ Then it talks about how they’re selling bullshit to everyone, manipulating their thoughts, etc. Says ‘I could be the dead student that you don’t give a damn about, or i could be partying with you while the city is mourning’ (ref. to Gul Bayrami/ Flower Holiday) ‘but i’m just a poet telling the truth.’ Then Shirband asks those fooled by economic ‘progress’ if the child is born into an economically strong country, then why is he hungry? Not everything is skin deep; i’m a hooligan and you have no honor. Join me, believe in me, etc. Summary by Leyla.

Alternative music in the former Soviet Union has always been synonymous with change and freedom, but in recent years in the South Caucasus — particularly in Armenia and Azerbaijan — few musicians have spoken out against the regimes in place. In fact, music has more often than not taken on a nationalist agenda as Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia all illustrated quite clearly this year during the nearly always controversial Eurovision Song Contest.  

However, if some musicians in Georgia have used their public profiles to ridicule both government and opposition politicians alike while there is at least one musician in Armenia who has taken a stand following last year’s disputed presidential election, nothing could have prepared anyone for the emergence of at least two rap bands in Azerbaijan who are using their music to openly campaign for democracy and human rights in the country. For the third anniversary of the OL! Azerbaijani Youth Movement founded by detained video blogger Adnan Hajizade. for example, Shirband wrote a rap anthem. H., an Azeri friend, recently translated the lyrics for me.

Be Free
Be Democratic
Stand up and light a candle
OL is a moment where there exists
Hopes, wishes and freedom

Here comes a voice
Here comes Shirband
Here a new trick comes to your ear
Here comes a border separating your freedom
From its end
Even though wolves are howling at you
And those who are howling are joining the nation
Even though you are hungry for freedom
Here comes a pain for those who want to suffocate the youth
But be free and be optimistic
Our fight is getting harsher every day
Our voices will get to you and will be a crown in your hearts (i.e. be very dear to me)
There are many unseen forces
Many young people dedicated to the idea
Many freedom mujahedeen
And many who join their voices to ours

Be Free
Be Democratic… (etc)

The future is not in time, but is in us
Our voice has suffered for a long time in our hearts
Many people have seen us and heard us
And listened to our lament for freedom
This road is our own present to ourselves
Our future won’t come with time
We will bring the future ourselves
Here is our manifesto for you to know..
Even if there are mountains and stones on our road
We will break through them all
With the ones dedicated to the idea
and their breaths hungry for freedom
Every affair of ours is a new step
We are reaching the goal step by step
Come join us, the road is expecting You too, Be Free, Be Democratic and Be Tolerant..

Be Free ——————— (OL AZAD:)
Be Democratic..(etc) download



Since then, other songs include Fuck (download), a song against corruption and authoritarianism in Azerbaijan, while their latest, Davam edir 37 (download), is dedicated to Hajizade and Emin Milli currently held in detention and due to be tried for "hooliganism" next week

An online acquaintance, P., summarized the song’s lyrics in English as: "1937 [the year of Stalin’s purges] is still going on, even more strictly, more seriously, now with oil and gas, the youth are being arrested, we always feel these black jeeps following us…"  

In comparison, the last rap band in Armenia which many hoped might speak out for disenfranchised and disenchanted youth not only supported a pro-government party run by the country’s main oligarch in the 2007 parliamentary election, but also wrote a song for its campaign. And rock groups in Azerbaijan have not been silent either with Ozan writing an anthem for Dalga, another youth movement in the country. Again, thanks to H. for the translation.

There is fire burning in our souls
There is protest on our tongues
Let the tired faces smile
Tomorrow is in our hands
Let our students and youth
Be a beacon for ancient East
Let us arm ourselves with love
So that victory is ours

So let’s today and even now
Go through the darknesses
kill all fears
bring light in waves ("dalgha" means wave in Azeri)
Let’s say hello 
to a beautiful and bright future
to a healthy and free society
To justice and humanity..

We say no to the old ways
To cliches and taboos
Let us bring the morning filled with love
To close and far places
Let’s tear down all walls 
so that sun is in our houses
let’s sail through the seas
so that everyone calls us "waves."

(So let’s today or even now..) (repeat) download

Of course, the authorities are also well aware of the potential for change that alternative music brings with it. Last month, one Azeri newspaper reported that rap fans were even being intimidated by national security service agents.

The special services of the Naxcivan Autonomous Republic have been hunting for fans of the H.O.S.T ALLIANCE rap group. On Monday evening, two men, who introduced themselves as agents of the NSM [the National Security Ministry], approached a place where the group’s fans come together.

They took all the 15 young men there at that time to the NSM where they were kept for eight hours. The young men were demanded that they not listen to the group’s songs and not wear shirts with their symbols. The special services substantiated this with the "instigating nature" of the group’s music, the vagueness of their symbols and to whom and what their songs serve.

At the same time, the hunt for young people who download the group’s songs to their mobile phones is under way. They are stopped and demanded that they delete their songs. An attempt by a Turan news agency correspondent to contact the Naxcivan National Security Ministry failed as no-one answered telephone calls.

The prominent H.O.S.T ALLIANCE rap group released its first disc in 2007, however, it was not allowed for official sale. Therefore, discs were distributed for free and earned popularity among young people. H.O.S.T is an acronym standing for air, fire, water and soil [hava – air; od – fire; su – water; torpaq – soil]. The songs of the group are about civil attitudes and criticism of negative cases. Several months ago, the group members were detained in Baku on false accusations and were demanded that they stop "composing and singing anti-state songs".

Source: Azadliq, Baku in Azeri 29 Jul 09 p 3

Incidentally, to follow up on my last article on rock music in Armenia for EurasiaNet as well as numerous blog posts, a new one on alternative music in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia will soon see the light of day for Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso. Meanwhile, the songs mentioned in this entry can be downloaded at: Shirband’s OL! Azad (download), Fuck (download), Davam edir 37 (download) and Ozan’s Dalga (download)