In our Caspian Podcast, veteran travel-writer Mark Elliott chats to fascinating folk whose lives intersect with or revolve around the Caspian Region. Expect a wide variety of insights: guests range from ambassadors to activists, ministers to tour guides, writers to business leaders.
Episode 25 | Azerbaijan’s Elin Suleymanov has been ambassador in the UK, the US and, yes, on Comedy Central
If you thought diplomats had to leave their personalities behind to do their jobs, think again. Elin Suleymanov is Azerbaijan’s current ambassador in the UK. Before that he spent a decade as Baku’s main man in Washington, becoming probably the only ambassador to have appeared on Comedy Central. There’s plenty of humour in this very human yet incisive podcast conversation, but much to think about as Mark asks Elin about “caviar diplomacy,” Armenian detainees and hopes for longer term peace in the Caucasus.
Episode 23 | Arnold Alahverdian, Co-founder of Bright Garden Voices
Though Armenians and Azerbaijanis were often friends and neighbours during the Soviet period, since independence – and the two Karabakh wars – contact between the two peoples has been sadly lacking. And that has made it easy for each side to dehumanize and demonize the other. Whether online or in person, contact and discussion between everyday Azerbaijanis and Armenians could help to slowly reverse this process and bring about the conditions needed for lasting peace. That’s the philosophy behind Bright Garden Voices, whose co-founder, Arnold Alahverdian, joins Mark on this edition of the Caspian Podcast.
Episode 22 | Ramin Jabbarli - Academic Researcher and Teacher Born to an Azerbaijani-Turkish Family in Iran
Teaching students using their own non-Persian mother tongue is enough to get you arrested. In Iran anyway. This we learn from Ramin Jabbarli who was born in that country to an Azerbaijani-Turkish family. He is now based in Seattle as an academic researcher and teacher at the University of Washington. Ramin explains the difficulties faced by linguistic minorities in Iran and touches upon a perceived element of ethnic bias in a range of other fields, including ecological movements hoping to improve water resource management.
Episode 21 | Polina Dessiatnichenko, Ethnomusicologist, Tar Player, and Mugham Enthusiast!
Polina Dessiatnichenko is a Ukrainian-Canadian ethnomusicologist and player of the 11-stringed tar, an archetypally Caucasian musical instruments typically used to accompany Azerbaijani mugham. In this unique edition of the Caspian Podcast Polina explains with demonstrations various musical motifs with which tar players build up the structure of that Unesco-listed form of very traditional yet partly improvised music. Polina also explains a little about the linkages between mugham and ghazal poetry and reveals that learning these art forms is an all-encompassing spiritual endeavour rather like becoming the devotee of a guru.