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28 April 2023

Habil Mammadov’s Agdam Dreams

Music teacher, Habil Mammadov, hopes to organize a concert where his students can perform in his newly liberated hometown of Aghdam, where he was forced to flee from occupation.

Habil Mammadov’s Agdam Dreams

Image: caspianpost 

As we have discussed before, the Karabakh Nightingales (Qarabağ Bülbülləri) were amongst the most celebrated proponents of traditional Azerbaijani song craft. Perhaps the most famous ‘nightingale’ was Tacir Şahmalıoğlu back in the 1970s, but the group continued with different formulations right up until the war which left Karabakh under Armenian occupation. One of the younger generation, Agdam-born Habil Mammadov, was among who has since gone on to become a music teacher in his own right.   

He jumped to prominence rather unexpectedly when a low-resolution phone-video of him and his student dueting went viral online. Though now very slightly greying at the temples, Habil has a very youthful appearance and it seems that the re-posters assumed that the pair were fellow students rather than pupil and teacher. Mammadov’s teaching went from strength to strength, his videos recording the progress of his growing band of students who went on to perform at important venues in Baku and beyond.   

However, his dream is to go full circle and take the group back to the city of his birth. The trouble is that Agdam was pulverised during nearly three decades of Armenian occupation and left in such a parlous state that it came to be nicknamed The Hiroshima of the Caucasus[1]. Following the 2020 Second Karabakh War, Aghdam was one of the cities that was de-occupied but the reconstruction and de-mining effort is massive. That is well underway, with the plan for a return of the population[2] to begin in around 2025. Habil hopes that he and his students will be amongst the first to perform when the city’s rejuvenation allows. 


[1] although no atomic bomb had been dropped on the place, the extent of bomb damaged coupled with long term scavenging of building materials left the impression of utter desolation 

[2] Around 145,000 was the official population but that included a large number of villages in the surroundings as well as the city itself