Light Your Fire: New music from Sabina Babayeva, Samra and Elnur Huseynov

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Not for the first time, Azerbaijan is back in the headlines. And as is so often the case, unfortunately, the news isn’t good. Over the past few days, worrying stories have emerged regarding brutal police crackdowns on the LGBT community.

Between Kim Jong-un’s nuclear posturing, Donald Trump’s rabid rhetoric and so much more, the world can seem like a scary and a miserable place. For the last 50 odd year’s we’ve had Eurovision to offer us a distraction from the grim reality, and with it the music of all the past artists. With all that in mind, here’s a new music round-up with a distinctly Azeri flavour. And, for once, all the compositions are completely free from politics.

Sabina Babayeva “Can”

We’re more accustomed to hearing her belt out ballads like “When The Music Dies”. But Sabina Babayeva mixes things up for her latest release “Can”. Fusing the old and new, the “Ey Azerbaycanim” singer gives a modern twist to a century old Georgian classic. Composed by Victor Dolidze, Babayeva was first introduced to the song by fellow Eurovision 2012 star Anri Jokhadze. Fuad Velizade wrote the Azeri text, while the inclusion of tar strings and a little mugham add further local flavour.

But rather than delivering an earnest and staid re-working, Sabina’s update is full of vitality and life. Even with the traditional elements, the track is thoroughly modern. Upbeat and completely danceable, we’ve never heard Sabina sound this fun. During a recent catchup with our Deban, the glamorous songstress said “I agreed [to the cover] cuz I liked it”. And we like it too, very much so!

Samra “Ters Gedir”

When we last spoke with her in August — see above — she promised us lots more new music, including an Azeri language track. And sure enough, Samra Rahimli dropped “Ters Gedir” (Going Wrong) earlier this month. From the soul pop of “Miracle” to the urban beats on “Badminton”, the Eurovision 2016 singer has always been somewhat of a musical chameleon.

Here she changes tack once again as her usual pop hooks are replaced with stripped back production and experimental sounds. Impressively, even with the unconventional mix of spoken word, synthesised vocals and regular singing, the songstress still brings the drama. The song’s intensely sensual mood transcends the language barrier, and the whole package is hotter than the burning inferno which dominates the music video.

Elnur Hüseynov “Vibration”

Whatever about the two ladies, Elnur Hüseynov’s musical shift makes his Eurovision 2015 stint seem like millennia ago. And it’s near impossible to credit that the same man partook in Azerbaijan’s high-camp OTT 2008 debut. For his latest release, the English language “Vibration”, think instead of the minimalist electronic pop of James Blake or The xx.

The “Hour Of The Wolf” crooner urges the listener to “open up your mind” and to “open up your soul”. And to truly appreciate the track, that’s exactly what one must do. If we’re to draw comparisons with artists in the Eurovision sphere, it is probably most like recent records from Sweden’s Loreen or Georgia’s Nina Sublatti. Although Elnur is more restrained. There’s no instant impact, but the song reverberates long after the last note ends.

The song’s lyrics were penned by another Azerbaijani Eurovision alum, Dihaj.

What do you think of all the releases from some our favourite Azeri stars? Which one is your favourite? Let us know in the comments below.

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