Chingiz Mustafayev will represent Azerbaijan at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv with his song “Truth”. It’s a dark pop number with ethnic flourishes.
Azeri broadcaster iTV chose Chingiz through an internal selection process, which the network hopes will take the country back to the final after its first ever non-qualification in Lisbon.
Rehearsals start tomorrow, so we’ve compiled 10 facts you need to know about Chingiz. Let’s do this!
1. He’s Russian born
Chingez was born in Moscow on 11 March 1991. However, he moved to Azerbaijan at six-years-old, settling in Qazax. The relatively small city — its population is approximately 20,000 people — is located in the north west of the country. His childhood was tough: “Living in the district was very difficult. There was no gas, no light, we were faced with everyday problems”. As a teen, along with his mother and brother, he relocated once more — this time to Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital.
2. He got his first big break on a TV talent show
In 2007, 16-year-old Chingiz appeared on season seven of Yeni ulduz, a hugely popular Azeri talent show similar to the Idol franchise. Despite his young age, Chingiz stormed to victory and became a household name: “The next day I could not go to the subway. Everybody was calling me that guy who played this guitar”. Other Eurovision stars to come through the format include Aysel (2009) and Safura (2010).
3. He could have won Eurovision
In the early years of its participation, Azerbaijan regularly held multi-week TV searches for its Eurovision acts. Chingiz entered the 2011 process. He won the first heat singing Israel’s 2010 entry “Milim”. But he was eliminated in the semi-final. Perhaps, in an alternate universe, it could have been Chingiz singing “Running Scared” with Nikki Jamal and taking the crystal microphone home to Baku.
4. He entered New Wave 2013
Two years later, Chingiz finally got the chance to represent Azerbaijan internationally when he competed in the New Wave festival. The prestigious event for young talent counts many Eurovision stars amongst its roll call of winners, including Sergey Lazarev (Russia 2016), Jamala (Ukraine) and DoReDoS (Moldova 2018). Chingiz missed out on a podium finish, but he did get the opportunity to duet with Polina Gagarina (Russia 2015).
5. He overcame technical issues on The Voice Ukraine
At this stage, it should be clear that Chingiz is not one to shirk away from competition. And when he auditioned for Ukraine’s The Voice in 2016 not even technical issues could stand in his way. Despite the glitches, his cover of “Bamboleo” by the Gipsy Kings convinced all four coaches to turn, including Tina Karol (Ukraine 2006). Alas, he was eliminated in the battle round.
6. He performs with the Palmas band
Chingiz has fronted the Palmas band since 2012. The rest of the lineup is currently made up of Roya Miri, Masud Allahverdiyev, Rizvan Aliyev, Orxan Huseyn, and Vuqar İsgenderli. The group has a substantial following and their music videos have racked up millions of views. And they don’t confine their talents to Azerbaijan. They played in Moscow at the end of April.
7. His typical style is very different
As you can see from both his talent show appearances and tracks with Palmas, Chingiz’s typical sound is very different to his Eurovision entry. It blends Spanish flamenco sounds with jazz and traditional Azeri elements. And, initially, Borislav Milanov — one of the co-writers on “Truth” — was worried about the clash in styles: “I was a little nervous about how Chingiz would perform the song… But meeting him totally changed my mind. He’s so passionate about music and his own culture. We even added some unique elements of traditional Azerbaijani music… to make the song an authentic fusion of Azerbaijan and the West”.
8. He’s a multi-talented musician
Chingiz can do more than just sing. He’s played the guitar since childhood, and the trusty instrument has accompanied him for much of his professional career. He’s not afraid to experiment with other sounds and instruments, as can be witnessed on the acoustic version of “Truth”.
9. He’s a kung fu fighter
Aside from singing, Chingiz professes to love yoga, meditation and spending time with his dog. So far, so peaceful. But he’s also a fan of kung fu. He learned from his older brother Seymur. The sport has brought him self-esteem, reduced fear and nourished his soul.
10. He’s used to performing with big names
Don’t expect Chingiz to be starry-eyed when Madonna rocks up for the grand final in Tel Aviv. He’s well used to sharing the bill with global stars. When Azerbaijan hosted its first Formula One Grand Prix in 2017, Chingiz was part of the festivities. As well as local stars like Dihaj (Azerbaijan 2017), the line-up also featured The Black Eyed Peas, Mariah Carey and Nicole Scherzinger.
Can Chingiz restore Azerbaijan’s qualification record? Could “Truth” even be victory number two for the Land of Fire? Let us know in the comments.