November 24th, 2007 – by: mickeyd302
Lala Mammadova in concert
One of the organizations that I work with in Baku
is the Azerbaijani English Teacher's Association (AzETA). AzETA has been trying to assist two orphans in getting into college. Most orphans are trained to work in manual labor or the service industry, these two have the apptitude to make it into college but do not have the financial means. In addition, having an "alternative" education has set these two guys back as they have study extra hard to prepare for the entrance exams. AzETA, to their credit, have decided to do their best to assist these two with not only preparing academically for the rigors of college but also getting the money to persue their dreams. The difficulty lies in getting the money.
These kids dance much better than me.
Teachers in Azerbaijan, like so many other countries, are extremely underpaid. Most teachers in Baku make between $200-$400 US a month. It is not like this dedicated group of educators can pool their money together and send these teenagers to college. Popular Azerbaijani pop singer Lala Mammadova after hearing about these two students decided to give a benefit concert to assist them.
I attended one Azeri concert in Naxcivan
, but thought it would be fun to experience one here to expand my cultural horizons. I bought two tickets in case I could convince either the cute girl who works at the Aptek or the cute bartender at the Bermuda to come along, no such luck and I went stag.
The tickets were for a good cause so paying two for one was not a big lost. It was just as well that I went alone as Ragsana, the president of AzETA, asked me to photograph the event.
The concert was held at Baku Slavic University in the auditorium on the fourth floor. I was worried about running late for the 2pm start and as fate would have it the concert was pushed back to 3pm. I hung out in the AzETA office and talked to some kids who are studying English but are very shy about talking to a native speaker.
The auditorium was half full. There were several television stations and newspapers covering the event, so I had to wrestle for position for some of my shots. Her band consisted of a saxophonist, an accordianist(!), a drummer, a percussionist, and two keyboard players.
The music itself was good, although some songs were lip synced (I am not a big fan of the Solid Gold/American Bandstand/Brady Bunch school of "live" performaces) and the background vocals were recorded. When Lala actually sang, she proved to have a decent range. For me the highlight were songs that freatured some kids dressed in traditional Azeri clothing and doing traditional Azeri dances. In addition, Lala allowed many of those in attendance to come on stage to have their photo taken with her while she was performing and stayed after the concert to have her photo taken with anyone who wanted one. (As a side note, getting one's photo taken with anyone, be it performer, teacher, minor television celebrity, etc, is a big deal here.) I will also say that Lala was one of the easiest people I have ever photographed. She seemed to have a smile on her face at all times. Overall, it was a fun afternoon, although I am still in search of that elusive Azeri punk/technothrash metal band.