Staying backstage in a Mugham Opera production
Sheki Travel Blog› entry 26 of 30 › view all entries
We stayed in Sheki in a converted caravanserai from the 18th century, once a trading centre for merchants working the Silk Route between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea. When we arrived we found cameras set up and a choir assembled for a major performance, only to find out that there was an international folk music festival due to start that evening in our caravanserai. In the small courtyard where camel trains were once picketed, the young girls in the choir smiled and giggled while the Cossack-style dancers limbered up. Finally the important dignitaries filed in and took their seats and the music began (recorded here). The high-light was undoubtedly a young man, with stress plastered over his face, who walked out into centre-stage to sing a solo Mugham ballad. He stood there and sang in an oddly metallic voice, moving a stretched hide against his face to change the echoes, in a song reminiscent of the Islamic call to prayer, but which really needs to be heard to be understood (our recording). Our second night, after a day spent exploring the elaborate palace of Sheki, was the scene of a Mugham opera, with dancers using the room next door to ours to change costumes between acts, and people running around the hallways and stairs of the caravanserai while all was calm and perfect down in the courtyard.