Azerbaijan International

Summer 1994 (2.2)
Page 66

Tribute to Rafig Babayev

by Gassem Zehni

On March 19, 1994, a powerful bomb exploded in a crowded public transit train station in Baku, Azerbaijan, killing and injuring a number of commuters. I first heard about the tragic bombing that evening in Berkeley, California, from a friend at a Noruz party.

My first reaction was one of revulsion and disgust. It reiterated the brutality of the war and how its long, hideous arms could reach miles away from the front line and crush innocent people going about their everyday affairs when they least expected it. It reminded me of the World Trade Center bombing in New York, the market explosion in Sarijevo, and the mosque massacre in Hebron. I reflected upon the tragedy and grieved.

But two days later I read my e-mail news and was completely stunned when my eyes fell upon the headline which said that famous musician, Rafig Babayev, had been among those who had died. I couldn't breathe; my heart skipped. I couldn't believe that someone I knew personally had been one of the bombing victims. I was deeply saddened.

I met Rafig last year. In fact, it was last year this same time-at Noruz. He had come to California with a four-member band to perform at our New Year's concerts in Los Angeles and the Bay Area. From the time they arrived in San Francisco until they left for Azerbaijan, we spent about two weeks together. I got to know him and the other members as I took them around to see the Bay Area.

I remember him for his love of art and music. Just a few hours before their concert in San Jose, the vocalist had to be rushed to the hospital in an emergency. But, my friend kept his composure and asked the band to go ahead and perform. Under such stressful conditions without a vocalist, they performed and entertained for hours. During the concert, he inquired about their singer every chance possible. He had high standards of ethics and was very caring and fatherly towards his associates. He was well-respected and revered by them.

Rafig was a very personable and generous person. I admired him for his music, honesty, integrity and down-to-earth character. He was an honorable artist, brilliant composer, decent human being and true friend. In Azerbaijan, he was conductor of the National Orchestra for the Azerbaijani National Radio and Television. He will be deeply missed.

Gassem Zehni produces an Azerbaijani Cultural radio program each week in the Berkeley / San Francisco area.

On the day of the accident, "People's Artist," Babayev had been on his way to rehearsal at the State Variety Orchestra of Azeri Radio and Television. Babayev, together with distinguished piano player, Vagif Mustafazade, had founded Azerbaijan's Jazz School. He was well-known as one of the best jazz soloists and composers in the former USSR and had won numerous international competitions.

From Azerbaijan International (2.2) Summer 1994.
© Azerbaijan International 1994. All rights reserved.

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