The city of Baku, the capitol of Azerbaijan, located below the Caucasus Mountains on the edge of the Caspian Sea, is a fascinating blend of east and west, old and new. In the late 1800s, numerous “oil barons’ mansions” were built alongside the existing ancient Islamic walled city in a strange mixture of architectural styles that mixed European classical, Art Nouveau with Persian eclecticism. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union 20 years ago, Baku has experienced another oil-fueled building boom of modern skyscrapers. But nothing seems to capture the essence of the Azerbaijan psyche the way that traditional Mugham music does.
The love he showed for the instrument as a child led him to the life as a prodigy who left Iran in 1981 after the 1979 Islamic Revolution so he could continue his musical studies. He is renowned as a soloist and composer and as a founder and member of several ensembles, including Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, with which we see him rehearsing one of his compositions in the film. In 1997 he returned to Iran to renew his connections to his homeland and to teach a new generation of musicians, while establishing a life with his wife. His existence was that of a prolific, peaceful, globetrotting musician.