Ahead of Baku’s 18th international Jazz Festival, Trudy Ross speaks to local musician, Diana Hajiyeva, lead singer of Dihaj, about what it means to represent Baku’s musical talent and being part of the iconic festival
Baku: Can you tell us about your experience performing at Eurovision?
Diana Hajiyeva: Eurovision for me was a great side project which I can describe as a school of acting and great staging. I gained important professional experience including artistic transformation, working with a huge team and even learning certain “rules”. I do still love the song and the staging from my performance. What is important is that the audience still loves it too. I believe that my performance at Eurovision was the most memorable out of all of Azerbaijan’s performances at the contest. The only exception would be the performance of Elnur Huseynov and Samir Djavadzadeh in 2008, Azerbaijan’s first time participating in the competition.
Baku: How would you describe your signature sound?
DH: It’s a mix of ethereal atmosphere, electronic synths, indie guitar riffs and deep bass. All is seasoned with semi-acoustic drums and my voice, which sometimes performs the function of an instrument, and sometimes takes over with its dynamics. I don’t put myself into boxes. The sound may vary from witch-pop to acid-jazz. It depends on the emotions, thoughts and mood which I want to deliver.
Baku: How important is it that there is a global focus in a music festival?
DH: The bigger the festival the bigger the line up. It’s always a great pleasure to be part of this kind of event, no matter if you are performing or listening. But smaller festivals, even festivals that include only locals are important too. The festival itself is a big holiday, where people meet and share emotions. I truly believe that music is the most honest art form, and when people listen to music together they forget about their nationalities and their differences. They experience the same energy and understand the same language: the language of music.
Baku: What makes Azerbaijani music unique?
DH: Azerbaijani music has its own unique and sometimes specific modality. This modality is permeated with melodies and even a certain softness. This builds an ability to be very well mixed and integrated into other genres of music. That is why I believe jazz Mugham received its recognition all over the world. For example, now we have local bands who kind of “invented” such genres as Azeri jazz pop or Azerbaijani indie.
Baku: Your music often blends more traditional elements of Azerbaijani Jazz with contemporary pop and electronic music. What inspires you to fuse these musical worlds?
DH: From a young age, I sang in a jazz folk vocal ensemble. At the same time, I was listening to black metal, writing electronic music and studying to be a choir conductor at the Baku Music Academy. In addition to all of this, two bloods flow in my veins – Azerbaijani and Ukrainian. I hope this will create some understanding of why there is so much going on in my music.
Baku: What other acts are you most looking forward to at this year’s Baku International Jazz Festival?
DH: Svante Henryson, Theo Croker and Jazzanova.
Baku: What does the Baku International Jazz Festival mean to you?
DH: I have loved the Baku Jazz Festival ever since I was a kid. It is always meant to be a gathering of musicians, workshops, and lots of fun. For our city, it is kind of a tradition to have this beautiful event every autumn. I hope the tradition will last forever.
Online Editor: Candice Tucker
Photographer: Murad Orujov