TODAY.AZ / Arts & Entertainment

Armenian plagiarism: When neighbour’s music becomes your own

26 August 2021 [10:35] - TODAY.AZ

By Azernews

By Aisha Jabbarova

Azerbaijanis take pride in their rich culture and music and are cautions over any attempt of misappropriation of their cultural heritage. The country produced the first opera and ballet in the Muslim East and has peculiar music that combines various elements of synthesis of traditional and Western music.

Of special sensitivity is the issue of plagiarism of Azerbaijani music by neighgouring Armenia. For decades, Azerbaijanis have accused Armenians of appropriating their music with dozens of Azerbaijani composers filing lawsuits against their Armenian counterparts.

Armenia’s plagiarism attempts have covered music genres ranging from folk songs, traditional ashug music, compositions by Azerbaijani classics as well as folk dances.

A recent example of such plagiarism is the appropriation of a music piece from Azerbaijani composer Uzeyir Hajibeyli’s operetta “If not this one, that that one” (premiered in 1911). The song from the famous film was recently performed by Armenian group RevolutionFolk Trio who presented Hajibeyli’s famous piece as an Armenian song composed by Arno Babajanyan in 1947. The music of the folk dance Uzundere used in the operetta was also plagiarized.

Hajibeyov’s other operetta “Cloth Peddler” (1913) also became the subject of Armenian plagiarism. It started with Armenian musician Sedrak Magalyan first asking permission to translate the operetta into Armenian, but then removing the author’s name from playbills. The operetta then was screened by an Armenian film director, without showing the author’s name.

It’s noteworthy that Uzeyir Hajibeyov is the founder of the Azerbaijani classical music and composed the first opera Leyla Majnun in the Muslim East in 1908.

Another famous composer Fikrat Amirov is also occasionally targeted by Armenian plagiarism. Amirov’s well-known composition “Karabakh” (written in 1954) is promoted as Armenian composer Ary Gevorkyan’s piece “Artsach”.

Gevorkyan succeeded in masterfully copying “Karabakh” in 1999 for his album “Ani” and ever since Amirov’s “Karabakh” became to be known as Gevorgyan’s “Artsach”, which is the same name for Karabakh in the Armenian language.

“Artsach” sounded in the background of Armenian athlete Adelia Petrosyan’s performance in the Russian figure skating on February. Petrosyan won the silver and Russian commentators praised the beauty of the Armenian music.

It is surprising that many Armenians are largely in denial about Armenian composers’ large-scale plagiarism of Azerbaijani music. For example, users in this Reddit page are slamming Azerbaijan for “stealing” Gevorgyan’s “Artsach”. This is just one of such cases of denialism. 

Armenians to this date believe that famous “San Galmaz Oldun” song by Azerbaijani composer Alakbar Taghiyev written to the lyrics of Madina Gulgun  is an Armenian song composed by Armenian musician Civan Gasparyan.

Today, Taghiyev’s track is being promoted around the world as an Armenian song, while Armenians accuse Azerbaijanis of stealing this song from them.

Even the most unlikely music pieces are being plagiarized by Armenians.

Armenians plagiarized Uzeyir Hajibeyli’s “Chirpinirdi Qara Deniz” (the Black Sea was Fluttering) and produced it under the name “Kamancha” and named it “Song of the Year” in Armenia in 2019.

The expert of the Intellectual Property Agency of Azerbaijan, Faig Sujaddinov, has concluded that the song “Kamancha” fully matches the song “Chirpinirdi Qara Deniz”, the lyrics of which belong to Ahmad Javad and music to Uzeyir Hajibayli. It is remarkable that this song was composed in 1918 in honor of the Turkish army that entered Baku to defend the city from Armenian Dashnak terrorist organization and Russian Bolsheviks.

Azerbaijani contemporary composers have also become victims of the Armenian plagiarism. Tofig Guliyev (1917-2000) seems to be at the top of Armenia’s plagiarism list when it comes to modern music.

Armenia also faced plagiarism charges over its Eurovision entry in 2009. Its Eurovision song “Jan Jan” performed by Inga and Anush Arshakyan sisters was the exact copy of Azerbaijani composer Tofig Guliyev’s (1917-2000) “Nakchivani” composition.

Azerbaijan’s Copyright Agency has sent protest letters to World International Property Organization (WIPO) concerning intellectual stealing by Armenian "ANI Records" of Azerbaijani music, including folk dances "Vagzali", "Tarakama", "Yalli", "Uzundara", "Gazakhi", "Mirzayi", national dances "Khanbaji", "Dali Jeyran", among others.

The plagiarism cases have become even more bizarre over folk songs whose origins are relatively difficult to verify. For many years, Armenians have been trying to prove that folk songs such as Sari Galin and Aman Tello – both written in Azerbaijani – are Armenian songs.

Dozens of other folk songs, Yally, Vaghzaly, Kocheri, Usundere, Mirzeyi, Shalakho folk dances and national musical instruments such as tar, balaban and zurna are most widely appropriated by Armenians.

For example, Armenian Folk Songs book written and published by Armenian musicians R. Boyachyan and A. Seriyeks in Paris, lists Azerbaijani folk samples Uzundere and Jeyrani as Armenian folk dances.  

Hopefully, Armenian culture figures will take a more responsible approach towards their neighbours' cultural heritage and not serve to add to the animosity and distrust between the two nations.


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