“Ana” Rahman Asadollahi

The world's premier Azerbaijani accordion player musician, composer and conductor, Rahman Asadollahi performed in Europe, Asia and America. While conducting Azerbaijani concerts in Iran from 1969 to 1985, the artist became known as the Master of all accordion players. He won the first prize among 650 players of "All European Accordion and Harmonica Championship" in Switzerland, 1995. Rahman Asadollahi has become a living legend for the Azerbaijani people and the lovers of accordion music. Since 1999 this incredibly talented composer and performing artist lives in the United States.

This is an instrumental recording of passionate traditional and folk Azerbaijani music. Asadollahi performed on garmon (Azerbaijani accordion) with The Orchestra of Azerbaijani Folkloric Music conducted by Nariman Azimoff. Recording was done in Baku, Republic of Azerbaijan.

1.Ay Giz
2.Gozum Yashla Dolmasin
6.Su Sapmishham
7.Gonakh Gelajak
Total time: 71:42 min.

"One native star is Rahman Asadollahi, a virtuoso on the garmon…His music has a dreamlike quality, blending Middle Eastern rhythms with a European melodic structure …"
Max Millard, SFWeekly


“A dissident songwriter and political exile, Asadollahi brought a Middle Eastern soloist passion to his playing. His improvisation in the modes of Shur and Segah were reminiscent of the late Argentinean bandoneon maser, Astor Piazolla, in their absolute authority.”
David M. Roche, New California Media

“The winner of the 1995 All European Hohner Accordion and Harmonica Championships, Rahman Asadollahi travels the world performing the soulful and passionate music of the Azerbaijani people.“
Bloomington Times, IL

“In Azerbaijan there is no one who does not know who Rahman Asadollahi is.”
Azadlik Magazine


Rahman Asadollahi, the world’s foremost garmon (Azerbaijani accordion) player, teams up with the Orchestra of Azerbaijani Folkloric Music, conducted by nationally renown Professor Nariman Azimsoff, and his brother master drummer Vehid Asadollahi, to feature some of the best loved traditional Azeri music, poured out with profound sensitivity from Rahman’s 90 year-old garmon. The Itzak Perlman of garmon in 20th century, this master’s ability to move listeners is surpassed only by his ravishing original compositions, which plumb the depths of musical sensuality.

From the achingly romantic and heroic “Ay Giz” to nostalgic tender stirrings of “Gozum Yashla Dolmasin”, where trembling notes fall like tear drops at unwilled partings; from an intense lovers chase danced through a lively tumble of music in “Vessal” to the plaintive cries of the garmon cascading down a series of intricate improvisations in “Hedjran”, Asadollahi’s music is bound to steal your heart and transport you to a world where extreme beauty and pain find lingering union.

The first prize winner among 650 players at the All European Accordion and Harmonica Championship in Switzerland in 1995, Asadollahi was a featured master artist at the first annual San Francisco World Music Festival in 2000. For 16 years, concert engagements have taken Asadollahi throughout the Republic of Azerbaijan, on Iranian and Azeri radio programs. Since 1985, he has toured and performed in Turkmenistan, England, France, Denmark, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, arriving to the US in 1999.

A politically exiled artist since 1985, though, Asadollahi shares his people’s story of repression. To hear his music is to taste the dreams and laments of the Azeri people, a mistreated people denied of their basic human rights. Though deep and profoundly tragic, his is a music that truly celebrates, is drunk on life, and marvels at the beauty of being alive in spite of suffering. Technically brilliant, he conveys an amazing understanding of human pain and glory.

Emotionally appealing, Azeri music is full of dramatic flares, trembling embellishments, cascading improvisations, and slow meandering descents ending in a swift punctual finish. Deeply rooted, this music stems from a natural progression of Southwest Asian and middle European roots. Meaning literally “Land of the Fire”, Azerbaijan is home to a central Asian Turkic people who occupy what is now an ex-Soviet Republic in the Caucasus and a Northern part of Iran. Azeri music employs mughams, similar to Turkish makams and Persian dasgahs, involving free improvisations, instrumental melody, and folk motifs to evoke certain moods.

“Ana—Traditional Music of Azerbaijan” captures the passionate emotions of the Azeri people—from nostalgic memories and sorrowful partings to expansive dreams—like deep rivers bursting at times into celebratory dancing. Plunging the heights and depths of human emotions, weaving and winding through corridors of time, Asadollahi sounds out every square inch of meaning in Azeri music. Like a heroic spirit that does not die, no matter how many waves crash and plunge it, his music rises again and again under the wide open sky. And always, Asadollahi finishes like a man emerging from his trials triumphant, hope-filled, and deeply changed, with the songs of his struggling people forever carved on his heart.

Kutay Derin Kugay



A Review
A Master Five Feet Away
Rahman Asadollahi, master garmon accordionist
International Accordion Festival
San Antonio, TX
October 15-16 th , 2005

Michael L. Ingraham

By the end of the fifth annual International Accordion Festival in San Antonio, Texas, October 15-16 th , Rahman Asadollahi, a master accordionist, more than likely changed your heart--your coraz?n--for the better, but he also elevated awareness of the depth and breadth of the accordion tradition. This master artist intimately informs that you have a responsibility to recognize him without pomp and circumstance. In an instant, he enables you to learn and to feel. He elicits knowledge or the desire for knowledge from you. And he does this with his music, an awe-inspiring mysterious, aching, almost pleading instrumental sound that desperately wants out of the accordion to seep into your soul. Asadollahi's movements lend a coincident touch to the music, his fingers flashing across the small keyboard, his hands embracing and squeezing a unique sweet-toned garmon accordion, which is rooted in Azerbaijan, Iran and is held by a single shoulder strap and the right hand is used in four-finger chromatic style. His torso and legs twist and turn to the orchestral tones and sounds coming impossibly yet mysteriously from his instrument. Everything is in sync, and somehow meaningful, whether it be his feet shuffling periodically back and forth, as if the music is meant to travel forth, or his legs together whipping up and across to exemplify a leap, or his entire torso bending and twisting a little to the music, or his head arching back, then leaning on the accordion, then turning to the side as the instrument is shifted the other direction. After each song he gently kisses the accordion's body. He smiles, then he frowns, and then he smiles again. He taps his heart. He emits tremendous energy and then electrifies you within a song and between songs. His elegant curled face is always alive, sometimes migrating from delight to sadness, to melancholy, to deep sorrow, and back again to delight. His thinning white hair belies his age of 53. He sometimes resembles a stylized puppet because of his feats. Rahman Asadollahi is the master artist you never knew, but when you hear him you know that something special just happened. Here, at the festival, his mastery was five feet away.

Asadollahi is recognized as a world premier Azerbaijani accordion player, musician, composer and conductor. A living legend in Azerbaijan, he also won the 1995 European Accordion and Harmonica Championship in Switzerland. But since being exiled from Azerbaijan he has lived in Germany and now in the United States since 1999. He performed at the San Francisco World Music Festival in 2000, and with the Kronos String Quartet in 2004. A reviewer states: “[He] sounds out every square inch of meaning in Azeri music. Like a heroic spirit that does not die, no matter how many waves crash and plunge it, his music rises again and again under the wide-open sky. And always, Asadollahi finishes like a man emerging from his trials triumphant, hope-filled, and deeply changed, with the songs of his struggling people forever carved on his heart.” (Kutay Derin Kugay, 2003, www.seveneighths.com).

Among the wide range of accordion artists at the festival, representing Czech, Conjunto, Cajun, Zydeco, Celtic, Polish, and other European traditions, Asadollahi stood out. He performed three times on Saturday and once on Sunday. By his last set, the audience had changed from a few saying “who is this?” to a crowd in ecstatic revelation. The master was authentic. The pulse of this last venue sent shivers down your spine. Applause came before Asadollahi took the stage. Wearing the same gold-braided traditional Azerbaijani jacket or tunic as the day before, the master took his seat at the front of the room. Seated next to him was Henri Avoian, an Armenian drummer, playing a Nagara, or wide-surface cylindrical drum that derives from Persia. Asadollahi, a Moslem from Azerbaijan sat next to Avoian, a Christian Armenian, signaling that religion and nationalism cannot separate art. A translator helped Asadollahi tell his story, and to introduce his music. And then he played, and again his music infected the room: mesmerizing, pleading, mournful, passionate. He first played an Azerbaijani love song, and then, for the second time during the festival, played his tribute to September 11 th , a raucous, apologetic, soulful, pleading, sad dramatic song that both takes you back to the terrifying event and brings you forth to a more hopeful time. Avoian, on the drums, is squat like a sturdy wrestler, but strong to hold the drum on his thigh and to flick and beat the drum in rapid, then slow rhythms, always in sync with Asadollahi. In fact, Avoian watched Asadollahi like a hawk, his dark eyes glistening in anticipation of his beat. The audience wept openly. The instrumental song bolted forth and then wove its way along, and then ended excitedly. The audience erupted in applause, maybe even in anger or sadness, but also with respect and honor for this master, this virtuoso on the Azerbaijani garmon. Asadollahi needed to recover, apologetically. Someone in the audience blurted out that they needed to recover too. He went on to play other Azerbaijani folk songs, or the traditional Azeri music, moving his legs and arms and head in sync with the music. Asadollahi played again. The audience stayed ecstatic and expectant. They could not get enough. The hour ended. The master and his drummer departed that afternoon, back, presumably, to Los Angeles, their home and home to many other exiled Azerbaijanis. I sure hope we recognized Asadollahi appropriately. In our midst was a giant, a master, a miracle.


Born May 29, 1948 in Colorado, Michael Ingraham leads a varied life that transects years in academic scholarship (anthropology and economics) and teaching; business (investment banking, asset management); and applied research (independent consulting). He actively seeks knowledge about worldwide cultures, educational breakthroughs, ecological relationships, business solutions and companies, relationships between religion and culture, and political economies. Proficient in research, and in financial administration, he seeks to collaborate such that collective efforts spawn leading-edge solutions. He has strong experience, spanning the last thirty years, as educator, explorer, archaeologist, facilitator, researcher, analyst, corporate leader, community leader, and music aficionado. Trained as an anthropological archaeologist, with particular expertise in the Middle East, he branched out into financial research, and, currently, is researching and writing a book—actually a novel--about the Interstate-10 corridor as a cultural and economic boundary. One defining attribute of this corridor is its affinity to nascent musical traditions that help give character and definition to the cultural geography from Los Angeles to Jacksonville. Moreover, through music, one finds a thread that sews people together rather than tears them apart. Michael is married with three step-children, and living in San Antonio, Texas.

Michael Ingraham
701 Elizabeth Road
San Antonio, TX 78209



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