Jeffrey Werbock plays Azerbaijani mugham music at the Rotunda

Jeffrey Werbock is possibly the only non-Azerbaijani musician playing mugham.
Jeffrey Werbock is possibly the only non-Azerbaijani musician playing mugham.

For Philly-born musician Jeffrey Werbock, the timing was right when he discovered the traditional music of Azerbaijan in the early 1970s. “Along with the social movement which resulted in the Summer of Love and Woodstock,” Werbock recalls, “there was a minority of musicians and composers who were searching for alternative music to listen to. Some of us had been deeply touched by the idea that there are ancient traditions that we in the western world are somewhat cut off from because of their geographical and cultural isolation.”

George Harrison’s studies with Indian virtuoso Ravi Shankar had opened a bridge between East and West via the music of the Beatles, but there were still countless cultural traditions yet to be discovered in the West. Werbock had first heard of Azerbaijani mugham in an obscure book, a “spiritual travelogue by a mystic philosopher from the Caucasus.” After moving to Los Angeles in 1971, Werbock chanced to meet an elderly musician from Daghestan, as he describes, “by pure luck. Some people feel an element of fate, but I’m cautious about that.”

The encounter was transformative, and has shaped Werbock’s life and career for more than four decades. The old man played the kamancha, a traditional bowed instrument, and Werbock says, “as he drew the bow across the strings I was completely galvanized by the quality of the sound and his way of entering into the music with his whole body. I’d never experienced such a current of musical passion from such minimal notes.”

On Friday night, Werbock will attempt to communicate that same passion to an audience at the Rotunda as he talks about and performs a program of mugham on the kamancha, tar and oud. Most of Werbock’s playing these days is done in the classroom, as in his regular visits to Temple University’s world music program, so this is a rare opportunity to hear the fruits of his studies and frequent visits to Azerbaijan.

Possibly the only non-Azerbaijani musician playing mugham, Werbock is motivated not just by his love of the music but by a desire to preserve a fading tradition. “I was deeply touched by the idea of conservationist thinking about human culture. Conservationists existed in the biological world, but we also confront the loss of human cultures because of the advance of westernization, modernization and globalization.”

Jeffrey Werbock
Sept. 6, 8 p.m.
The Rotunda
4014 Walnut St.
Free (donations appreciated)
www.museumfire.com/events2



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

At 91, Marvel creator Stan Lee continues to…

By Piya Sinha-RoyLOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Marvel Entertainment's chief emeritus Stan Lee may be in his ninth decade, but it hasn't stopped him from adding…

National

Islamic State says beheads U.S. journalist, holds another

Islamic State insurgents released a video purportedly showing the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley, who had gone missing in Syria nearly two years ago.

Local

VIDEO: NYPD seeks shooter in East New York…

Cops are on the lookout for an unknown shooter who aimed and missed hitting a man on a bicycle, instead nearly striking a nearby officer in East New York.

Local

NYS state forces thrift shops comply with ban…

Nine New York City thrift shops were reprimanded by the state attorney general for selling children's clothes with drawstrings around the neck and waist.

Television

'Pretty Little Liars' recap: Season 5, Episode 11,…

Caleb's not a ghost. Spencer might still be an attempted murderer. And Hanna's going to die next week. In other words, we actually got some…

Movies

At 91, Marvel creator Stan Lee continues to…

Marvel Entertainment's Stan Lee is adding outposts to his creative empire to interest a new generation of children in super heroes of all shapes and sizes.

Television

Mira Sorvino explores immortality on 'Intruders'

Mira Sorvino's new show "Intruders" centers around a secret society that achieves immortality by taking over the bodies of other people.

Television

5 things you need to know about new…

"Doctor Who" returns Saturday with a new star, Peter Capaldi. Here's some things to know about him (mainly his turn as sweary spin doctor Malcolm Tucker).

MLB

Shane Greene travels unlikely road to Yankees stardom

Shane Greene was throwing a bullpen session on a quiet field at Daytona Beach Community College one day when the ball started moving.

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL tight ends (TE)

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: Angels supplant A's, Nationals climb

MLB Power Rankings: Angels supplant A's, Nationals climb

NFL

David Wilson returns to triple jump, sets sights…

Giants fans know David Wilson can jump. They are just more used to seeing him go for backflips, not distance.

Style

11 timeless gifts for registries or just because

Gifts to prove you're a style maven once and for all.

Parenting

How everyday moments can inspire kids' creativity

"The Artist's Way for Parents" author Julia Cameron gives advice on how parents and children can be creative together.

Tech

How to stay safe online

Stop worrying about keeping your online passwords safe, and start worrying about keeping your username a secret. Actually, worry about both. According to Shaun Murphy…

Tech

OpenTable now lets you pay your bill via…

The restaurant app OpenTable added the ability to pay your bill (and tip) with your phone, thus cutting back on a few dining annoyances.