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
Local

Gunther from 'Friends' talks Central Perk

We spoke with Gunther (James Michael Tyler) at the preview for new pop-up Central Perk, based on the cafe in "Friends."

Local

Central Perk opens in SoHo

Central Perk, of "Friends" fame, is giving out free coffee in SoHo through Oct. 18.

National

Beer sponsor Anheuser-Busch reproaches NFL over domestic abuse

Anheuser-Busch chastised the NFL for its handling of domestic violence cases, making it the first major advertiser to put pressure on the league.

Local

Sen. Krueger dishes on prospect of legal marijuana…

New Yorkers may see the legalization of recreational marijuana use as early as 2015 if State Senator Liz Krueger (D) gets her way. The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act will…

Music

FREEMAN makes Freeman a free man from Ween

For nearly 30 years, Aaron Freeman was known endearingly to his listeners as Gene Ween. But with "FREEMAN," he makes it clear that he's gone somewhere else.

Television

'Outlander' recap: Season 1, Episode 6: 'The Garrison…

Whipping, punching, kicking and a marriage contract. "Outlander" is not for the faint of heart this week with "The Garrison Commander."

The Word

The Word: Hey girl, it's a girl for…

It's a girl for Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes, who reportedly welcomed a daughter last Friday, according to Us Weekly. The super-private couple managed to…

Television

TV watch list, Tuesday, Sept. 16: 'New Girl,'…

Check out the season premiere of "New Girl," as Jess competes with Jessica Biel for a guy's attentions.

MLB

5 top contenders for NL Rookie of the…

The outing rekindled award talk for deGrom, who appears to hold the top spot for NL Rookie of the Year honors. Metro breaks down a few other contenders.

College

College football Top 25 poll (AP rankings)

College football Top 25 poll (AP rankings)

NFL

Tom Coughlin says Giants 'beat themselves' against Cardinals

Head coach Tom Coughlin, who had a day to cool off and reflect, still sounded like he had a gnawing feeling in his gut.

NFL

Marty Mornhinweg accepts blame for Jets timeout fiasco

Jets fans looking for a scapegoat for Sunday’s timeout fiasco found a willing party on Monday: Marty Mornhinweg.

Style

Rachel Zoe: New York Fashion Week Spring 15

Rachel Zoe goes 'Glam bohemia' for Spring.

Food

Where to find SweeTango apples

Introduced in 2009, SweeTango — a hybrid of Honeycrisp and Zestar — is a sweet apple with plenty of crunch.

Style

London Fashion Week recap

London Fashion week gets in on the action with politics, heritage and summertime living.

Food

Padma Lakshmi's recipe for green mango curry

Padma Lakshmi shares her recipe for green mango curry in UNICEF's new book, "UNICHEF."