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

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Local

K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.

National

Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.

National

Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Movies

Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.

Arts

Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…

Television

Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

U.S. Soccer

Orlando City takes shot at NYCFC over Frank…

Orlando City reminded the world how big a signing Brazilian star Kaka earlier this month with a photo of Kaka mobbed by fans juxtaposed against Lampard.

NBA

Jeremy Lin says 'Linsanity' is over as he…

Jeremy Lin lit up the NBA two years ago with his play for the Knicks but he has no desire to recreate "Linsanity" in his new career with the Lakers.

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.