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

Aria Health Torresdale workers caught selling prescription drugs

Two Aria Health at Torresdale employees were fired amid accusations they sold prescription drugs out of the Northeast Philadelphia campus.

National

Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter died Sunday from prostate cancer…

Former U.S. professional boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, who spent 19 years in prison for murder and then was released after it was determined he did not get a fair trial,…

National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

Television

'Orphan Black' recap: Episode 1, ‘Nature Under Constraint…

Welcome to your first Season 2 “Orphan Black” recap! Hopefully Tatiana Maslany can help Tatiana Maslany get through this, with the help of Tatiana Maslany,…

Books

Poems from prison: 'How to Survive a Bullet…

Celebrate National Poetry Month with, "'How to Survive a Bullet to the Heart."

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

MLB

Phillies notebook: Cole Hamels returns this week

The Phillies should receive a big boost when Cole Hamels returns during the Dodgers series.

MLB

Jimmy Rollins is key to Phillies success

When John Kruk was asked about what the Phillies need to contend for a playoff berth, the ESPN analyst said Jimmy Rollins needs to play like a MVP again.

MLB

Ben Revere lifts Phillies to avoid sweep

Ben Revere came through with a two-out RBI single against Atlanta’s tough lefthander Alex Wood.

NBA

Season wrap: 76ers make the grade

The 76ers opened the 2013-14 season with a victory over the Miami Heat. The Sixers closed the season with a win at Miami.

Parenting

Is camp right for introverts?

We ask an expert for tips on sending your introverted child to camp

Parenting

How to parent without gender stereotypes in a…

Christia Spears Brown, Phd. author of "Parenting beyond Pink & Blue" gives advice on raising kids free of gender stereotypes.

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.