Interview with Elvin Nabizade

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Elvin Nabizade (b. 1986 in Bolnisi, Georgia) studied at the Faculty of Sculpture at the State Academy of Fine Arts in Azerbaijan and graduated in 2012. His artistic work comprises sculptures and installations around the themes of self-identification and national culture. For years he has participated in several group exhibitions in Azerbaijan. The principal features of Nabizade’s works are installations showing the alienation of the local music instrument, the Saz. He uses this instrument, well known in the Caucasian region, and the power of its music and art to create a whole new concept. 

Music On Walls discovered the work of Elvin Nabizade earlier this year as he has been presenting two installations at the Azerbaijan Pavilion "Under One Sun. The Art of Living Together" during the 57th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia. One named after the exhibition’s title "Under One Sun" and another one named "SPHERE".

Last week, Music On Walls had the chance to discuss with Elvin Nabizade about the connection his work has with music as he uses the beauty of the Saz in his installation. The Saz is an ancient traditional Azerbaijani musical instrument that has special meaning for the artist. This stringed instrument is his heritage; the sound of his family; the sound of his father; the first musical instrument he took in his arms. The artist wants to make the Saz live and endure. Centuries ago, the Saz stirred people to gather and unite. The Ashiqs (minstrels) walked throughout the country from region to region, bringing people together with their songs.

UNDER ONE SUN - Elvin Nabizade / © Courtesy of Javid Guliyev




Under One Sun consists of approximately 50 Saz in the shape of an arc, a form embodying the path of the sun from dusk to dawn. Varied sounds of a Saz being tuned complete the composition.



The installation SPHERE comprises 79 musical instruments, including Azerbaijani national instruments and those used by various cultural groups living in Azerbaijan since time immemorial. Ancient instruments that musicians have modified and improved form an integral part of the installation. They demonstrate not only the traditions still in use, but also their continuous development. SPHERE thus embodies the continuity of generations, the links to their roots, and the prosperity of their national arts.

Sphere - Elvin Nabizade / © Courtesy of Ugo Carmini

Hi Elvin, could you explain to MoW how did the idea of these installations "Under One Sun" and "SPHEREcome to you? 

Music is part of my life. I cannot imagine my life without music. I listen to music and it gives me inspiration to create. I have a series of artworks that are created with musical instruments. 

Were your installations inspired by certain songs or certain type of musics?

Frankly, they were not inspired by a special song or music. To tell you truth, these installations were “inspired” by one of the greatest tragedy that happened in my life. I am not sure if it is right to say that they were inspired. I would say these works gave me force to keep on after my father’s death.

When I lost my father I found Saz. Saz was a heritage that my father left to me. So I started to discover and live my life from a new viewpoint after a great loss in my life. It was a great responsibility for me to consider the Saz topic and to give it a second life. The sound of Saz is very sorrowful. The Saz is more listened to by aged person and their emotions bring them to their passed years.

Under One Sun installation is not my first installation with Saz. I constantly work with Saz and this instrument turned to be my favorite work material. The idea of SPHERE installation was to show that all the people of about 20 nationalities are living in peace and prosperity in Azerbaijan. Each instrument representing a person of a certain nationality.




The instruments that are part of your installations were new or they had a previous history? 

All the instruments that are hanging in SPHERE are not disturbing or touching each other. All these instruments have their own history. Actually there are three groups of instruments in the installation.

Instruments from the first group were given to me by my friends and people who wanted to help me in creating this artwork. The second group is instruments that I bought particularly for my work. Most interesting group of instruments are so-called improved instruments. These are traditional instruments that were changed to modern forms. By the way, there are traditional instruments of different nationalities and ethnic groups living in Azerbaijan.



Under One Sun







Under One Sun is made of about 50 Saz. Saz was the first musical instrument that I touched and took in my arms because it was an instrument that my family had at home. All the instruments in the installation are absolutely new and were made specially for this artwork.

Do you know why? Because I wanted to show how these instruments, made of mulberry tree wood change their color with time. I also wanted to make a metaphor to show the long way that this instrument made from the ancient times until today.  








Are some of your previous works inspired by music? (Before these installations)

Yes, as I mentioned before, the Saz instrument became a great concern to me after the loss of my father. For one of my previous works, I prepared a survey with Ashig music lovers, about two years ago.

I asked them : "What does this music make you feel?" This question made them think for a little while as if they were taken back in time, nostalgic, with an intense expression on their face. An expression that could tell that they were moved. Indeed, they told me that the Saz affects the heart and soul of Ashig music. I think this instrument still does not change the form of the gene that codes Ashig music.


The result of the survey that I got from people gave me the opportunity to understand that people are an integral part of the instrument. For example in my work Return to Fragile Voice (below) I have deformed Sazs made of wood without damaging any part of the instrument. Through these works, my intention was to show that we should pay more attention to the relevance of Saz instrument since it has come down to us as keystone element of ancient Turkish culture.

 Are you a musician? 

No, I am an visual artist. I studied in a sculpture faculty at the State Academy of Arts in Azerbaijan.


What is your favorite music at the moment? 

My preferences change with time changing. I enjoy rock, indie rock, alternative and psychedelic rock.

At that moment I am in the mood to listen to sets of DJs. By the way, not only the world-known DJs, but some local ones from Azerbaijan ang Georgia.

My favorite talented musician at the moment is Isfar Sarabski



What are the top three music artists you’d recommend us to listen to? 

I want to mention one name – Thom Yorke who is for me the greatest artist of all time! I would also recommend George Effe and Muslim Magomayev.