Sultry Jazz Singer from Azerbaijan Featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition
Azerbaijanis happen to pop up in some of the most unexpected places, sometimes. Here, in a feature on NPR’s Weekend Edition. Ella Leya is now a Chicagoan and successful jazz singer. Born in Baku, Azerbaijan, she moved to Moscow before the collapse of the Soviet Union, and then to Chicago. From the story:
Leya’s new album, The Secret Lives of Women, features songs about Anne Boleyn, Cleopatra, Princess Diana and Sappho, all of whom Leya says inspire her.
Leya calls Azerbaijan “a magical land, just a magic carpet away.” She grew up in a part of the country that was partially Muslim and partially Soviet, mixing religion with Communism. Her first musical influence was mugham, an indigenous improvisational form of singing, before she learned classical music and jazz.
“Initially, I thought that classical was going to be my life, my future, but hearing jazz, I just… I had to try to do it,” Leya says in an interview with Weekend Edition host Scott Simon. “I can probably say that I was the first girl to play piano and sing jazz in a club in Baku.”
We know that Azerbaijan is famous for carpets, but I’m still waiting for that magic one to appear. I get the feeling that Aladdin took the last one, and that the Soviets didn’t look kindly on carpets that could fly. If you want to check out Ella’s music, though, you can visit her website here and her MySpace page here.