Farhad Farzali: The Banned Love Poem

Farhad Farzali: The Banned Love PoemFarhad Farzali: The Banned Love Poem


Artist Farhad Farzali’s field research project The Banned Love Poem is a remarkable multilayered story about a song which made an incredible historical journey and become a pan-ethnic anthem in many cultures.

The history of the song begins in Soviet Azerbaijan in the late 1930s, originating in the unpublished poems of the repressed poet Mikayil Mushfig (1908–1938), whose work gained recognition only after Stalin's death, when the poet was posthumously rehabilitated. Mushfig’s poems were published in 1968 by his widow Dilbar in the book My Days with Mushfig, the contents of which she wrote from memory. The same year, composer (and head of the investigative department of the Baku prosecutor's office) Alekpar Tagiev (1924–1981) wrote music for the poem “All for You,” with the resulting song performed by singer Zeinab Khanlarova (b. 1936). This version of the song first became popular in Azerbaijan and later in other Soviet republics, especially Russia, Uzbekistan, and Armenia.

These elegant words about love, which Mushfig never planned to publish, became a popular song not only in the Soviet Union but also in the unofficial capital of the Armenian diaspora, Beirut. In 1973, Adiss Harmandian (1945–2019), a pioneering Lebanese-Armenian singer (who was the first to translate popular songs to Armenian, with incredible success) created his own version of the song, although Mushfig’s story remains unknown to most listeners. The Armenian version of the song crossed closed Soviet borders once again. By the mid–1970s, the song “All for You” had appeared in three other languages: Arabic, Turkish, and Greek. Each version is unique, having become an iconic song within its own culture.

Farhad Farzali’s The Banned Love Poem examines music as a universal language of communication, aiming to trace the meaning of the song “All for You” for each of the cultures it has entered and to find out how it appeared in the Arab world and why it was performed in Tahrir Square in Cairo during the Arab Spring.

Status: in process

Researcher: Farhad Farzali


Farhad Farzali switches easily between styles and genres, but one thing remains fixed. The culture of his country and the new national identity of independent Azerbaijan are the artist’s main areas of interest. His homeland, located close to the Persian, Ottoman, and Russian Empires, becomes an inspirational kaleidoscope of customs, traditions, and rituals. According to Farzali, his country is his only muse, a charming mystery to be solved. He is involved in anthropological research on the cultural context of Azerbaijan and the cataloguing of notable forms of neo-folklore. He works with painting, objects, video, and sound. Farzali graduated with a Master’s degree from the Azerbaijan State Academy of Fine Arts in Baku in 2012. He has participated in a number of group exhibitions, including the 16th Sharjah Islamic Arts Festival (2014) and the 6th Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art (2015). His work can be found in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in Baku, Azerbaijan National Museum of Fine Arts, and Yarat Contemporary Art Space. He lives and works in Baku.