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'This Gasoline Will Set You On Fire'

It is believed Azerbaijan’s name came from the ancient Persian phrase “land of fire,” an early tribute to the country’s prodigious reserves of oil.

The latest tribute to this natural bounty comes in the form of a snappy techno tune called “Petrol” by pop diva Aygun Kazimova and popular rapper Miri Yusif. The official video was filmed at a gleaming gas station owned by Azpetrol, which controls about 50 percent of the country’s gas market. It is full of gleaming automobiles and motorcycles.

On the surface, the lyrics, though, match the upbeat rhythms and, not coincidentally, the official line of the Azerbaijan government:

One spark. This gasoline will set you on fire.
This gasoline will take as far away, far away.
This gasoline will take us forward.

Oh, petrol, give power to my engine.
My country's growing faster.
I don't care how far away you are --
I will catch you anyway.

Black gold and money
And gasoline will help you when you’re in trouble,
Will make the long roads shorter,
Will make our cold days warmer.
Our gasoline, our gasoline.

But is this poppy hymn really so straightforward? The night shoot of the video and the overall black tones give it a distinctly dystopian feel.

Baku Police Academy graduates show their stuff.

The legions of faceless, helmeted motorcycle riders pulling through the gas station evoke Iran’s oppressive Basij militia or Azerbaijan’s own notorious riot police.

The moronic-looking station attendants mechanically pumping gas are equally disturbing.

And could the line about making “our cold days warmer” be a nod to the link between oil dependence and climate change?
And what about the ending? Since independence, Azerbaijan’s economy has been something of a one-hit wonder based on oil. The government has been criticized for doing little to pave the way for the time when the wells run dry. The “Petrol” video ends abruptly, without warning, on a close-up shot of Kazimova with a wry smirk on her face. I’m not so sure she loves gasoline quite as much as it seems.