مقامThe Music of Azerbaijanمقام Vol 05







“Music is a moral law. It gives inspiration to the entire world, wings to the soul and raises the thoughts of man up to the heavens. Music is the basis of order. It is the embodiment of eternal beauty and glory.”


Tar, is one of the oldest musical instruments of Azerbaijan. Таr is hollowed out from a tree in the form reminding a guitar. It has the case in the form of two bowls from the mulberry tree, tightened by a membrane replacing to a deck from an animal bubble or the fish skin, a long neck and a head from a nut tree. On a signature stamp -22 basic modes (lads) and 2-3 additional cane, pasted at the case. The basic frets are fixed by the plug-in wooden pegs which are in a special fillet of a neck.

Ancient 4-6-stringed таr had untapped 19-stepped tone lines, including small (less a semitone) intervals; the sound was taken from horn plectrums. Modern Azerbaijan tаr-11-stringed (the number of strings has increased); bass unary strings are in the center, melodic-steam rooms, the basic and additional (the last are used only in kadansakh), are located along the edges. Pair strings have constant adjustment, unary-a variable (depending on a genre and a harmony of the performed play, including in mugams). The developer of tar is the Azerbaijan musician-designer Sadyghjan (Mirza Sadyg Asad oglu), living in a XIX-th century and received a nickname «the Father of tar». He reconstructed and has improved tar: To poorly sounding five-string tool has added six strings and quantity of frets on a signature stamp has finished to seventeen, having added tone of mugam Zabul, and to mugam Mirza Huseyn Segah-tone of mugam Mukhalif. To increase the resonance Sadyghjan had added choruses (resounding strings) in the top register and performing style “lal barmag” (style of “a mute finger») is entered.

55The most widespread (one of 13) adjustment container: c1, c1; g, g, c1; c; g; g1; g1; c1, c1;. Chromatic tone lines of tar includes 2,5 octaves. The tool range covers sounds from “do” a small octave to “sol” of the second octave, but at play it is possible to take also sounds «la» and «la be mol».

Musical parts for tar are written in mets-soprano key. Tar-exclusively masterly tool, is used as solo, also in ensembles. Folk tunes on tar, as a rule, represent a melody performed usually on two strings in a unison (sometimes on one; then the second becomes resounding) and leaning against incidentally included chords. The bottom register of tar-dense, sated, a velvety timbre, top-sonorous, silvery.

In the Azerbaijan music таr was applied, mainly, as the leading tool as a part of so-called mugam trio, including also khanende (singer), kamancha and gaval. It is necessary to notice that таr, both in structure of mugam trio, and in solo quality, continues to play an exclusive role in mugam art till now, traditional and popular in Azerbaijan.

New blossoming performance on tar begins in the XX-th century. So, for example, таr has taken a leading place in the first musical orchestra of national musical instruments created in 1931 at the initiative of Uzeyir Hajibeyov. The school of musical performance on the national tools, based by Uzeyir Hajibeyov, even more has expanded technical and art possibilities of tar.

Tar is one of the most important Iranian/Persian musical instruments. The formation, compilation, edition, and inheritance of the most authentic and most comprehensive versions of  radifare all worked on tar. The general trends of Persian classical music have been deeply influenced by tar players. It is a plucked stringed instrument (a long-necked lute) that is also played in Caucasian countries (like Azerbaijan, Armenia and so on) and central Asia (like Tajikistan).     It exists in two forms now, the Persian (that is named Tar-e-Shiraaz or Irani) and Caucasian (that is named Tar-e-Ghafghaaz). The Persian tar is carved from a block of mulberry wood and has a deep, curved body with two bulges shaped. The upper surface is shaped like two hearts of different sizes, joined at the points. The sound box consists of two parts. The small part is called Naghaareh and the large part is called Kaasseh (that means bowl (sound box)). The sound box is covered with a baby lambskin. On the lower skin, a horn bridge supports six metal strings in three courses. The long fingerboard has twenty-two to twenty-eight movable gut frets. The strings are plucked with a brass plectrum coated on one side in wax. Its range is about two and a half octaves.

We can use the words Tar, Tar player (or Tarist), Tar maker, Tar tunings…, while it is clear for you which kind of Tar you mean. Persian Tar is the Tar that is mainly played in Iran for Persian Classical Music. Persian Tar belongs to the Chordophones category of instruments, and in more details to Plucked-Stringed Instruments or it can be said Persian Tar is a Persian Long Necked Lute and also a fretted instrument.

Iranians consider the tar the “sultan of instruments .The tar appeared in its present form in the middle of the eighteenth century in Persia. The body is a double-bowl shape carved from mulberry wood, with a thin membrane of stretched lamb skin covering the top

The fingerboard  has twenty-five to twenty-eight adjustable gut frets, and there are three double courses of strings Its range is about two and one-half octaves  and it is played with a small brass plectrum.
The long and narrow neck has a flat fingerboard running level to the membrane and ends in an elaborate peg-box with six wooden tuning pegs of different dimensions, adding to the decorative effect. It has three courses of double “singing” strings (each pair tuned in unison: the first two courses in plain steel, the third in wound copper), that are tuned in fourths (C, G, C) plus one “flying” bass string (wound in copper and tuned in G, an octave lower than the singing middle course) that runs outside the fingerboard and passes over an extension of the nut. There are also two pairs of shorter symphathetic strings that run under the bass and over two small copper bridges about midway on the upper side of the fingerboard: their tuning is variable according to the piece to be played and with the performer’s tastes: Every String has its own tuning peg and are tuned independently The Persian tar used to have five strings. The sixth string was added to the tar by Darvish Khan. This string is today’s fifth string of the Iranian tar. The Azerbaijani tar, designed by Sadigian, has a slightly different build and has more strings. It is an essential component of the traditional Azeri mugham trio . The surface of the fingerboard is made from the Camel leg bone and the middle part of this surface is from walnut or ebony.

Frets of Persian Tar are mostly made of gut embedded around the neck and located at the points that are determined according to the ears of the musicians. The frets are moveable, because we need sometimes to move the frets to get a new arrange of frets. There is no exact 1/4 or half tone in Persian Classical Music. Pressing a string against a fret determines the strings’ vibrating length and therefore its resultant pitch. The pitch of each consecutive fret is defined at a half-step interval on the chromatic scale. Frets worn down from heavy use can be replaced. Frets are sometimes made of Nylon or metal. The frets of Persian Tar are between 22 and 30.

The tar features prominently in Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds, in the section “Horsell Common and the Heat Ray”. George Fenton played it on the original album, and Gaetan Schurrer can be seen playing one on the DVD of the 2006 production.
A tar is depicted on the reverse of the Azerbaijani 1 qəpik coin minted since 2006[3] and on the obverse of the Azerbaijani 1 manat banknote issued since 2006.
The first point to make a very good and reference class Tar is choosing the best tone wood so that the instrument can create a very warm and soft sounding. The second step is to value the beauty ness of Tar and to pattern great old masters of Iranian Tar like Yahya and Jafar-e Sanat. The third point is not more only the aspect of nice looking, but also to own the mastership of making instruments with excellent sounding. Not all of the Tar makers deserve the notice

of the late great master of Tar Yahya or Jafar Sanat.
Yahya Khan (above picture, the most famous Tar maker in Iran, The Priceless Tar)
Hovanes Abkarian (1876-1932) or famous as Yahya Khan is an Armenian, Tar maker from Iran, who can be named as the father of the modern Persian Tar. He has reformed the sound box shape of Persian Tar that has resulted the most beautiful form of the sound box and the most pleasant sound.
Among the contemporary Iranian alive Tar makers are the followings notable: 

Ostad Farahmand, Ostad Pourya and Ramin Jazayeri. 

The Tars of the above masters costs about between $6000 – $8000
About Persian Tar Tuning; If we put Sharp (#) or Diese in Farsi next to a note, the note will become half note higher, Flat (b) or Bemol, half tone lower, Sori (it just used in Persian music), 1/4 tone higher and Koron (It just used in Persian Music also) 1/4 tone lower. The signs and definitions that we use here are only to find the exact frets or to show the exact notes that we play in the mentioned musical culture. For example when we use Mi Diese wich is E sharp, we do not mean the note, that is half tone higher than Mi, but we mean the note or fret between Re and Mi Koron. It means the usage and function of the signs are not exactly like the definitions of the signs. We count the strings from down to up. The most traditional tunings come always first. We assume that the strings No 1 and 2 have always the Do (C) tuning.
Persian Tar Classical Tunings
Dastgah Mahur
Base Note:
Do, Strings No. 1 & 2: Do, Strings No. 3 & 4: Sol, String No. 5: Do, String No. 6: Do
Dastgah Rast Panjgah
Base Note:
Fa, Strings No. 1 & 2: Do, Strings No. 3 & 4: Fa, String No. 5: Do, String No. 6: Do
Dastgah Homayun
Base Note:
La Koron, Strings No. 1 & 2: Do, Strings No. 3 & 4: Sol, String No. 5: Re, String No. 6: Re

Dastgah Nava
Base Note:
Sol, Strings No. 1 & 2: Do, Strings No. 3 & 4: Sol, String No. 5: Re, String No. 6: Re
Dastgah Shur
Base Note:
Sol, Strings No. 1 & 2: Do, Strings No. 3 & 4: Sol, String No. 5: Do, String No. 6: Fa

Avaz Bayat Kord
Base Note:
Re, Strings No. 1 & 2: Do, Strings No. 3 & 4: Sol, String No. 5: Do, String No. 6: Fa
Avaz Dashti
Base Note:
Re, Strings No. 1 & 2: Do, Strings No. 3 & 4: Sol, String No. 5: Do, String No. 6: Fa
Avaz Bayat Tork
Base Note:
Si Bemol, Strings No. 1 & 2: Do, Strings No. 3 & 4: Sol, String No. 5: Si Bemol, String No. 6: Fa

Avaz Abuata
Base Note:
Do, Strings No. 1 & 2: Do, Strings No. 3 & 4: Sol, String No. 5: Do, String No. 6: Fa

Avaz Afshari
Base Note:
Do, Strings No. 1 & 2: Do, Strings No. 3 & 4: Sol, String No. 5: Do, String No. 6: Fa
Dastgah Segah
Base Note:
La Koron, Strings No. 1 & 2: Do, Strings No. 3 & 4: Sol, String No. 5: La Koron, String No. 6: Fa

Avaz Bayat Esfahan
Base Note:
Sol, Strings No. 1 & 2: Do, Strings No. 3 & 4: Sol, String No. 5: Re, String No. 6: Re

Dastgah Chahargah
Base Note:
Do, Strings No. 1 & 2: Do, Strings No. 3 & 4: Sol, String No. 5: Do, String No. 6:
Do, Strings No. 1 & 2: Do, Strings No. 3 & 4: Sol, String No. 5: Do, String No. 6: Fa
Dastgah Segah
Base Note:
La Koron, Strings No. 1 & 2: Do, Strings No. 3 & 4: Sol, String No. 5: La Koron, String No. 6: Fa

Avaz Bayat Esfahan
Base Note:
Sol, Strings No. 1 & 2: Do, Strings No. 3 & 4: Sol, String No. 5: Re, String No. 6: Re

Dastgah Chahargah
Base Note:
Do, Strings No. 1 & 2: Do, Strings No. 3 & 4: Sol, String No. 5: Do, String No. 6: Do.


About the music treatment and role of Tar as an instrument,

If music can affect the well being of plants, should it come as a surprise that human health can be affected as well. Here’s what medieval scientists and physicians from Azerbaijan and the region had to say about the curative powers of music.

Many centuries ago, physicians were well aware of the potency of music. Seven hundred years go, Azerbaijani scientist Safiyaddin Urmiyyayi (13th century) wrote treatises, explaining his ideas about the antidotal powers of music in “Message to Sharafaddin” and “The Book On Musical Tones”. 

His works name some of the modal scales of that early epoch, such as Metabil, Erani, Tanjiga and Segah. To alleviate tiredness and provide relief from neurosis, to lift one’s spirits or to induce sleep, our ancestors used to listen to music performed on the ancient Eastern musical instruments such as the rubab, ud, dutar, tambur, ney, mizmar, surnaya, chang, shahrud and kanun. In Iran and some of the Arabian countries, Safiyaddin Urmiyyayi is considered to be the “Father of Mugham” (the genre of traditional modal music). He was the first person to develop a scientific theory for this genre, create musical terminology and identify and teach modal scales. He wrote about the positive influence of music on human health. During the century that followed, another Azerbaijani musician Abdul-Kadir Maraghayi (1353-1433) continued his work. 

Below: Medieval physicians recognized the power of music and nature to relax and cure their patients. Miniature from Baku Institute of Manuscripts.

Between the 9th and 14th centuries, the medical properties of music were elaborated by well-known scientists such as Abu Nasr al-Farabi, al-Khorezmi, Abu Reyhan Biruni, Ibn Sina (Avicenna), Safiyaddin Urmiyyayi and others. 

What did they define as the curative nature of melodies? The Great Turkic scholar Abu Nasr al-Farabi (873-950) in his “Great Book About Music” observed: “Music promotes good mood, moral education, emotional steadiness and spiritual development. It is useful for physical health. When the soul is not healthy, the body is also ill. Good music, which cures the soul, restores the body to good health. “Do you have a headache? Relax beside a flower bed or a trickling fountain, or invite a musician to come and perform so you can fall asleep to the gentle sounds of dutar (Eastern stringed instrument)!” advised the great physycian Ibn Sina (980-1037). Seven centuries later Mahammad Yusif Shirvani (18th century) prescribed melodies of stringed instruments for those who were suffering from melancholy and insomnia. 

The well-known doctor Sultan Giyasaddin in his work “Kitab as-Sinaat” (18th century) challenged his colleagues to study music, noting that “scholars of India recommend that physicians study melodies and the theory of music. This science is necessary for the doctor, just like his search to understand the subtleties of diagnosing the pulse. In addition, some illnesses may be cured when the patient listens to certain melodies.”

Some Indian melodies are still performed in Azerbaijan, such as the mughams known as Humayun and Maur-Hindi. Numerous Indian traders and colonists who came in Azerbaijan and stayed here permanently brought Indian melodies to Azerbaijani. For example, Turkic tribes who came here from northern India and Pakistan in the 17th-18th centuries settled many villages in the Mughan lowlands of Azerbaijan. Some of the men had fought in the armies of the Safavid shahs who, in turn, granted them land in Azerbaijan for their loyal services. 

Following the advice of Sultan Giyasaddin, the physicians of the Middle Ages tried to understand what was known about the curative powers of music (elm al-musigi), but it was not so easy. Music was such a subtle and exacting science that the Central Asian scientist al-Khorezmi (783-850) included it in a section of mathematics, specifically in the discussion of his famous work on algebra!

“The Musical Treatise” by Abdul-Kadir Maraghayi and “Large Book On Medicine” by Abu Reyhan Biruni (973-1048) are both filled with mathematic, geometrical figures, sketches and drawings of musical instruments. But it seems that physicians did not mind spending time to study the powerful effects of music, as they considered it invaluable for the health of their patients.

At that time, 12 basic kinds of mugham and 12 musical modes were known. Maraghayi wrote: “Turks prefer to compose in the “usshag”, “nova” and “busalik” mugham styles, though other mughams also are included in their compositions”. 

Sharaf-khan Bidlisi (16th century) described a feast of the Azerbaijani ruler Shah Ismayil Safavi: “Sweet-voiced singers and sweet-sounding musicians started singing a usshag melody with both high and low pitched voices, and then the tears of the harps and lyres kidnapped reason and logic from the listeners, both great and the small.” Music promoted the development of a number of mystical sciences. In the 13th century, the Turnini Dervishes (Mavlavi) considered that knowledge of God was possible only when they fell into a trance brought on by listening to special music and which slowly turned into a mystical dance. The Azerbaijani philosopher Sukhravardi (died in 1191) who was close to the Sufi mystics wrote: “Know that those engaged in the exercise of the spirit sometimes use a gentle melody and pleasant incense. Therefore, they are able to obtain a spiritual light that is habitual and sustained for a long time”. 

At the end of the 10th century, a group of the Shiite philosophers (Brothers of Purity) had developed a science about the relationship between music and various elements of a nature: animals, herbs, minerals and color. According to this theory, each musical sound corresponds to a specific color and is associated with a certain mineral, herb and animal. Some sounds were equated with bright colors, bright metals, beautiful flowers and active animals.

Our ancestors believed that musical instruments were similar to medicinal plants and aromatic spices. The tar (stringed instrument) was compared with health-promoting and fragrant saffron. The naghara (small drum) was identified with the curative powers of cloves or ginseng. The ud (stringed instrument) was associated with the soothing effect of valerian or lemon balm. The zurna (a nasal-sounding wind instrument) was associated with strong coffee. The medical properties of these and other instruments are provided below. Abdul-Kadir Maraghayi, Farabi and Safiyaddin Urmiyyayi document information about the healing properties of instruments in such books as “Gabusname” by Keykavus Ziyari, and from books. Primarily, however, this information comes from Azerbaijani verbal folklore of the 19th-20th ashugs (minstrels), a large heritage of which has been collected and kept at the Baku’s Institute of Manuscripts.

NEY, The gentle sound of the ney (wind instrument that produces a sound resembling the flute) calms the nervous system, reduces high blood pressure and tiredness, and promotes good sleep. The ney is believed to awaken a reflective mood, causing a person to appreciate and enjoy nature. It is linked to deep philosophical ideas.

UD, Our ancestors considered that listening to the sound of ud (pronounced as “ood”) was an excellent remedy against headache and melancholy, reducing muscle spasms and creating a strong calming action. The ud was one of the most widespread and favorite instruments in medieval Azerbaijan. It is related to the ancient Greek harp. Instruments, similar to the ud are depicted in ancient Egyptian frescos.
Music performed on the saz (national stringed instrument) calms the nervous system and enhances and lifts one’s mood. It is useful in treating melancholy and for eliminating feelings of pessimism.

ZURNA,This wind instrument is said to stimulate the spirit of battle and sometimes even to instigate aggression and war-like characteristics. The sound of zurna helps to reduce apathy, indifference, and increase the blood pressure.

This instrument helped the doctors to deal with bad mood, melancholy, intellectual and physical exhaustion, as well as low blood pressure. It was considered that the Naghara could substitute for some medicinal plants and tones like spicy cloves. The rhythmic beating of the naghara is believed to lead to the strengthening of the heart. The naghara is described in the Early Middle Age Azerbaijani literary epic, “Kitabi Dada Gorgud” (The Book of my Grandfather). Instruments resembling the Naghara were also well known in ancient Egypt. Thus, according to the rich scientific and musical heritage of our ancestors, it seems that not only did they listen to music for enjoyment and entertainment, but also they perceived music a potent force in the prevention and treatment of various diseases.

Dr. Farid Alakbarov heads both the Department of Translation and the Department of International Relations at the Institute of Manuscripts in Baku. His articles about medieval manuscripts can be found by searching at AZER.com. Some of Dr. Alakbarov’s articles published in Azerbaijan International have been translated into Azeri (Latin script).

Now about the Tar, the melodies performed on tar were considered useful for headache, insomnia and melancholy, as well as for eliminating nervous and muscle spasms. Listening to this instrument was believed to induce a quiet and philosophical mood, compelling the listener to reflect upon life. Its solemn melodies were thought to cause a person to relax and fall asleep.

The author of “Gabusname” (11th century) recommends that when selecting musical tones (perde) to take into account the temperament of the listener. He suggested that lower pitched tones (bem) were effective for sanguine and phlegmatic persons, while higher pitched tones (zil) were helpful for those who were identified with a choleric temperament or melancholic temperament.

Here is the list of a few famous Tar Player in Iran since Qajar era until now,
1- Darvish Khan
2- Alinagi Vaziri
3- Hossien Gholi
4- Mirza Abdollah
5- Aliakbar shanazi
6- Mahamd reza lotfi
7- Hossien allizadeh
8- Daryosh talai
9- Farhang sharif
10- Hoshang zarif
11- Jalil shahnaz, …



(Text excerption courtesy by Aahba Motallebi)



“Music is a moral law. It gives inspiration to the entire world, wings to the soul and raises the thoughts of man up to the heavens. Music is the basis of order. It is the embodiment of eternal beauty and glory.”

These words by the great Greek philosopher Plato would find resonance in the soul of any Azerbaijani, be he philosopher or just ordinary worker. If one attempts to define the most characteristic feature of Azerbaijanis, it would doubtless be their love of music. Harmonic music lives in the very nature of this land, in its soil, trees and rocks. Classic Azerbaijani poetry is filled with lines about music and the supreme spiritual enjoyment that it gives.

For example, the beauty of Azerbaijani songs was glorified by the great poet of this land, Nizami Ganjavi:

Dear singer, take your saz in your arms,
Play sweet music for us,
Don’t limit your range,
Our melodies are broad and rich.

Azerbaijani melodies have been adopted and sung by people from all of the neighboring countries: Georgians, Armenians, Turks, Dagestanis, Uzbeks and Turkmens. This music has been imprinted in the musical memory of these peoples and become accepted as their common heritage. A number of written materials and sources from the 19th century testify to the dominant role of Azerbaijani musical culture in the Caucasus and Central Asia. One can still find dozens of Azerbaijani tunes widespread in this area, both national folk tunes and those that were written by specific Azerbaijani composers.

Azerbaijanis’ love for music is closely connected with their unique talent in this art form. At the beginning of the 20th century, composer Uzeyir Hajibeyov, the genius of Azerbaijani music, recognized for writing the first opera of the Caucasus and the Muslim East and acknowledged as the greatest figure in the musical world of this region, wrote: “Without the slightest exaggeration, it is possible to say that among the Caucasian peoples, the most talented in music are the Azerbaijani Turks.” (1923).

The rich musical heritage created since ancient times is unchallengeable proof of a genetic talent that is inherent in every generation of the Azerbaijani nation. Our national musical instruments, designed for the emotional color, rhythm, tempo and artistic features of Azerbaijani folk music, have passed a long path of historic development and carried many characteristic features of Azerbaijani traditional music up until the present. Now they are part of Azerbaijan’s musical culture, linking its past and present. Traditional music and musical instruments express the major features of Azerbaijani national musical thinking and the nature of Azerbaijani creativity.

At the same time, we must regretfully admit that a great deal of our national musical heritage has been lost. This especially relates to the rich collection of instruments used by Azerbaijanis during various periods of our cultural history.

Numerous string, wind and percussion instruments were created long before our era and improved throughout history to become the basis of Azerbaijan’s national musical treasury. For centuries, they were used for the cultural development and creative activity of the people, decorating their lives, customs and traditions.

Study and Recovery of Musical Instruments

As a discipline of Azerbaijani musicology, instrumentology comprises its own separate sphere. The descriptions of ancient musical instruments provided by Azerbaijani scholars, musicians, historians and ethnographers are of great importance for the development of this science. These include the valuable observations of Uzeyir Hajibeyov, Afrasiyab Badalbeyli, Teymur Bunyadov, Mirali Seyidov and Saadat Abdullayeva.

Uzeyir Hajibeyov in particular contributed much to the study of Azerbaijani folk instruments; he described the characteristics and classifications of these musical instruments in his works, including the ranges of their modal scales and their prospects for further development. (See his book, “The Principles of Azerbaijani Folk Music” (Baku: Azeri 1 945, English 1 985).)

Published research about these musical instruments has dealt with their structure, modal scales, technical and artistic capabilities, the history of their evolution and even the etymology of their names.

Despite the fact that these forgotten musical instruments have been researched from time to time, their restoration has never become a subject of study. In general, the creation of musical instruments, their development, and the etymology of names and places in the national musical heritage have never been fully explored. This book provides information about both contemporary instruments and the musical instruments that were widespread during the Middle Ages but later forgotten due to various reasons.

The restoration of ancient musical instruments begins, first of all, with the study of medieval written sources and miniatures. The works of numerous researchers and musicians, the notes of travelers, samples of folk and classical poetry and miniatures refer to the existence of a variety of string, wind and percussion instruments. This certainly proves that there is a rich heritage of musical instruments belonging to the Azerbaijani nation. Presented below is a summary of the sources that were used in researching and reconstructing these ancient instruments.

The most ancient artifacts related to Azerbaijani musical culture have been found in historical monuments and amongst the material culture that has been found in archeological excavations. A number of objects that have found during archeological digs are related to musical instruments. For instance, during the construction of the Mingachevir Water Basin, three musical instruments-tutak, zurna and ney-were discovered; these were made of clay or bone.

Azerbaijani classical poetry and oral history is also a rich source of information. Almost all great Azerbaijani poets and writers touched upon musical instruments in their works. The poetry of Nizami and Fuzuli provides an inexhaustible source for such research. These poets described the instruments’ timbre and appearance and gave us very important information about the methods of their creation and the manner in which they were played.

Musical science also provides us with very important information about the ancient instruments of Azerbaijan. Treatises by medieval musicologists provide information about the pitch and scale of these instruments, the number of strings, the ranges and other data, giving us an idea of their acoustic quality. The scientific heritage of Azerbaijani musicologists like Safiaddin Urmavi (13th century) and Abdulgadir Maraghayi (14th-15th centuries) provides us with the most valuable and extensive information for studying these instruments.

Without visual materials that illustrated what these instruments looked like, we would not have been able to restore them to any measure of authenticity or credibility. Therefore, the sketches and drawings of musical instruments that we find in decorative and applied art, on ancient pottery, and in architecture and monumental paintings of the pre-Moslem epoch, are of enormous value.

Another body of research relates to the memoirs, travel notes and other literature from scientists, writers, diplomats and other travelers who visited Azerbaijan centuries ago. Information about musical instruments used in Azerbaijan in the 17th, 1 8th and 19th centuries can be found in the travel notes and memoirs of Adam Oleari, Engelbert Kaempfer, Alexander Dumas, Evliya Chelebi and others.

Drawings and paintings by the famous Russian painter G. Gagarin, who visited Azerbaijan in the 19th century, depict scenes of musical majlises (assemblies), musicians and dancers belonging to the khanate of Shirvan.
The Research Laboratory for the Restoration and Improvement of Ancient Musical Instruments opened at Baku Music Academy in 1991. Researchers at this laboratory study the history of musical instruments and explore questions about their technology, including size, materials and acoustics. Reconstruction is performed on the basis of the information gathered.

Laboratory research of museum exhibits and archive materials has produced valuable results as well. In this sense, the work of the researchers of the laboratory should specifically be noted. As a result of their efforts, instruments that were broadly used in medieval Azerbaijan and later forgotten-such as the chang, barbat, chagane, choghur, santur, tanbur, rubab, gopuz and ney-have been completely restored.

We have also been working to restore existing instruments. For example, in order to strengthen sonority, some structural changes are being introduced. Another example is that the material used to make strings has been changed and the sound diapason has been widened. For example, the gut or silk that were used in the santur have been replaced with nylon threads or metallic wire. A clamp-like piece that presses against the strings was added to the body of the santur in order to keep the strings from vibrating.

The instruments that we have managed to recover represent only a small number of all the forgotten ancient instruments that once existed. There is still an enormous amount of research to be done. Ancient musical instruments are the monuments of the history, culture and spirituality of our nation. Restoring them and returning them to life is a noble and worthy occupation.

Performing Arts

One of the most interesting pages in Azerbaijan’s musical history relates to the performances of these ancient instruments. There is great historical value in the performing arts that have absorbed the rich traditions of Azerbaijani folk music. Early examples of written literature, history, architecture and fine art prove that the performing arts have been a favorite aspect of musical activity throughout the ages.

For example, “Kitabi Dada Gorgud” (The Book of Dada Gorgud), our most famous ancient epic, indicates that playing the gopuz was recognized as a holy and noble occupation. Our classical poets presented delicate and loving images of well-known ancient musicians and offered a great deal of interesting data about them.

When the song of Nikisa’s chang fell silent,
Barbat’s sitar raised its voice.
As the light-headed ashug touched the saz,
At once he began to sing the gazal in the Ushshag .

Here, in the story of “Khosrov and Shirin”, the great poet Nizami Ganjavi describes a scene of competition between two unsurpassed musicians of the past, Nikisa and Barbat, both of them composers, singers and performers. Nikisa and Barbat outshined the greatest glory of their contemporaries in their ability to play the chang and barbat.

We know from history that many outstanding persons, poets, writers and scientists from Azerbaijan were also master performers on various musical instruments. Safiaddin Urmavi, a first-rate scientist-theorist of Eastern music, is one of the most famous. He was also known for his mastery of the instrument known as the ud.

Throughout history, performing arts have developed and matured both artistically and technically. Beginning in the second half of the 19th century, musical gatherings (“majlises”) were held in Baku, Shamakhi and Karabakh, which helped to improve both the singing and performing arts. Outstanding performers such as Mirza Sadig Asadoghlu, Mashadi Jamil Amirov, Bahram Mansurov, Ahmad Bakikhanov, Gurban Pirimov, Mansur Mansurov and many others from the 19th-20th centuries grew up attending these musical assemblies.

During the second half of the 20th century, tar and kamancha performances rose to an even higher level of development. Performers such as Habib Bayramov, Baba Salahov, Haji Mammadov, Habil Aliyev, Shafiga Eyvazova, Aghasalim Abdullayev, Ramiz Guliyev, Mohlat Muslimov, Fakhraddin Dadashov, Munis Sharifov and many other instrumentalists raised the bar for performance technique and expanded the capabilities of Azerbaijani national musical instruments.

(Courtesy by musigi-dunya)

See also a General Information on Azerbaijani Culture



About RAM Chandrakausika राम च 51

Ram51 is a researcher in the various fields of Musicology, Philosophy and History as well as old languages. One of his first topics is the wide scope of Indo-arabic cultures as represented in various art-forms religion and history. Below a list of selected Research topics which sum up partitionally the task of anthropological Frameworks in totaliter : Sanskrit Hinduism and Mythology Hindustani Music, The Muqhal Empire Gharanas from North India Kashmir Sufiyana The Kashmir Santoor Traditional Folk Music from USA Philosophy in Orient and Okzident Genealogy of musical instruments Ethnomusicology, Arabic Maqams, No Theatre fromJapan, North american poetry, Cultural heritage of mankind and Islamic architecture... View all posts by RAM Chandrakausika राम च 51

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