Category Archives: The Music Of Azerbaijan

GHARANAS OF INDIA – The Bhendi Bazaar Gharana



The term “Gharana” comes from a Hindi word “Ghar” which means a house. “Gharana” in social context refers to a family staying in the house. Since families may stay in the house for generations, the common skills and traits of the members of the family and rituals and traditions followed by the family, become characteristics of a Gharana. The word “Gharana” in Hindustani Classical Music bears a special connotation – adherence to a comprehensive musicological ideology. Simply put it essentially refers to the style, of singing or playing an instrument, of the founder and other stalwarts of the Gharana. However, the word style, as applicable to vocal form, can be broken down further to include a number of characteristics of presentation of a Raga, such as, open voice using akar, clarity of notes, development and elaboration of a Raga, stress on breath control, rhythmplay, use of boltans and dancelike grace in Sargams, exquisite compositions and so on.

In the context of Bhendibazaar Gharana, the lineage can be traced to Ustad Dilawar Hussain Khan. His three sons, Ustad Chhajjoo Khan, Ustad Nazeer Khan and Ustad Khadim Hussain Khan (the Founders of Bhendibazaar Gharana) shifted in the year 1870 from Bijnaur, near Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh to Mumbai. Their brother Vilayat Hussain used to stay in an area called “Bhendibazaar” . The area “Bhendibazaar” is located close to the Fort area, the commercial centre of Bombay (now Mumbai). The locality close to the Fort area was referred to as “Behind the bazaar” by the British, which in local language came to be known as Bhendibazaar. The triumvirate had received training in music, initially from their father, Ustad Dilawar Hussain Khan, and later from Inayat Hussain Khan of Rampur Sahaswan Gharana and from Ustad Inayat Khan of the Dagar Gharana. The three brothers developed their own style and gained reputation as singers from “Bhendibazaar” and their style was called “Bhendibazaar Gayaki”.

The Bhendibazaar Gayaki presented a novel approach in presentation of a raga and the impact on listeners and other musicians was so great that many stalwarts of other Gharanas and budding musicians preferred to take training; for example, Ustad Shahmir Khan (father of Ustad Amir Khan), Ustad Amir Khan himself, Ustad Chand Khan, Kader Baksh, Ustad Mamman Khan, Ustad Zande Khan, Lata Mangeshkar, Pandita Kishori Amonkar, Pt. Kumar Gandharva, Begum Akhtar, Naina Devi, Pt. Jitendra Abhisheki, Pt.Vasantrao Deshpande, Asha Bhosale, Mahendra Kapoor, Manna Dey. The biographies of the founders and other exponents of the Gharana are included in the next page. In this page, we shall see the information of Guru- Shishya parampara condensed in three lineage charts as per details given below:





Disciples_5th Generation




.Guru Pandit TD Janorikar_Vocal


Suhasini Koratkar_Vocal.


Pandit Pandurang Amberkar.

Pandit ShivKumar<br /> Shukla


The term “Gharana” comes from a Hindi word “Ghar” which means a house. “Gharana” in social context refers to a family staying in the house. Since families may stay in the house for generations, the common skills and traits of the members of the family and rituals and traditions followed by the family, become characteristics of a Gharana. The word “Gharana” in Hindustani Classical Music bears a special connotation – adherence to a comprehensive musicological ideology. Simply put it essentially refers to the style, of singing or playing an instrument, of the founder and other stalwarts of the Gharana. However, the word style, as applicable to vocal form, can be broken down further to include a number of characteristics of presentation of a Raga, such as, open voice using akar, clarity of notes, development and elaboration of a Raga, stress on breath control, rhythmplay, use of boltans and dancelike grace in Sargams, exquisite compositions and so on.

In the context of Bhendibazaar Gharana, the lineage can be traced to Ustad Dilawar Hussain Khan. His three sons, Ustad Chhajjoo Khan, Ustad Nazeer Khan and Ustad Khadim Hussain Khan (the Founders of Bhendibazaar Gharana) shifted in the year 1870 from Bijnaur, near Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh to Mumbai. Their brother Vilayat Hussain used to stay in an area called “Bhendibazaar” . The area “Bhendibazaar” is located close to the Fort area, the commercial centre of Bombay (now Mumbai). The locality close to the Fort area was referred to as “Behind the bazaar” by the British, which in local language came to be known as Bhendibazaar. The triumvirate had received training in music, initially from their father, Ustad Dilawar Hussain Khan, and later from Inayat Hussain Khan of Rampur Sahaswan Gharana and from Ustad Inayat Khan of the Dagar Gharana. The three brothers developed their own style and gained reputation as singers from “Bhendibazaar” and their style was called “Bhendibazaar Gayaki”.
The Bhendibazaar Gayaki presented a novel approach in presentation of a raga and the impact on listeners and other musicians was so great that many stalwarts of other Gharanas and budding musicians preferred to take training; for example, Ustad Shahmir Khan (father of Ustad Amir Khan), Ustad Amir Khan himself, Ustad Chand Khan, Kader Baksh, Ustad Mamman Khan, Ustad Zande Khan, Lata Mangeshkar, Pandita Kishori Amonkar, Pt. Kumar Gandharva, Begum Akhtar, Naina Devi, Pt. Jitendra Abhisheki, Pt.Vasantrao Deshpande, Asha Bhosale, Mahendra Kapoor, Manna Dey

Nuances of Bhendi Bazaar Gharana Gayaki

Nuances of Gayaki include the following prominent characteristics :

1. Akar sung in open voice,
2. Improvisation of the raga (alap, taan and sargam) based on Khandmer principle, i.e. various combinations of a given set of notes to bring    out beauty and melody of the Raga,
3. Presentation in Madhya laya (medium tempo), and madhyadrut laya (medium fast tempo),
4. Melodious smooth meends with breath control,
5. Forceful Gamak taans, sapat taans and satta taans,
6. Presentation of Bandishes having delightful mixture of shabda, soor and laya (lyrics, notes and tempo),
7. Dance oriented structure of singing of sargams (singing complex combinations of solfa syllables in harmony with their designated pitches),
8. Individualistic and beautiful rhythmplay,
9. Inclusion of some melodious ragas of Karnatak Music, such as Hamsdhwani, Nagaswarawali, Pratapwarali.

*  *  *  *  *  *

While a massive redevelopment project is underway at Bhendi Bazaar, a little known fact about the area is its rich contribution to Hindustani classical music
While all this is known and often talked about, a little known fact about the area is its rich contribution to Hindustani classical music. It was in 1890 that Bhendi Bazaar Gharana was founded in Mumbai by three brothers ”Ustad Chhajjoo Khan, Ustad Nazeer Khan and Ustad Khadim Hussain Khan, who hailed from Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh.

My mother, Late Mandakini Gadre, was a disciple of Master Navrang Nagpurkar, who was a leading disciple of Ustad Aman Ali Khan, the doyen of Bhendi Bazaar Gharana. I chose Bhendi Bazaar Gharana as the subject of the web site as my mother learnt music from Master Navrang, a maestro of the Bhendi Bazaar Gharana.

I strongly felt that artistes of the past era, of Bhendi Bazaar Gharana who had devoted their whole life to mastering, presenting and teaching music are forgotten today.The website provides information about Bhendi Bazaar Gharana, its guru-shishya parampara, some live recordings of some stalwarts from the Gharana.

This treasure, if not preserved now, may be lost forever and will not be available to music lovers and students in future.” Highlighting various features of the website, Gadre added, “The website, which was launched in 2009 has nearly 250 Bandishes composed by Ustad Aman Ali Khan and other disciples including Pandit Shivkumar Shukla, Pandit Pandurang Amberkar, Master Navrang, Pandit Ramesh Nadkarni. There are Bandishes sung by disciples of the present generation.”

While Hindustani classical music has been dominated by other Gharanas like ”Kirana Gharana, Agra Gharana and so on, many feel that Bhendi Bazaar Gharana is a forgotten chapter and barely finds a mention in the Indian music scene. Said Suhasini Koratkar, currently one of the oldest members from the Bhendi Bazaar Gharana, based in Pune, “The problem with this Gharana was the death of many of its stalwarts before time.

Ustad Aman Ali Khan passed away quite early. The singers from this Gharana were not very much into performing at concerts. They used to teach their pupils and they were happy doing that. They considered that music was for spiritual purposes and not for sale.

This is probably one of the reasons why this Gharana did not become so popular.” Koratkar (67) recollects days when she started learning music under Pandit TD Janorikar in Pune, “My father loved Shastriya Sangeet and this is why he insisted that I start learning under Janorikar ji.

It was during his time that the Gharana flourished. He knew that for a Gharana to flourish it is important that people should be made aware of it. Hence he performed at a lot of concerts. After intensive practice for 7-8 years we too started performing at various concerts.

We wanted to keep the Gharana alive. My guru passed away in 2006. But I continued the sammelan pratha.” Koratkar worked as the Director of Programme (Music) at the All India Radio (AIR) in Delhi. “I started organising various sammelans in Delhi so that people could know about this Gharana,” she said.

Another problem with this Gharana was absence of any written documents or books that talk about the Gharana  and its distinguishing features. “It was the oral tradition followed by gurus and this is how knowledge was passed on to the disciples.

It is now that efforts are being made to document its history, origin, etcetera,” said Koratkar. With a handful of practitioners remaining, music lovers are not too optimistic about the future of the Bhendi Bazaar Gharana. Said Meenaxi Mukherji from Andheri (W), a singer who has been associated with the Gharana for almost 25 years, “What is required is a more coordinated effort by the singers who come from this Gharana.

Effort at an individual level will not be of much help. But a bigger project with help pouring in from various people will help resurrect this Gharana and make it popular. Otherwise, I think that the Gharana might soon become history.” Mukherji also laments the fact that, “in this day and age students look for quick money and fame. It  is not just an art.

It is more of an aradhna (worship)–a way to reach the divine. After a year or two, students insist that they want to perform at concerts. There is also no money in this field. This is another reason why many shy away to take up classical music as a career.” Kedar Bodos, a classical singer based in Goa, concurs. “There is lack of patience among students. Their taste, in terms of music too is changing,” said Bodos who has trained in five different Gharanas including Bhendi Bazaar.

Bollywood connection
Lata Mangeshkar and Manna Dey learnt from Ustad Aman Ali Khan; Asha Bhosale and Pankaj Udhas from Master Navrang and Mahendra Kapur from Pandit Ramesh Nadkarni.

Nuances of Bhendi Bazaar Gayaki include the following prominent characteristics
* Improvisation of the raga (alap, taan and sargam) based on Khandmer principle, i.e. various combinations of a given set of notes to bring out beauty and melody of the Raga
* Presentation in Madhya laya (medium tempo), and madhyadrut laya (medium fast tempo)
* Inclusion of some melodious ragas of Karnatak Music, such as Hamsdhwani, Nagaswarawali, Pratapwarali.

In the context of Bhendi Bazaar Gharana, the lineage can be traced to Ustad Dilawar Hussain Khan. His three sons, Ustad Chhajjoo Khan, Ustad Nazeer Khan and Ustad Khadim Hussain Khan (the Founders of Bhendi Bazaar Gharana) shifted in the year 1870 from Bijnaur, near Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh to Mumbai.

Their brother Vilayat Hussain used to stay in an area called “Bhendi Bazaar” . The area “Bhendi Bazaar” is located close to the Fort area, the commercial centre of Bombay (now Mumbai). The locality close to the Fort area was referred to as “Behind the bazaar” by the British, which in local language came to be known as Bhendi Bazaar.

The triumvirate had received training in music, initially from their father, Ustad Dilawar Hussain Khan, and later from Inayat Hussain Khan of Rampur Sahaswan Gharana and from Ustad Inayat Khan of the Dagar Gharana. The three brothers developed their own style and gained reputation as singers from “Bhendi Bazaar” and their style was called “Bhendi Bazaar Gayaki”.

(Courtesy of Sudeshna Chowdhury)

*   *   *

Moradabad, a small town in Uttar Pradesh has been one of the heartlands of Hindustani classical instrumental music. Many senior Ustads have mastered the art of Sarangi, Tabla, Been and even vocal music from this gharana. How can one forget the legendary tabla player Ahmad Jaan Tirakhwa saab and great vocalists Ustad Chhajju Khan saab and Ustad Tajjammul khan saab who belong to this gharana? Murad ali belongs to the sixth generation of musicians from his family which has been serving music for the last 250 years. His grandfather Ustad Saddique Ahmad Khan saab and his father Ustad Ghulam Sabir khan saab need no introduction to the world of Hindustani classical music. One of the biggest assets of Moradabad gharana , unlike many other gharanas, is each and every musician is trained in both vocal and instrumental styles of performing. So a sarangi player also makes for a great vocalist and vice versa.

Moradabad gharana is also famously known as the ‘Bhindi bazaar gharana’ for various reasons. ‘Moradabad was a place with many families of musicians. Ustad amaan ali khan saab’s family was one such family responsible for this name. More than that, it was people who would associate ustad ji with the bhindi bazaar because he lived in Bombay for many years where there were other ustads with a same name. Over a period of time it became very easy to connect and identify to Amaan Ali khan saab of the Bhindi bazaar for all music lovers. He personally would have never said he belonged to Bhindi bazaar gharana. The second most important music family was that of table players Ustad Ahmed Jaan Tirakhwa saab. He belonged to Moradabad, though his style of playing was that of farooqabaad. The third was our family of Sarangi players. My great great grandfather, my grand uncles and many others who patronized this instrument. Many of them left to Pakistan during partition. So the Moradabad gharana has its branches spread far and wide. And now I think it’s time to give this gharana its due and that’s why I have kept it a little aside from Bhindi bazaar and let everyone know the original name’ says Murad clearing the air off this much confused turf.

Moradabad is the foremost of gharanas that patronized Sarangi along with other gharanas like Panipat, delhi, Jhajhar and Kirana. Sarangi, an instrument whose history has been well-documented has several interesting stories. In the days of yore, in the Middle East one hakeem Boo Ali Ibn Sina, a student of the famed Pythagoras is said to have gone into the forests to collect plants and roots for his herbal medicines when he heard strange music emanating from under a tree. On closer scrutiny he noticed that entrails of a dead monkey whose intestines were being rubbed by a dry twig under the breeze were producing this music. In Abul Fazl’s famous Ain-e-akbari this story finds itself with a different discoverer. In the current times, the strings of the sarangi are made out of goat’s intestines. In Rajasthan an earlier version of this instrument called Ravanhattho and Kamayacha with three main strings and about 15 sympathetic strings was in usage for a long time. The Kingri in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, the Kunju in kerala, Pen in Manipur and banam and kenara in Orissa were all various earlier rural avatars of the same Sarangi devoid of all ornamentation. From the point of view of its shape and structure the ancient musical instrument without the frets called Ghosvati or Ghoshak veena was perhaps the closest to the latter day Sarangi. In more modern parlance, the Pinaki veena, a gut-string bow instrument described in Saranga deva’s Sangeet Ratnakara (13th century A.D) bears a close resemblance to the sarangi we know. The modern day sarangi is a far accomplished and highly engineered instrument. ‘Sarangi Sau rangi’ , (the sarangi has a hundred colour) is an adage that goes aptly well with this instrument’s virtuosity to create such delicate and fine music. Played with cuticles and the lowest part of the finger nails, it is not an easy instrument to master. What started off as an accompanying instrument has slowly taken shape of being a classy solo concert instrument, thanks to the undying efforts of Ustads from all these gharanas.

Speaking of his early days of learning music Murad recollects his taleem under his gurus. ‘I would have to spend many studious hours in riyaaz. It was not easy to see my cuticles bleed and feel the pain. I would just stick bits of tape around my fingers and carry on with my music practice’. Years of such hard work was bound to pay well and Murad won the first prize at the all India radio national music competition at the tender age of sixteen in 1992. Ever since then, there has been no looking back for him. Having accompanied the likes of Smt Girija Devi, Ustad Rashid Khan, Pandit Gopal Mishra, Pandit Briju Maharaj and many more senior artists from the world of Hindustani classical music and dance, he is currently an ‘A’ grade artist from AIR Delhi.

Murad who feels that vocal music is important, like his seniors first learnt vocal before he graduated to taking the Sarangi. ‘Vocal music is very important especially for sarangi players. When you learn the intricacies of Khyaal and other genres like dadra, tappa, thumri and so on in vocal, it becomes far more easier to practice it on the instrument’ says Murad. His grandfather the great Ustad Saddique Ahmed Khan saab was also a student of Hindustani vocal for twenty years before his gurus allowed him to touch the sarangi. A strong grounding in vocal becomes an essential part of an instrumentalist’s journey into musicdom. There have been many sarangi players who have mastered this instrument. But there have been a very few who can be credited with making sarangi the solo instrument. ‘Ustad bundu khan saab’s name stands out first. He was responsible for changing the presentation and the music of sarangi and taking it to a new stature. After him come Pandit Gopal mishra ji and Pandit Ram narayan ji who was responsible for making it popular in the music festivals across the world. There have been many others too, but you need to see who got the opportunity and who got the right platform to present their skill’, says Murad.

he Sarangi has also been one of the main instruments to provide music for Kathak as a dance form to grow. ‘Initially when I set out to become a solo concert performer, my father also encouraged me to experiment. I was to learn how to play the lehraas with tabla or pakhajwaj as an accompaniment or how to play it with dance. For that I worked in Bharitiya kala Kendra in delhi for about six months to learn this art. The people there wanted me to stay back when I was leaving six months later, but this stay extended for six years and I had to beg myself out of that place to continue my work. But what I learnt there was priceless. The Sarangi is one of the most versatile instruments and can be played with all genres of music and dance forms if it is mastered the right way’, adds Murad.

The Sarangi has come a long way. With the passing over of Hindustani musical patronage from royal courts to emergence of havelis and kothas of the nawabs, the Sarangi started to become associated with mehfils and tawaifs or nautch girls. A little known fact is that even famous senior Hindustani vocalists like Ustad Abdul Karim Khan saab, Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan saab and Ustad Amir Khan saab who had begun their artistic careers as Sarangi players disowned their instrumental past on their path to fame. From classical concerts the Sarangi came to be a more popular instrument among lighter semi-classical forms like Ghazal and soon was adopted by the film industry for playback music. But how many ever such confrontations later, the Sarangi continues to survive the onslaught of time, space, technology and more to constantly keep re-emerging as an instrument worth all ages and all times.

Whatever be the origins of this instrument, many people have come forward claiming to be its original inventors in the past. ‘Earlier sarangi had 4 strings of Sa, Pa, Sa and Pa. In this last century, it was reduced to three strings. Now if I put the forth string back and say it is my invention, it is not right’, says Murad demystifying all these false claims of older artists who were supposed inventors. Being close to human voice and able to replicate patterns of vocal music, the Sarangi is an ideal accompaniment to Hindustani Classical music. The subtleties that can be acquired through sarangi cannot be attained through harmonium due to its limitations. But lately, just for convenience sake, sarangi is being replaced by harmonium. One of the other reasons why its popularity is on the decline is also because of the fact that it is a difficult instrument to learn and master. But Murad with his determined efforts has been credited to elevate the status of the instrument with his fusion concert tours and other musical alliances. ‘I have toured with music groups like Indian Ocean and Shubha Mudgal Ji’s group and we have seen how widely sarangi has been appreciated. I have collaborated with pianist Anil Srinivasan from Chennai and done classical fusion. I love innovation and love experimenting because this instrument easily accommodates such practices. Its musical limitations are almost negligible and hence for a player like me it comes as a blessing’ says Murad speaking about his musical collaboration.

There is a falsehood generated by popular perception that Islam is against music and those Muslims who practice music are anti-Islamic. Breaking that myth once the late Bharat Ratna Ustad Bismillah Khan saab had said that those who say music is anti-Islamic know nothing of music or of Islam. ‘This is not true. Music is very much a part of all cultures. I have been to Jerusalem to the tomb of one of our saints and I was surprised to find the design of a violin engraved on his mazaar in that dargah. There were music notes written on the chaadar along with figures of other musical instruments because the saint himself must have been a person of music. So there is no such thing in Islam. That kind of culture which encourages excessive alcoholism, domestic abuse and violence and other immoral activities must not be encouraged anyways be it Islamic or not. It’s harmful for the society anywhere in the world. In fact Islam says a lot more things are haraam, why target something as divine as classical music? Classical music is pure and nothing can touch it’, says Murad with affirmation against all these rumours that do more harm to music and to Islam than anything else.

Having over a dozen albums of solo and non-solo music albums to his credit, Murad is the new face of Sarangi amongst the performance and festival circles. The ‘Saurangi’ festival conceived and created by him and his team of efficient musicians was a landmark festival in the history of Sarangi as well. It is an annual feature marked on the musical calendar where a sarangi symphony is performed by a dozen players who play a scripted symphony. For the first time ever in the history of Hindustani classical music, the best of hundreds of Sarangi players and music connoisseurs gathered under one umbrella to enjoy a festival dedicated to this instrument. ‘In the past Pandit Ram Narayan did a similar event with hundred sarangis but that event was on a different level. I have tried to put together an Indian symphony like how Pandit Ravishankar used to do the national orchestra with different instruments’, says Murad about the Saurangi festival. Murad along with his twin brother Fateh ali , sitar player , vocalist imran khan and tabla player Amaan Ali have formed a group called ‘Taseer’. Taseer as a band has collaborated with many more musicians from across the world according to the needs of performances.

Ask him if he believes if it’s possible to become a full time professional musician and he says ‘Yes! Why not! It depends on how much riyaaz you do, how committed you are to your music. Nothing is impossible’, he says.

With such exponents like Murad Ali in its fold, the Sarangi can be proud to make a fresh come-back on the concert stage more actively. Murad proved many a critic who thought that the sarangi was on the verge of extinction, totally wrong with his innovation, bowing techniques and newer musical collaborations. With a well-established aesthetic sense deeply rooted in his great legacy and in the tradition of his Gharana, so far as we have musicians like Murad Ali we can all say that Sarangi and its pristine music are in safe hands.

*  *  *  *

The Bhendi Bazar family of style (gharana)
In North Indian Classical Music, several Systems are prevalent. Unlike many other music systems of the world, which are documented in the written form, Indian music systems are basically tradition bound, and, for past several centuries, have descended only in the oral form from a teacher to a student. A musician practising a certain system of music, is said to belong to that particular musical family, and is locally called to belong to that gharana. Amongst the contemporary ones, Bhendi Bazar is one such gharana of the North Indian Classical Music.
Three singer brothers, Ustad Chhajju Khan, Ustad Nazir Khan, and Ustad Khadim Hussain Khan, who lived in Bijnour town of Moradabad district in the state ot Uttar Pradesh, are the founders of Bhendi Bazar Gharana
Since they hailed from Moradabad district, this Gharana initially was known as Moradabad gharana  In early 20th century these brothers migrated to Bombay, and made their home in the southern part of the town called, Bhendhi Bazar. Since the Governor of the state, the elite class, and rich tradesmen also lived in the same locatity, it was full of several activities.
These brothers when started giving their public performances and becoming popular, the listeners lovingly started referring to them as Bhendi Bazarwale Gayak (singers from Bhendi Bazar). Since then, the gharana founded by them has come to be known as Bhendi Bazar Gharana.
It is therefore not surprising that, with such a recent origin, the current performers of this Bhendi Bazar Gharana belong only to its 4th generation.
The gharana lineage shows that it is Ustad Aman Ali Khan who, with his several disciples, was mainly responsible in popularising the Bhendi Bazar Gharana. Sometimes, therefore, the gayaki ( style of singing ) of this gharana is referred to as Aman Ali Gayaki.

Bhendi Bazar Gharana’s style of singing, in many respects, is clearly distinct and different from several contemporary styles of North Indian Classical Music. The style typifies itself with delicate voice production and bewitching tonal inflections. It stands out with its high – degree rhythmic play, and the tonal arches and swara (note) sequences in it are so balanced and poised that one is reminded of the footwork of a skilled dancer. The bandishas (compositions), mostly composed by Ustad Aman Ali Khan, the doyen of the gharana, under the pen-name Amar, are rich in their literary and poetic content. The singer of Bhendi Bazar Gharana is constantly maintaining a clear and conscious balance between the grammar and aesthetics of music. Rendering of sargam (sequences of musical notes) with intricale laya (rhythmic) patterns and  weaving of taanas (note sequences in fast tempo) based on merukhand system, and with high degree of melodic content of pleasing permutations and combinations are some of the other distinctive hall-marks of Bhendi Bazar Gayaki

(Notes by Daniel Schell, from Shaila Piplapure’s biography)

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 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

مقام The Music Of Azerbaijanمقام Vol-04



History of mugam and stages of development

Every art has its own history of creation, formation and development consisting of definite stages that are interconnected. This can also be attributed to mugam. The history of mugam covers various wide issues. The history of mugam is among the most modern and urgent problems of the contemporary music science. One of the most important aspects in the history of mugam is related to its geographical coverage. The art of mugam that is considered to be Eastern music and eastern culture has its national forms and genres as well as names peculiar of all eastern people. The history of Azerbaijani mugam dates to the ancient periods. As a genre the creation and formation of mugam coincides with the establishment of ancient states and cities. All historical areas of formation of the Azerbaijani people and their living can be considered the geographical area of mugam. All Caucasus people listened and assimilated the art of mugam only as Azerbaijani mugam which was the founder, the main carrier and distributor of the art of mugam in Caucasus region.

The Azerbaijani people had a very rich musical culture in periods before Islam (before the 7th century).
The art of mugam also went through the stages of its creation, formation and a part of the development stages in the pre-Islam period. The art of Mugam mostly formed in the historical period before the 1-4th centuries, in the historical period of Shumer and Midian’s. The main historical feature of that period is that it is the last stage of the pre-Islam history of mugam. As for the history of mugam in the 1-4th centuries, we should take into account that there were two states in the territory of Azerbaijan of that period – Atropatena and Albania.
The culture of these states that has been an integral part of the Azerbaijani culture throughout the history is also interesting in terms of the history of music. The music history of Atropatena and Albania (the name of an ancient republic) is very interesting and these states can be considered the father of the contemporary culture of music. Atropatena located in South Azerbaijan on the southern bank of Araz and Zoroastrianism was its official religion. The followers of this religion were called Mag (mug, mugh-the english definition of word is Magus, wizard). Mugam is believed to originate from this name. Thus, mags (magus, wizards) fulfilled different religious actions accompanying them with a specific music. The analysis of some samples of the music taken from these actions of mags showed that they are very close to the contemporary Azerbaijani music for their melodic and rhythm peculiarities. The people living in Albania located in Azerbaijan’s north practiced Zoroastrianism and Christianity. The religious canons in the Alban churches were accompanied with solo and chorus. This singing has different elements of poly tonality. The Albanian religious songs had much in common with the mugam songs and these songs influenced the further development of Azerbaijani modes (lads).

WBeginning from the 7th century the art of mugam moved to a new stage of its historical development. This stage is mostly connected with Islam. Thus, beginning from the mid 7th century, Islam starts to cover all areas of Atropatena and Albania. Before the 7th century, Arabian art including its music art was not so developed as Azerbaijani. Therefore, Arabs did not hold a destructive approach to the rich professional music of the countries where they spread Islam, including Azerbaijan.
They tried to learn this culture and spread it among themselves. Despite spreading Islam in Azerbaijan in the 7th century, the professional music continued developing in palaces. Though Islam had a definite influence on the art of music especially on mugam it even enriched in the period of Islam. To sing Koran was the main provision and requirement of Islam religion. A strong voice is considered a priority in Koran singing. Koran was sung with the rhythm, intonation and the structure of the Arab language. But those Azerbaijanis who followed Islam sung Koran with the mugam intonation. Thus, Koran singing was much influenced by Azerbaijani mugam. This influence was also observed in Islam traditions and ceremonies, for example, singing azan. Thus, religious songs were performed on the basis of Azerbaijani mugam melodies. In the 7-9th centuries a new genre starts to form in the literature of Azerbaijan.

The formation of the genre of qezel’s strongly influenced the development of Azerbaijan’s art of mugam. Thus, the genre of qezel gradually transformed into a poetic base of Azerbaijani mugam. qezel’s influenced the rhythm features of mugam and turned into a rhythmic basis of mugam. Moreover, qezel’s also had a positive influence on the literary content and emotionality of mugam. qezel’s written in the lyrical, lyric-philosophical and religious terms required the corresponding music performance, performance features and musical characters and this caused a new content and form of the musical language of mugam.

Some scientists believe that Arabian makam and Azerbaijani art of mugam originated from the notion of “magam” of Sufis. Sufi’s had specific ceremonies. Their ceremonies were accompanied by music from the beginning to the end. They called themselves semavis, saying the sense of their living was love for God, and calling their music heavenly. The Sufis music in Azerbaijan was closely connected with the art of mugam. The modes, rhythms and information of mugam, as well as the culmination of characters influenced the Sufi music. The medieval scientists played a great role in the development of Azerbaijan’s mugam science and art of mugam in the 13-14th centuries.
These scientists studied the issues of musical theory and practice in their works. These also included the art of mugam. Safiaddin Urmavi was among the prominent music scientists, composers and singers. He was the first to single out 12 mugams and 6 avazs known in Azerbaijan and specify their mode structure. He showed how modes form through tetra-chords and pent-chords: 12 Mugams are Ushshag, Neva, Busalik, Rast, Esag, Isfahan, Zirafkend, Buzurk, Zangule, Rehavi, Huseyni, Hijazi, Avaz, Gavesht, Gardaniyye, Salmak, Novruz, Maye, Shahnaz. The Azerbaijani modes Urmevi firstly showed in his works were diatonic and octave-structured.

The prominent music scientist, composer, poet Abdulgadir Maraghai who lived in the 14-15th centuries was considered the greatest personality of the medieval music science of the world. He was the first to use the notions of makam and sections. In his works he wrote that there are 12 mugams, 6 avazs and 24 sections and analyzed their mode structures and voice compositions. He widely described every mugam and sections in his works. Developing the mode and rhythm theories of other music scientists, he informed about the rhythmic forms and rules of their performance.

WIn the 16-17th centuries the art of mugam was passing through the development process as a folklore professional music of the palace conditions. In this period a dastgah form starts to develop in the structure and forms of mugam. New colors and shades as well as tesnifs developed in mugam performance. The masters of mugam of Azerbaijan sang gazals written in aruz genre by Nizami, Fizuli, Habibi and Khatai.
The music events were held in most regions of Azerbaijan in the 19th century and mugam was performed at these events. In the 19th century famous French scientist Alexander Duma who attended the ceremony in Shamakhy, wrote in his works about his trip saying he was greatly impressed by mugam that sounded there. Such events held in Azerbaijan were attended by khanendes from Karabakh, Baki and Tebriz which in turn caused the blending of singing traditions of different regions. The prominent composer of the 20th century Uzeyir Hajibeyov brought mugam into opera creating the mugam opera and thus played a great role in making the art of mugam famous in the world. Famous Azeri composer Gara Garayev also made a great contribution to the development of the art of mugam through creating the mugam symphony.


مقام The Music Of Azerbaijanمقام Vol-03




About Azerbaijani Modal System and Mugham Music


Mugham (also known as mugam) is the Azerbaijani modal system. Though it is clear that the word mugham is derived from the Arabic word magham, but the melodic, rhythmic, literal and structural comparision of Azerbaijani mugham music with Persian (Iranian) dastgah music shows that Azerbaijani mugham music has more common roots with Persian dastgah music than most probably with the Magham system in Arabic music and similarly the Makam system in Turkish music.

Mohammad Reza Darvishi, researcher of Persian regional music, in his famous book, Encyclopedia of the Musical Instruments of Iran, p. 267 writes: “Mugham system in the music of Azerbaijan, is very similar to the Persian dastgah system and both systems have the same root. More precisely Azerbaijani mugham music is the Azerbaijani version of Persian dastgah music.”

In fact the Arabic magham system and the Turkish Makam system are more related to the old modal system with the name magham discussed in ancient manuscripts, written by Al-Kindi (Iraqi Arab), Farabi (Persian, though some believe more research on his nationality and origin needs to be done) and many Persian scholars such as Abu Ali Sina, Safi-al-Din Urmawi, Qotb-al-Din Shirazi, Abdul-Qadir Maragheh’i and Mohammad Bana’i.

While the main theme of this article is to investigate the Azerbaijani mugham music by taking Persian dastgah music into consideration, definitely the academic researchers who are interested in having a better understanding of modal system of North Africa, Middle East and Central Asia should consider to investigate on the other modal systems such as Uyghur 12 Muqam System (see also, Tajik-Uzbek Shashmaqam (Shash is a Persian word and its meaning is the number six) and – to my knowledge -Indian Raga.
Azerbaijani Mugham Music

Azerbaijani mugham music is the main form of art music based on mugham modal system. The mugham modes are associated not only with scales but with an orally transmitted collection of melodies and melodic fragments that performers use in the course of improvisation exactly similar to what can be seen in Persian dastgah music.

There are seven main (or chief) modes and three auxiliary modes in Azerbaijani mugham modal system plus a couple of some smaller mughams. One can compare them with seven main modes in Persian dastgah music with five or six “avaz”-es (quasi-dastgahs) [1].

The Seven Main Modes in Azerbaijani Mugham Music

In Azerbaijani mugham music, every mugham is formed by combination of various pieces of music with special names in special orders. Most mughams are introduced by a special piece of music called “Bardasht” and end with a special pieces of music called “Ayaq”. Similarly in Persian (Iranian) dastgah music, every dastgah is formed by combination of various pieces of music (called gusheh) with special names in special orders. All dastgahs are introduced by a special piece of music called “Daramad” that is the first gusheh of any Dastgah and contains the first tetrachord of the Dastgah to witch the musical composition must return. This return to the first tetrachord of the Dastgah is called “forud” that literally means landing.

In Persian language, “daramad” – that comes from the verb “dar Amadan” – means “to enter”. Daramad is the first gusheh in every dastgah and the musician (or the ensemble) “enters” to the chosen dastgah by performing the daramad of every dastgah. This discussion becomes more interesting if one notices that the word “bardasht” comes from the Persian verb “bardasht kardan” and this literally means “to start” in Persian language. Therefore the meaning of the word shows that the main aim of playing “bardasht” in every Azerbaijani mugham is to start playing the chosen mugham. By this discussion, it is therefore reasonable to compare the music piece “daramad” in Persian dantgah music with the music piece “bardasht” in Azerbaijani mugham music. Finally the main role of “Ayaq” in every mugham is similar to the concept of “forud” in Persian dastgah music. Note that “ayaq” is an Azerbaijani word and it means foot, leg, stem and end.

Now we introduce the seven main modes in Azerbaijani mugham music.

1) Rast (a Persian word that means straight, right and true).

The mugham “Rast” that is considered as the most important mugham in Azerbaijani mugham music is formed of the following pieces of music:

Bardasht (with Novruzu-Ravanda), Maye, Ushshag, Huseyni, Vilayati, Dilkesh, Kurdu, Shikasteyi-Fars (Khojasta), Erag, Penjgah, Rak-Khorasani, Gerai and Ayaq.

Related mughams to Rast are: Mahur, Mahur-Hindi, Orta Mahur, Bayati-Qajar, Gatar

Etymological discussion.

As mentioned above, Rast and Bardasht are both Persian names. It is really interesting that the Bardasht of Rast is performed with a special piece of music called Novruzu-Ravanda. Novruz is the Upper (North) Azeri dialect of the Persian the word Nowruz, the traditional ancient Iranian festival which celebrates the start of the Iranian New Year and literally means “new day” in Persian language. There are several pieces of music in Persian dastgah music with the name Nowruz such as Nowruz-e-Saba, Nowruz-e-Khara and Nowruz-e-Arab in Dastgah-e-Homayun.

There is also a piece of music called Ravandi in Dastgah-e-Homayun. Ravand is the name of some places in Iran and Iraq and also it literally means a special kind of string or rope that bunch of grapes are hung.

Maye is a Persian word and literally means ferment, leaven, yeast, capital, fund, source, cause, grounding and background. There exists a magham in old Persian magham music with the name Maye.

Ushshag is an Arabic word, plural of Ashegh that literally means lover. In the past Ushghagh was one of the 12 maghams in ancient Persian music [2].

Huseyni is also an Arabic word attributed to the Arabic name Huseyn. Huseyni was one of the 12 maghams in ancient Persian music.

Vilayati is an Arabic word coming from the word Vilayat and in Persian language it literally means province and also guardianship.

Dilkesh is a Persian word, literally means fascinating and attractive. There is a piece of music called Delkesh in Dastgah-e-Mahur.

Kurdu related to Kurd. Kurds are an Ethnic-Iranian Ethnolinguistic group mostly inhabitating in a region called Kurdistan which includes adjacent parts of today Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey.

Shikesteyi-Fars. Shekasteh in Persian language means broken, broken down, sad and doleful. Fars is the arabicized of the word Pars. For a detailed discussion of the words Fars and Pars please go to Some points about the words Iran, Iranian, Persia, Persian, Fars and Farsi.

Khojasta is the Persian word Khojasteh that means happy and auspicious.

Erag is also a piece music in Persian dastgah music and mentions to Iraq.

Penjgah. Panj means five in Persian language and “gah” literally means time and also place. In Persian dastgah system, as we mentioned above, there are seven main modes and three of them are called Segah, Chahargah and Rastpanjgah. There is also a piece of music called Dogah that exists in Bayat-e-Tork. Note that Do, Se and Chahar are the Persian names for the numbers two, three and four respectively.

Rak-Khorasani. Rak is actually the arabicized of the word Rag (also spelled as Raga that the modal system in Indian classical music). There are music pieces Rak-e-Abdollah, Rak-e-Hendi and Rak-e-Kashmir that they appear in Dastgah-e-Mahur for example.

2) Shur (a Persian word literally means sensation, emotion, passion; fervour, enthusiasmanxiety) Shur in Persian dastgah is considered as the mother of all dastgahs.

Shur that is the most important mode in Ashig art music of Azerbaijan is formed of the following pieces of music:

Bardasht, Maye, Salmak, Shur-Shahnaz, Busalik, Bayaty-Turk, Shikasteyi-Fars, Mubarriga, Ashiran, Semai-Shams, Hijaz, Shakh Khatai, Sarenj, Gemengiz, Nishibi-Feraz and Ayaq.

Mugams relating to the Shur are: Shahnaz, Sarenj, Arazbari, Osmani, Rahab, Neva.
3) Segah (Se in Persian language means three and gah means place, and time)

Segah is one of the most developed mughams in Azerbaijani mugham music that is formed of the following pieces of music:

Zabul-Segah-Bardasht, Maye, Muya, Manandi-Mukhalif, Segah, high-pitched tone Zabul, Manandi-Hisar (in high-pitched tone), Manandi-Mukhalif (in high-pitched tone), Ashig-Kush, Mubarriga, Zabul and Ayaq.

Kharij Segah-Bardasht, Maye, Takhtigah, Mubarriga, Manandi-Hisar, Manandi-Mukhalif, high-pitched tone Segah and Ayaq.

Mugams relating to Segah are: Hashym Segah-sol Kharij Segah-si Mirza-Huseyn-lya Orta Segah-mi Zabul Segah

4) Chahargah (Chahar in Persian language means the number four)

Chahargah is formed of the following pieces of music:

Bardasht, Maye, Bali-Kabutar, Djovhari, Basta-Nigar, Hisar, Mualif, Garra, Mukhalif, Ouj Mukhalif, Maghlub, Mansuriyya, Uzzal and Ayaq.

5) Shushtar (Shushtar is an ancient fortress city in the Khuzestan province in southwestern Iran)

Shushtar is also one of the main mughams of Azerbaijani mugham music and is formed of the following pieces of music:

Amiri, Shushtar, Masnavi, Movlavi, Tarkib and Ayaq.

Relating mugams to the Shushtar are: Ovshary (related to Afshari the name of the Avaze-e-Afshari in Persian dastgah music) and Heydari.

6) Bayaty-Shiraz (Shiraz is the sixth most populous city in Iran and is the capital of Fars Province. Shiraz is located in the southwest of Iran on the Rudkhaneye Khoshk seasonal river. Shiraz has a moderate climate and has been a regional trade center for more than one thousand years).

Bayaty-Shiraz is formed of the following pieces of music:

Bardasht, Isfahanak, Maye, Gardaniyye, Nishibi-Faraz, Bayaty-Isfahan, Khums-Ravan, high-pitched tone Bayaty-Shiraz, Abulchap, Khaveran, Uzzal, Shikasteyi-Fars, Dilruba and Ayaq.

7) Humayun

Humayun (related to the Dastgah-e-Homayun) is formed of the following pieces of the music:

Bardasht, Humayun, Bakhtiyari, Feili, Boyuk Masnavi, Movlavi, Shushtar, Tarkib, Uzzal or Bidad, Kichik Masnavi and Ayaq.

There are three auxiliary modes and their names are: 1) Shahnaz, 2) Sarenj and 3) Another form for Chahargah.


1) Bayaty-Kurd, formed of the following pieces of music:

Bayaty-Kurd, Kerkuki, Bayaty-Ajem, Ayag.

2) Mahur-Hindi, formed of the following pieces of music:

Bardasht (with Novruzu-Ajem), Maye, Buzurk, ayag for Ushshag, Huseyni, Vilayeti, Shikasteyi-Fars, Mubarriga, Erag, Gerai or Rak-Abdulla, Ayag.

3) Bayaty-Gajar, formed of the following pieces of music:

Bardasht, Maye, Huseyni, Shikasteyi-Fars, Mubarriga, high-pitched tone Bayaty-Gajar, Dugah, Ruhul-Ervah, Zaminkhara, Maverennahr, Shah-Khatai, Ayag.

4) Shahnaz, formed of the following pieces of music:

Shahnaz, Dilkesh (Shahnaz-Khara), Kurdu, high-pitched tone Shahnaz, Azerbaijan.

5) Rahab, formed of the following pieces of music:

Bardasht, Amiri, Rahab, Boyuk Masihi, Shikasteyi-Fars, Mubarriga, Erag, Gerai, Kichik Masihi, Ayag.

6) Gatar, formed of the following pieces of music:

Gatar, low-pitched tone Gatar, high-pitched tone Gatar, Ayag.

7) Orta Mahur, formed of the following pieces of music

Bardasht (Rizan), Huseyni, low-pitched tone Maye, Mahur, Ayag for Ushshag, high-pitched tone Huseyni, Vilayeti, Shikasteyi-Fars, Mubarriga, Ashiran, Ayag.

[1]: The names of the seven dastgahs:





Rast Panjgah



The names of five quasi-dastgahs (avaz):
Dashti and Afshari (considered as sub-modes of Shur)
and Bayat-e-Esfahan (Those who perform traditional Esfahan consider Esfahan as a sub-mode of Mokhalef of Segah,

while some who perform modern Esfahan consider it as a sub-mode of Homayun). Finally some music scholars such as maestro Nasrollah Nasehpour consider Bayat-e-Kord as the sixth avaz in the system of Persian dastgah music. Bayat-e-Kord is a sub-mode of Shur. Shur is considered as the mother of all dastgahs.

[2]: The list of the names of the twelve maghams in different manuscripts has altered during the history.

(Courtesy by  Peyman Nasehpour)


Piecing Together History, String By String
The Reconstruction of Azerbaijan’s Medieval Instruments

Azerbaijani folk music ensembleBy studying manuscripts and miniature art, musicologists have discovered that more than 60 different string, wind and percussion instruments existed in ancient and medieval Azerbaijan.

They know the names of most of these now-extinct instruments, such as the “chang” mentioned by Azerbaijani poets like Nizami. (The “chang” is featured on the cover of this issue.) Until now, however, many details about these instruments have eluded historians.

For the past 25 years, Azerbaijani musicologist Dr. Majnun Karimov has been searching for the answers to questions about what these instruments looked and sounded like. Through careful research and study, he has literally pieced together a portion of Azerbaijani musical history by recreating some of these ancient instruments. 1 Thanks to Karimov, instruments such as the chang, barbat, chogur and rubab can now be heard once again.

Chang and Barbat

One of the greatest thrills in Majnun Karimov’s music career took place in 1988 at the 500th Jubilee (birthday) of Shah Ismayil Khatai2 when an ensemble o f musicians performed on medieval instruments that he, himself, had reconstructed. It was a dream come true for Karimov to recreate the sweet, melodious sounds of stringed instruments so that a contemporary audience could appreciate. His work has become a major contribution to the cultural history of Azerbaijan.

Majnun first became interested in folk instruments as a young boy when his mother brought her father’s tar to their home. Mostly, it hung on the wall in his house, but from time to time, his father would take it down to play. Later, Majnun’s father bought him an accordion.

His serious research on traditional Azerbaijani instruments began in 1972 after he graduated from the Baku Music Academy. At that time, he began searching the classical writings and art miniatures for clues that would unlock the musical secrets of the past. For several years, he researched the manuscripts at Azerbaijan’s National Manuscript Institute. Eventually in 1995, he completed his Ph.D. thesis on “The Ancient Stringed Musical Instruments of Azerbaijan.”

First Attempt

Karimov’s first attempt at building a replica was for the ” rud ” (pronunciation rhymes with “food”), a large-bodied, four-stringed instrument made partly of wood and partly of leather. Similar to the “ud,” the neck of the rud is longer. The process took several months after much trial and error. “Sometimes the measurements weren’t right,” Karimov confesses, “and I would have to disassemble the whole thing and start all over again. It took me so much time to prepare the strings which were supposed to be made out of gut and silk thread using a special technique. Then I had to figure out how to adjust them. Finally, I was able to play it. The “rud” had such a beautiful timbre reminiscent of a very old sound. It inspired me to push on to work on other instruments.”

And so he did. Nine early instruments, completed during the 1980s, are currently on display in the Ethnic Instruments Department of the State Museum of Azerbaijani Musical Culture.

Thanks to Karimov’s efforts, a special laboratory was opened in 1991 at the Baku Music Academy to “restore and improve old musical instruments.”

Karimov insists that many factors must be considered when building these instruments including the correct choice of timber, its seasoning and moisture content. Even the time of year when the tree is felled must be taken into account. The sap is lowest in January and February. Wood that is full of sap can develop cracks as it dries. Karimov notes that wood that has dense annual rings produces a stronger sound.

There are two ways to assemble instruments according to Karimov. One is to fashion the parts separately and put them together as with the “barbat.” The other method is to plane a block of wood down to the correct specifications as is done with the chang. It’s much easier to plane wet wood. Afterwards, the roughly hewn wood is allowed to dry for a long time at a specific temperature. A few years later, the wood is worked again. Finally, the frets and stem are attached.

Karimov has found that the strength of the wood is particularly important for the neck and fingerboard because of the pressure caused by tuning. The fingerboard can become distorted if the material is not strong enough. He recommends walnut and pear pegs because they can withstand atmospheric factors of humidity and temperatures and maintain stable tuning.

Various species of trees are used for these old instruments including mulberry (Morus alba), walnut (Juglans regia), red willow (Salix acutifolia), pear (Pyrus communis) and apricot (Prunus armenica). The strings are mostly made of silk, horsehair or animal gut.

Sounding boards are usually made of mulberry or walnut and those covered in leather create the greatest resonance. In addition to sheep skin, sometimes fish skin, the Absheron gazelle skin or even the inner lining of an animal heart is used.

Early Music

Evidence shows that stringed instruments were common in ancient Azerbaijan. Archeological excavations in the village of Shatirlar near the city of Barda uncovered an earthenware piece dating between the 4th and 3rd century B.C. depicting a woman playing an instrument similar to the chang.

Much of what we know about Azerbaijan’s musical heritage during the Middle Ages comes from folklore and classical poetry. Important examples are the writings of poet and philosopher Nizami Ganjavi (12th century), the poet Fuzuli (16th century) and the studies of eastern musicologists Urmavi (13th century), Maraghayi (14th century) and Navvab (19th century).

Maraghayi was especially interested in the restoration and improvement of stringed musical instruments. In his work “Magasid Al-Alhan,” he provides information about numerous musical instruments such as: udi gadim (old ud), udi kamil (improved ud), shashtay, kamancha, jiganak, Shirvan tanbur, Turkish tanbur, rubab, shidirgi, shahrud, mugni and nuzha.

Musical instruments were also depicted in miniature paintings made by artists of the 16th and 17th centuries, such as Sultan Muhammad Aga Mirek, Mirza Ali, Muzaffar Ali and Mir Sayid Ali. These tiny pictures have become important documents for reconstructing these instruments.

The question is always asked: What happened to these early instruments? Innovation and changing times brought the demise of some of these instruments. In other cases, instruments were adapted to fit the needs of the time and older designs were replaced by new ones. In some cases, a completely new instrument evolved. Many musicians think that the “tar” originated from the “chogur.” The chogur had 22 frets and was used between the 12th-18th centuries. Research shows that the chogur’s assemblage and sound structure of these two instruments were very similar. Mirza Sadig Assadoglu ( Sadig -jan) modified the five string tar to 13 strings. After his death in 1902, it was simplified to 11 strings.

Chang and Barbat
Two examples of instruments that Karimi has rebuilt are the chang and the barbat. The chang is the forerunner of the harp and seems to have been used extensively in medieval Azerbaijan. Some believe that the chang was derived from a hunting weapon, such as a bow. Its sounding board seems to resemble a fish. Like the harp, the chang is plucked with the fingers of both hands.

Maraghayi wrote that the chang had leather stretched over the sounding board, and that the strings, sometimes as many as 24, were made of threads. In his article “Music and Dances of the Ancient Turks,” Dr. Faruk Sumer, who has studied the ancient musical instruments of the Turkish peoples, mentions that two changs were found during the excavation of the Altay grave site in Turkey dating to 250-500 B.C. Legend suggests that the chang was created by the Almighty. Actually, in some early drawings, the chang is depicted as a holy angel.

The barbat is a member of the lute family, a pear-shaped stringed instrument. Miniatures by the artist Mirza Ali show that its body was bigger than that of the lute, and that it had a long neck. Written sources tell us that the barbat was played much like the ancient lute, although tuned according to different intervals. The 12th century Azerbaijani poet Afzalagdin Khagani wrote that the barbat had eight strings, was made of animal gut and had four sound openings, called “four little stars.” Musicologist T. Vyzgo describes it as having an Arabic derivation, originally called an “al-ud.”

The barbat was chiefly played at palace feasts, often along with the chang. Nizami describes the chang and the barbat as complementary instruments: “Nekisa took up her chang, Barbad took up his barbat. And the sounds resounded in winged harmony like a rose in harmony with both color and fragrance. Barbat and chang, intoxicating and robbing one’s strength.”

More Music to Come

It’s possible to hear these instruments being played again today in Azerbaijan by the Ancient Instruments Ensemble, a group created by the Folk Instruments Museum in 1996. Karimov is the director of this 12-member ensemble. The group’s repertoire includes folk melodies as well as music written down by Urmavi and Maraghayi, in an alpha-notational system based on what is known as the ABJD system (pronounced “ahb-jad” which rhymes with the word, “pad”) . These four letters name the sequence of first letters in the Arabic alphabeta lef, beh, jim, dal. Each note was represented by a single letter or a letter combination . For example, note 1 was “A,” note 2 was “B,” note 3 was “J,” etc. As the progression continued, letters were written in combination, such as “AA,” “AB,” “AJ,” etc. Duration of notes was also indicated.

With great effort, Shamil Hajiyev, a musicologist associated with the Ensemble, has adapted a music computer program to transcribe the alphabetic notational system and convert it into a melody line.

To learn one of the old melodies, the members of the Ancient Instrument ensemble listen to the melody line played on his computer laptop and improvise the harmony for their various instruments. Needless to say, it’s a long and tedious process. English composer and musicologist George Farmer (1882-1965) has also researched Urmavi’s works and deciphered some of these early melodies.

Work continues at Karimov’s laboratory, as more ancient instruments like the “golcha gopuz,” the “nuzha” and the “mugni” are being researched and restored. It is Karimov’s hope that research and restoration of the ancient folk instruments will be able to continue until many of the mysteries and harmonious sounds created in the past are available for contemporary man to enjoy as well.

Majnun Karimov is the head of the Laboratory for the Reconstruction of Ancient National Music Instruments, located in the basement of the Academy of Music at 98 Shamsi Badalbeyli Street. Tel: (99-412) 98-69-72; Home Tel: 91-95-48.

The Museum of Folk Instruments, located in the former residence of the famous tar player, Ahmad Bakikhanov, is at Zargarpalan 119. Contact: Tapan Gaziyeva at (99-412) 94-60-62.

UP 1 The medieval instruments described in this article are all stringed instruments. They include barbat, chang, chogur, golcha gopuz, gyjak, mugni, nuzha, rubab, rud, shashtay, Shirvan tanbur, shahrud, shidirigi, Turkish tanbur , udi gadim (old ud ), udi kamil (improved ud) and tar.

2 Shah Ismayil was the founder of the Persian Safavid Dynasty (1501-1736). An Azerbaijani, he lived in Ardabil (an Azerbaijani city located today in Iran) and played a vital role in subjugating local tribes and in unifying the fragmented Persian Empire. Shah Ismayil was also the leader responsible for proclaiming Shi’i Islam the state religion which, in turn, served to create a national consciousness among the various racial elements of the region.

(Courtesy by Jean Patterson)
From Azerbaijan International (5.4) Winter 1997
© Azerbaijan International 1997. All Rights Reserved.



Hypotheses of Early Azeri Scholars

by Zemfira Safarova

Much of Azerbaijan’s long musical history has been passed down orally from one musician to another. Fortunately, some of these ideas about music were written down for posterity by a few Azerbaijani scholars. Their texts tell us that they theorized about the properties of sound, musical forms such as mugam and early instruments. In this way, musical scholars such as Urmavi, Maraghayi and Navvab laid a foundation for generations of musicians to come. Both Urmavi and Maraghayi take their names from cities in which they lived-Urmiya and Maragha-which today are located in the Azerbaijani part of Iran. Navvab lived in Shusha, a city in the Karabakh region of the Azerbaijan Republic, which has been military occupied by Armenians since 1992.

Safiyyaddin Abdulmomin ibn Yusif al Urmavi (13th century) was the author of two fundamental works in Arabic, “Kitab al-Advar” and “Sharafiyya,” which were crucial to the theoretical and practical development of Azerbaijani music. These books deal with sound and its quality, intervals, reasons for dissonance, mugams and techniques for playing instruments with two strings.

Urmavi defined a tone as a sound continuing during a certain period of time at a certain high or low pitch to which a person feels naturally inclined. The pitch of a sound can only be understood if you compare it with another sound. Urmavi also wrote about how different pitches are created, based on the length of its strings or the space available for air inside a wind instrument.

Urmavi disagreed with earlier scholars who said that a musical sound is, by nature, pleasant to the ear. He countered, “It is not necessary for a musical sound to be pleasant to the ear. Sometimes we don’t like a sound. But still it can be a musical tone. Suppose we hear two sounds. If we can differentiate between these two sounds according to pitch (e.g., one is half a tone or two tones higher than the other) or identify them as equal, then we can talk about musical tone.” Urmavi pointed out that musicians needed to be careful with dissonant intervals, such as the augmented fourth: “C – F Sharp.”

Urmavi organized the Eastern sound system into a scale of 17 keys. This was different from the 12-key chromatic scale founded by Al-Kindi and the 22-key scale created by Al-Farabi. Azerbaijani melodies were recorded in Urmavi’s writings using the “ABJD” Arabic alphabetic notational system. “ABJD” (pronounced “abjad” which rhymes with “pad”) are the first sequential letters of the Arabic script. Urmavi used this sequence of letters to indicate pitch. Duration of the note was indicated below that alphabetic symbol. There were 59 different notes designated. This score system was widely used up until the 16th century.

Urmavi was a composer himself and played the ud, a pear-shaped, stringed instrument. He also invented new music instruments such as “nuzha” and “mugni.” The nuzha resembles a tar except that the two globes are connected and not separated like the tar’s. The mugni is a percussion instrument made of wood which has 81 strings on a trapezoid-shaped base.

Abdulgadir Maraghayi (14-15th century) picked up where Urmavi left off. This composer, researcher, poet, singer and performer wrote an interpretation of Urmavi’s “Kitab al-Advar” called “Sharhul al-Advar.” Other works by Maraghayi included “Kanzul al-Alhan” (Treasury of Melodies), “Jame al-Alhan” (Collection of Melodies) and “Magasid al-Alhan” (Purpose of Melodies).

One of the questions that Maraghayi touched upon was the choice of repertoire by performers. He suggested that performers should choose songs that suit the spirit or nature of the audience. Suggested topics were love and separation, joy and grief, spring and Noruz (the holiday of Spring Solstice, March 20-21, which ushers in the New Year).

Maraghayi’s unique contribution was his discovery of 24 “shobes” and their characteristics. A “shobe” is a section within a mugam piece. He also invented new musical instruments and rhythmic patterns. They were adjusted to fit the various poetic rhythms of Eastern poetry. Maraghayi was one of the first theorists to describe the unique characteristics of Near Eastern musical forms and genres.

One of the musical instruments he invented was the “Chini sazi kasat.” This was a set of 76 bowls of many different sizes filled with different levels of water. The bowls were arranged in gradations from large to small, the larger bowls producing lower pitches. Another instrument was the “Sazi elvah,” which consisted of 46 copper slats and which was played much like a xylophone.

On the night before the beginning of Ramadan, January 11, 1377, Maraghayi attended a conference in Tabriz in Sultan Hussein’s palace. The topic was the most complicated form found in Eastern music, “Novbati Murattab.” The scholars there stated that composing a piece in this particular form required great skill and talent. Maraghayi boasted that he could write one such piece each day during the month of Ramadan. Sultan Hussein challenged him. The words, rhythmic patterns and mugams were given to him only one day in advance. The prize was 100,000 dinars. On the 30th day, they had to admit that Maraghayi was the successful winner.

Mir Mohsun Navvab (1833-1918) lived in Shusha, a city in Karabakh, an area known as the cradle of music and poetry of Azerbaijan. Shusha has been called “The Conservatory of the Caucasus” because so many musicians have come from there. Unfortunately, because of the military occupation of Karabakh by Armenians, Azerbaijanis had to flee in 1992 and still have not been able to return to their city.

Navvab established a library as well as a printing house in Shusha where the works of well-known Azerbaijani poets were printed. But more importantly, he organized a music school, which offered basic music education. Topics included the aesthetics of music, performance and choice of poetry for mugam settings. Students such as Mashadi Jamil Amirov, the father of the famous composer, Fikrat Amirov, studied music theory there.

In 1884, Navvab wrote “Vuzuhul-argam” (The Interpretation of Numbers in Music). This was the only work about music written in the Azerbaijani language (Arabic script). Navvab deals with topics such as: the origin of music, problems of aesthetics, the acoustics of sound and the interpretation of numbers in mugams.

Navvab based his theories about numbers on those of earlier Greek and Arabic scholars, stating that the 4 “souts” (main tones) corresponded to 4 elements (water, air, fire, earth). The 7 “perdes” (keys) referred to 7 celestial bodies. The interval between the 4 main tones was in 3 tones. Multiplying 4 by 3, we get 12, which corresponds to 12 mugams.

In his book, Navvab touches on the relationship between music and medicine, anticipating the modern profession of musical therapy. He wrote “All diseases are based on either cold or fever. If a disease is caused by cold, then joyous and merry music will help cure it since merriment brings warmth to the body. However, if the illness is based on fever, sad and quiet music would be appropriate, since sadness and pessimism cools the body.”

Navvab also used his book as a platform for ideas about the proper positioning of an audience during a performance. “It is important that there be distance between the performers and the audience. The air between the audience and the performers will catch all unnecessary elements of music and pass on the very essence, the most wonderful part of it to the audience.”

Acoustics fulfill a spiritual purpose, according to Navvab “It is also important that the performer should sit lower and the audience higher, since music is spiritual and its center is high in the heavens.”

Likewise, Navvab was aware of the importance of the appearance of the performer. He wrote: “It is important that the performer be good looking. Otherwise, the audience will not enjoy the performance. If the performer is not good looking, he should cover his face with a veil.”

Urmavi, Maraghayi and Navvab were not the only Azerbaijani musical scholars, but they are the ones most often named as the three masters of this discipline. Any student who wants to understand some of the early history of Azerbaijani music must become familiar with the ideas and works mentioned above. By attempting to approach music scientifically, these scholars began to articulate and define some of the fundamentals upon which Azerbaijani music is based today.

Zemfira Safarova wrote her Ph.D. thesis on “Azerbaijan’s Music Science from the 13th-19th Century.” She has published the following books on the subject- Safiyyaddin Urmavi (1995) and Abdulgadir Maraghayi (1997). She is currently preparing the reprinting of “Vuzuhul Argam” by Mir Mohsun Navvab.

(Courtesy by Zemfira Safarova)
From Azerbaijan International (5.4) Winter 1997
© Azerbaijan International 1997. All Rights Reserved.


مقام The Music Of Azerbaijan Vol-02 مقام

Azeri Musicians

Jabbar Garyaghdioglu performs “Heyrati” Mugam (Maqam)

(with Gurban Pirimov on Tar and Gylman Salahov on Kamancheh




Gurban Bakhshali oglu Primov (Azerbaijani: Qurban Primov) (October 1880, Abdal Gulabli near Shusha, Karabakh, Azerbaijan  – 29 August 1965, Baku, Azerbaijan) was an Azerbaijani folk musician and tar-player.

He was born in Karabakh, in mountainous village of Abdal-Gülablı  near Shusha, Azerbaijan  then in the Russian Empire. The Primov family had had long lasting musical traditions: Gurban’s great-grandfather Valeh was a famous Karabakhi ashik; and his older brother Aghalar was a saz-player. Deeply in love with folk music, Gurban Primov dropped out of school at age 13 to move to Shusha, then one of the important cultural centres of the Caucasus.

He was introduced to the celebrated musician of the time and the designer of the Azerbaijani tar, Sadigjan, whose apprentice he later became. By 1895 Pirimov was already widely known in Karabakh as a talented musician who worked with some of the most renowned khanandas of the time. In 1905 he met Jabbar Garyagdioglu and Sasha Ohanezashvili on a wedding in Ganja, and for the next 20 years they were performing as a trio. The ensembled successfully toured the Caucasus, Central Asia, and some of the Middle Eastern cities. He accompanied Garyagdioglu on the tar during the recording of mughamats on vinyl in Riga and Warsaw in 1912, and also performed some pieces solo. Together they appeared in the 1916 Azeri film Neft va milyonlar saltanatinda (“In the Realm of Oil and Millions”). Pirimov’s outstanding skills were mentioned by singer Seyid Shushinski who personally witnessed Pirimov’s indefatigable playing during Garyagdioglu’s five-hour performance of one mughamat.

Later in life Pirimov was also a music consultant to prominent composers such as Muslim Magomayev, Reinhold Glière, Fikrat Amirov, and Gara Garayev. In 1930 Primov was recognized as People’s Artist of Azerbaijan. Gurban Primov married to Nabat khanum Aghalar gizi and issued four children: Asgar, Sara, Tamara, Adela.

He continued to perform until his death at age 84. His last concert took place at the Azerbaijan State Philharmonic Hall on 10 August 1965, followed by his death 19 days later. He was buried at the Avenue of the Honored Ones Cemetery in Baku.


Folk songs and ashug art, being among the very significant forms of Azerbaijani music art, are considered to appear much later than “mugham”. It is practically impossible to define the time of appearance of mugham, because it has very ancient sources. The creation of mugham is closely connected with definite and immediate feelings. This is the very reason why the word “mugham” has the meaning of time and moment. The first musical “cries” of primitive man appeared in some definite joyful or sorrowful moments of his life. For instance, after a successful or unsuccessful hunt, primitive man feels rejoice or grieve, uttered definite sounds which later became “music”. So, in this way was formulated the notion of joyful and sad music.
Also the role of nature in the appearance of music and especially of mugham was quite significant. The sounds of blowing winds, raging rivers, flashing lightnings, rumbling rain clouds, wild animals and birds, became the primitive music. It was developed to the immortal delight for heart and ears, and was delivered by means of primitive instruments made of wood, stone and leather.
The mugham is considered to be part of not only Azeri musical art; it also exists in near and middle eastern African and Asian musical art. But it should be noted that only in Azerbaijan has mugham reached the highest and most mature level of its development. The reason is that for the performance of mugham a very high timber of voice is needed. This voice timber is the characteristic feature of Azerbaijani people. There is no country in the world where the voice timber of mugham performers is so high and strong as in Azerbaijani. Nowadays the khanendas (mugham performers) from the exhausted, crying and groaning Karabakh, which was occupied by Armenia, fascinate and astonish the whole world by their singing.

One mugham consists of 6,8 or 10 levels. Depending on the area of mugham, it can be performed 1-2 hours without a break. The formation of the complete complex of mugham from ancient times was provided by the works of great mugham performers and musicians. Among them should be mentioned such scientists as Abdulgadir Maragai, Safiyaddin Urmavi ; such mugham performers as Hadji Khuzu, Jabbar Garyaghdi, Mohammed Kechachi oghlu, Meshedi Mohammed Farzaliyev, Zabul Gasim, Seyyid Shushinsky, Khan Shushinsky, Zulfi Adigezalov, hajibaba Huseynov, Fatma Mekhraliyeva, Hagiget Rzayeva, rubaba Muradova, Yagub Mamedov and others.

The heritage of mugham, which has been passed down to us, is developed by modern mugham performers such as Arif Babayev, Janali Akberov, Islam Rzayev, Aghakhan Abdullayev, Alibaba Mamedov, Qadir Rustamov, Alim Gasimov, Sakina Ismaylova, Melekhanum Ayubova and others.
Besides the minor forms of mugham in Azerbaijan we can distinguish 17 main forms:
3 forms of segah – “Segah of Mirza Gusein” “Zabul Segah”  “Kharidg Segah” Then “Rast”, “Bayaty Shiraz” “Chahargah”, “Mahur”, “Orta Mahur”, “Rehab”, “Humayin”, “Shushtar”, “Bayaty Kurd”, “Shahnaz”, “Gatar”, “Shur”, “Dashti”, “Bayaty Gajar”.
Mugham is considered to be an inexhaustible source not only for tesnifs and folk songs, but also for symphonic songs (opera). For instance “Rast” and “Shur” are symphonic mughams.
If in his youth Uzeir Hajibeyov had not paid much attention to the mughams performed by Jabbar Garyaghdy, he might never have created such masterpieces as “Leyli and Mejnun” and “Koroglu”.
All khanendes widely use the poems of classical poets in the performance of mugham; usually they use gazels (Lyrical poems) more than bayatis or goshmas, because the style of gazels is closer to the mugham. At the end of a mugham can also be performed 1-2 bayatis.
Mugham gives the people the irreplaceable calm feeling of alienation (or detachment) from reality and the approach to something spiritual and sublime. Doctors confirm that mugham has a very good influence on the human organism.
In the study and teaching of mugham, Asef Zeynally’s musical college is of great significance.
“The most perfect music of the world is mugham. Mugham is the inexhaustible source for all the music of the world.” – the words of Jean Pierve (the director of film “The Voice of the World”).


Mugams, being the most ancient and the rearest «pearls» of Azerbaijan music culture, are mature creative expression of moral world of people’s wit. Azerbaijan music is based on Mugam. Mugams, which are foundations of our music, are art taste of not only Azerbaijan, but also all of Eastern people. In historical source, there is an information about the existence of great music culture in the states; Shumer, Manna, Midia.

In the X-IX centuries B.C., during the leadership of Midia, around the lake Urmia, the Mugs, being ancient Azerbaijan tribes, living in Mugan, were spreading out their scientific knowledge in palaces, among the people and were involved in music. Nizami Ganjavi, (1141-1209) stating, that the Mugs were musicians, writes in his «Igbalname»: «Singer, play an ancient melody. Play some Mugan melody like the Mugs». According to this, we can say that Mugam melodies first appeared in the territory of Mugan. The music critics of Iran, Arabian countries and also other countries, making investigations of mugam state, that mugam had been widely spread out in Sasani times (III-VII centuries) and mugams were played in the form of «destgah», which means in groups. As the most talented musicians of the time were working in the palaces, that is why mugams were created by these artists there.

Mugams have been the most favorite music of the Turks, the Arabs, Persians, Indians and other peoples, living in the big geographical–administrative territories, for many centuries and in each country mugams improved people’s inherent moral features. Mugams, being a central genre of Eastern traditional music, based on oral traditions, were called differently in the languages of different peoples. But the essence is the same. Azerbaijani called this musical genre as «mugam», Turks and Arabians as «makam», Persians as «destgah», Indians as «paga», Tadjiks and Uzbeks as «makom», Turkmens and Uygurs as «mukam», the Japaneses as «gaganu», Indonesians as «patet», the Kazakhs as «kuy», the Kirghiz as «ky», Pakistani as «khayyal».

Beginning from IX-X centuries, the science of music began its development in the countries of Near and Middle East. The first scientific information about the mugams is given in the poem «Gabusname» by Keykavus. But as the note writings of the mugams, created in the Middle Ages did not come till our time, we can find information about them in the handwritings of Eastern music critics living in the IХ–ХIХ centuries. The founder of Eastern music Science Abu Nasr Mohammed Farabi (865-950) writes his work «Kitab-ul musigi-al-kabir» («Great book about the music»). Abu Ali Ibn Sina’s (980-1037) work called «Risatun fi elm–ul-musigi» (the treatise about music) became the most widespread work. At the beginning of XII century the encyclopedia called «jame–ul-ulum» of Fahraddin Al Razi introduced to music lovers. In the XIII century the outstanding Azerbaijan music critic Safiaddin Urmavi (1230-1294) enriched music science by «Kitab al-advar» (Book of Times) «Sharafiyya» treatise. Mohammed ibn Abubakr Shirvani wrote and completed the book «Ikhvanus-safa music». In the XIV century Mahmud ash-Shirazi and Mohammed ibn Mahmud Al-Amuli also wrote their scientific works on music.

Azerbaijani music scientist of XIV-XV centuries Abdulgadir Maragai (1353-1433) took science of music to the highest level by his works; as: «Megasir ul-alhan» (1413), «Jame–ul-Alhan» (1418), «Favaidi-ashara» («10 advantages»), «Lahniyya» («About melody»), «Kanzul-alhan» (Music Treasury) and «Zubdatyl advar fi sharhi risalatil advar» («Selected melodies in the explanation of music collection»).

In the XVI-XVII centuries new information about mugams was given to music lovers in the treatise «Risalei-musigi» of Najmaddin Kavkabi, in the book of Darvish Ali, who was the musician at the palace of Imam Gulu khan (1611-1642), and in the work called «Risalei-Musigi» of Azerbaijani musician Mirzabay.

In the ХIХ century, Mir Mohsun Navvab, writing about mugam culture, explained the origin of mugams, musical instruments, alikeness of poetry and music in his work called «Vuzuhil-apram» and also wrote about the branches, types and melodies of mugam «destgahs» not only in Azerbaijan, but also in all Eastern countries. He also made schedule of them.

Azerbaijan mugams, being different from pieces of music of this genre, have been enriched in the essence by the talent of conducting of our singers and have been matured in the form. From this point of view, mugams consisting of different melodies, appeared in accordance with definite events, were called differently depending on the essence:
mugams of lad-magam (type) («Shur», «Humayun», and etc), mugams of emotional-figurative structure («Semai-Shams, «Rast», «Dilkash» etc.), mugams of different areas («Arazbari», «Garabagh Shikastasi», etc), mugams of different persons («Shah Khatai», «Khostovani», «Huseyni», etc), mugams of different cities («Bayati Shiraz», «Bayati-Isphahan» , etc), mugams of different nations’ names («Bayati-Kurd», «Bayati-Turk», etc.), mugams called according to the way of conducting («Kesme shikasta», etc) and according to the ordinal numerals («Yegah», «Dugah», «Segah», «Chahargah», «Panjgah»).

In the beginning of ХIХ century Azerbaijan literary sphere entered its new development stage. In Shusha «Majlisi-Faramushan», and «Majlisi-Uns», in Shamakhi «Beytus-Safa», in Baku «Majmausi-Shuara» poetry-musical literary «mejlises» (gatherings) began their activity. Differing from other cities of Azerbaijan, Shusha becomes the cultural center of famous poets, music critics and singers. Singers of marvelous art center –Shusha represented Azerbaijan music not only in their Motherland, but also in other Eastern countries, creating the history of Azeri music. The music talents of Shusha appeared neither in the cities of Caucuses nor The East. Shusha vocal school takes the same position in the history of the East, which Italian vocal school in the history of European music. Shusha was called «Italy of Caucuses».

The names of famous singers, «tar» and «kamancha» players, who eastablished Azerbaijan mugam school in the first beginning of ХIХ century , also being famous in Near and Middle East by their wonderful voices, are given in undergiven tables:

In the first  beginning of ХIХ century the  singers were singing by the accompanying of «tar», «kamancha» and «yastibalaban» (national musical instruments. This group of 4 men consisting of the singer and the players was called group of «sazendes (players)». In the beginning of XIX century the group of 4 players became consisting of 3 persons: singer, tar, kamancha and goshanagara players. The songs of this group of 4 men and triple (group of 3 men) were dedicated mostly to love and female beauty. In accordance with the changes in spirits of people, the way of singing mugam also changed. So, mugam was being sung during 2-3 hours before, but later this time was shortened and became 15-20 minutes.

Beginning from the Middle Ages till the beginning of XX century, mugam was considered to be an art, conducted only by the male singers, but in spite of this fact, beginning from the 20s years, the names of talented female singers, who developed our culture and took it to the pick, are given in undergiven schedule:

The delicacies of poetry, expressing philosophy of life, love to nature, love for all the men, which exists in Azerbaijan mugams – unit of poetry and music, is the most important thing, which makes completeness together with wonderful music melodies. The following outstanding Azeri poets praized mugam in their works: Gatran Tabrizi, Mahsati Ganjavi, Nizami Ganjavi, Falaki Shirvani, Givati Mutarrizi, Khagani Shirvani, Imadaddin Nasimi, Mahammad Fuzuli, Molla Panah Vagif, Gasim bey Zakir, Seyyid Azim Shirvani, Huseyn Razi, Bakhtiyar Vahabzadeh, Aliaga Vahid, Samad Vurgun, Suleyman Rustam.

Daramad: «Daramad» is an instrumental melody widely used in mugam «dastgahs» and it is an introduction part of vocal-instrumental mugams. «Daramad» expresses the features of mugam to which it refers and it is called as the mugam.

Berdasht: «Berdasht» is an instrumental melody written in the genre of oral traditional music. «Berdasht» is widely applied in mugam art. From this point of view, «Berdasht» is an introduction part of instrumental mugam «destgshs».

Reng: «Reng» is played after definite divisions of «destgah» and is called as the mugam it refers to. By nature, «rengs» are divided into those, looking like a dance, a march, and lyric ones. The first type of «reng» is «Diringi».

Diringi: «Diringi» is a melody, less than «reng» and it is more danceable than «reng». It is usually played in divisions or branches of little volume, or finalizes them.

«Reng» and «Diringi», being a piece of music, when played, gives a singer an opportunity for preparing for the next mugam division.

Gushe (branch): Im comparison with division, «Gushe» is a mugam episode of improvisation character, with less volume. Like, divisions, branches also have different names.

Avaz: «Avaz» usually means a completed musical sentence. «Avaz»s have no definite names and they are sung either within divisions or branches. So, a division is made of 5-6 «avaz»s, and a branch is made of 2-3 «avaz»s.

Maye: «Maye» plays a main role in vocal-instrumental and instrumental mugams and it determines their structure by its essence. «Maye» plays a central role in mugam «destgah»s and all the divisions of «destgah» are activate around it. The conductive features of divisions and branches generally depend on «Maye» part.

Tasnif: «Tasnif», has a lyric and dance like character and is sung after the singing of each division of mugam «destgah». Each of tesnifs are sung independently as a complete piece of music.

One of the widely spread genres of  Azerbaijan oral-traditional music are impact mugams. When they are sung, in the ensemble, accompanying the singers, impact instruments are preferred. Impact mugams begin with instrumental introduction of active-emotional character and on the basis of musical parts of this introduction the main melody is played.

The songs, tesnifs, operas, symphonies and other musical genres created by our composers are based on mugam. So, they widely used mugam in their creative activity. The outstanding composer Uzeir Hajubayov composed his operas; «Leyli and Majnun», «Sheykh Sanan», «Rustam and Zohrab», « Koroglu», «Shah Abbas and Khurshid Banu», «Narun and Leyla», «Asli and Karam» on mugams ans at the same time, he wrote his fantasies for national musical instruments orchestra on «Chahargah» and «Shur» mugams. These fantasies are called the same as the 2 mugams. He prepared «Arazbari» mugam for cord orchestra, established new gazal (classic poem)-romance genre, based on Nizami Ganjavi’s gazals «Sensiz (Without you)» and «Sevgili janan (Belowed)». muslim Magomayev in his opera «Shah Ismayil», Zulfugar Hajubayli in his opera «Ashig Garib», Shafiga Akhundova in her opera «Gelin Gayasi» have used mugam melody. Asaf Zeynali applied mugam to chamber instrumental music, also he wrote his work «Mugamsayagi» for violin and piano and «Chahargah» for piano. Fikrat Amirov, when writing «Shur» and «Kurd-Ovshari» symphonic mugams, he kept traditional structure of «Shur» in «Kurd-Ovshari» he used examples of impact mugams. He wrote his «Azerbaijan» capriccio on «Mahur» tasnif. Azerbaijan tasnifs are wonderfully expressed in Fikrat Amirov’s «Gulustan-Bayati Shiraz» symphonic mugams. Composer and conductor Niyazi in his «Rast» symphonic mugam, Suleyman Alasgarov in his «Bayati-Shiraz» symphonic mugam, Jovdet Hajiyev in his «The fourth symphony» and in «Ballada» written for piano, Gara Garayev in his «The third symphony», have used mugam melodies. Chorus, sung in the 3rd part of «Azad» opera of Jahangir Jahangirov is «Chahargah» mugam. He created role of Fuzuli by means of «Rahab» mugam in the introduction of «Fuzuli» cantata.

In his «The Fourth Symphony» and «The Sixth Synphony», Arif Malikov used melodies of mugam destgahs. He also composed his «Love Legend» ballet on «Humayun» mugam. Agshin Alizadeh has professionally used «Shur», «Chahargah», «Segah», «Vilayati» mugams in his «Fourth symphony» called «Mugamvari». Russian composer R. Gliyer in his opera «Shahsanam» used «Arazbari» mugam and 30 Azerbaijan national songs and ashig n songs (national melodies).

Afrasiyab Badalbayli used «Mansuriyye» and «Heyrati» mugams in his ballets «Giz Galasi (Maiden tower)». Soltan Hajibayli in his «Karvan» symphonic work has used musical colourings of impact mugams. Learning and investigating of mugam, which is an oral-traditional mucis of the East, is one of the most important tasks of music critics in the World.

Beginning from the Middle Ages till nowadays, studying this genre of Eastern music culture has become the theme of research of the scientists. A number of articles, research works have been written. The names of these scientists are given below: Al-Kindi, Al-Munajjim, Al-Farabi, Ibn-Sina, S. Urmavi, G.Shirazi, Al-Amuli, Al-Jurjani, Abdulgadir Maragai, Shabaddin Ajami, H. Farter, K..Zaks, R. Derlanjs, Kamal Al-Holan, Ahmad Aminaddin, Mahmud Mukhtar, Mahammad Salahaddin, Yusif Shauki, R. Khaligi, A.N. Vaziri, M. Barkishli, A. Shabani, R. Yekta, Sadaddin Arel, S. Azgi, I.H.Ozkan, Y. Elsner, S.M. Uzdilek, M.Karadeniz, Y. Tura, M. Barzanchi, V. Belyayev, V.Vinogradov, U.Hajibayov, M.S.Ismayilov, E.Abbasova, G.Abdullazadeh, R. Mammadova, R. Zohrabov, I.R.Rajabov, R.Imrani, F.M. Karomatov, T.S.Vizgo, O.Matyakubov and others.

Some of the conferences and symposiums held on international standards concerning Eastern oral-traditional music:

ВII International Music Congress held in 1971 in Moscow in the theme «Tradition and Modernity», III International Tribune of Asian Countries held in Alma-Ata in 1973.

In the I International symposium, held by UNESCO in 1978 in Samargand in the theme: «Traditional music of Near and Middle East Peoples and Modernity», the following Azerbaijani musician scientist took part: E. Abbasova, L.Karagijiyeva, N. Aliyeva, R. Zohrabov, Z. Gafarova, N. Mammadov, A. Eldarova and S.Agayeva. They made interesting reports.

In the II International symposium held in 1983 in Samargand, E. Abbasova, N.Mammadov, S.Gasimova, Z.Safarova, I.Efendiyeva , R. Zohrabov made reports.

Tar player B.Mansurov, kamancha player T.Bakikhanov, singers J.Akbarov and A.Gasimov sang Azeri mugams.

In III International symposium held in 1987 in Samargand, which represented more than 400 musicians, N.Aliyeva, S. Dashdamirova, S.Agayeva, composer E.Mansurov made reports. Our singers A.Babayev, and A. Gasimov, tar players R. Guliyev and A.Abdullayev, kamancha player Sh. Eyvazova were applauded by the audience.

No doubt, that all these music forums will play an important role in studying musical heritage of Eastern Peoples, in strengthening relations between musician scientists. According to the opinion of World musicians, Azerbaijan mugams, which are richer and stronger among mugam musicians in different geographical areas, according to their emotional impression and development level, will become a source of creativity for many composers for many years and will be investigated by musicians. The successes achieved by our singers and ensemble of national musical instruments in foreign countries is the evidence that they are devoted successors of our classic music heritage.
(courtesy of


Mugam also known as Azerbaijani Mugham (Azerbaijani: Muğam; مقام) is one of the many folk musical compositions from Azerbaijan, contrast with Tasnif, Ashugs.  Mugam draws on Iranian-Arabic-Turkish Maqam

It is a highly complex art form that weds classical poetry and musical improvisation in specific local modes. “Mugham” is a modal system. Unlike Western modes, “mugham” modes are associated not only with scales but with an orally transmitted collection of melodies and melodic fragments that performers use in the course of improvisation. “Mugham” is a compound composition of many parts. The choice of a particular mugham and a style of performance fits a specific event. The dramatic unfolding in performance is typically associated with increasing intensity and rising pitches, and a form of poetic-musical communication between performers and initiated listeners.

Three major schools of mugham performance existed from the late 19th and early 20th centuries – the region of Garabagh, Shirvan, and Baku. The town of Shusha (Garabagh) was particularly renowned for this art.

The short selection of Azerbaijani mugham played in balaban, national wind instrument was included on the Voyager Golden Record, attached to the Voyager spacecraft as representing world music, included among many cultural achievements of humanity.

In 2003, UNESCO recognized mugam as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Azerbaijan also has a great tradition of composers and musicians of western classical music. Uzeyir Hajibeyov with his Leili and Majnun created the genre of mugham-opera. Fikret Amirov (1922-1984) was the first Azeri composer symphonic mughams — Shur, Kurd Ovshari, and Gulistan Bayati Shiraz. Azerbaijani composers created a plethora of compositions that fused mugham and traditional European genres. Among those, for example, Vasif Adigozal’s mugham oratorio Shikestesi.[7] Such works are obviously very different from traditional mugham formations but in fact incorporate many mugham idioms. On the level of musicians, there remains a strict separation between classical and “traditional” music in terms of training. Even if the musicians are educated at the same conservatorium they stick to one camp.

In the course of its long history, the people of Azerbaijan have retained their ancient musical tradition. Mugham belongs to the system of modal music and may have derived from Persian musical tradition. The Uighurs in Xinjian (Sinkiang) call this musical development muqam, the Uzbeks and Tajiks call it maqom (or shasmaqom), while Arabs call it maqam and Persians dastgah. In Azerbaijan the word is mugham from Arabic Maqam. It is based on many different modes and tonal scales where different relations between notes and scales are envisaged and developed.
Uzeyir Hajibeyov merged traditional Azerbaijani music styles with Western styles early in 20th century.

The meta-ethnicity and intricate complexity of this music also becomes apparent in the fact that terms such as mugham, maqam, or dastgah, omnipresent in oriental music, can mean one thing in the Turkish tradition, while the same term in the music of Uzbekistan takes on quite another meaning, and yet another in the classical Arabian tradition. So, in one culture mugham may be related to a strictly fixed melodic type, while in another it is only the cadences, the melody endings that are associated with it. In a third culture it may only correspond to a specific type of tone scales.

The genre itself has roots in prayer and lullaby and is passed on from mother to baby in this way. However, there are hundreds of varieties, such as songs similar to war chant.

In the 16-17th centuries the art of mugam was passing through the development process as a folklore professional music of the palace conditions. In this period a dastgah form starts to develop in the structure and forms of mugam. New colors and shades as well as tasnifs developed in mugam performance. The masters of mugam of Azerbaijan sang gazals written in aruz genre by Fizuli, Habibi and Khatai. The music events were held in most regions of Azerbaijan in the 19th century and mugam was performed at these events. In the 19th century famous French scientist Alexandre Dumas who attended the ceremony in Shamakhy, wrote in his works about his trip saying he was greatly impressed by mugam that sounded there.[8] Such events held in Azerbaijan were attended by khanendes from Karabakh, Baku and Tabriz which in turn caused the blending of singing traditions of different regions.

In the early decades of the 20th century, a member of native intelligentisa, Uzeyir Hajibeyov, the author of the first national opera Leili and Majnun, also formulated the theoretical basis of Azerbaijani mugham in his work The Principles of Azerbaijani Folk Music.[ Famous Azerbaijani composer Gara Garayev and Fikrat Amirov also made a great contribution to the development of the art of mugam through creating the mugam symphony.

According to the New York Times, mugham is a symphonic-length suite, full of contrasting sections: unmetered and rhythmic, vocal and instrumental, lingering around a single sustained note or taking up a refrain that could be a dance tune.
The seven main frets

In recent years, Azerbaijan folk music existed within the scope of folk art. The vocal-instrumental forms of folklore contain the elements of polyphony. The peculiarity of folk music clarifies itself firstly with the development of a fret system. It contains seven main frets – rast, shur, segyakh (are especially spread), shushter, bayati-shiraz, chargyakh, khumayun and three collateral kinds – shakhnaz, sarendj, chargyakh in some other form.[12][13] Before, it was considered that each of the frets has its special vivid emotional meaning. Every fret represents a strongly organized scale, possessing a firm tonic prop (maye), and each step of the fret has its melodic function.These include:

  Rast mode is the first mode of main modes which kept its base and root, unchanged its function during the historical period of development. So, rast mugam based on this mode is called “mother of mugams”. Rast mode consists of 1+1+0.5 tone, which is created in three tetra-chords in the result of amalgamation of reach method of the first main tetra-chord.[16] Literaryly, Rast creates courage and cheerfulness at listener. Subgenres of Rast are: Bardasht (with Novruzu-Ravanda), Maye, Ushshag, Huseyni, Vilayati, Dilkesh, Kurdu, Shikasteyi-fars (Khojasta), Erag, Penjgah, Rak-Khorasani, Gerai, space for Rast. Other mugams relating to the Rast are: Mahur, Mahur-Hindi, Orta Mahur, Bayaty-Gajar, Gatar.[17]

Shur is the second mode and consists of 1-0.5-1 tone, which is created in the result of amalgamation of three tetra-chords with reach method of the first tetra-chord. Shur mode is the most used mode in Ashik art. Shur creates joyful lyrical mood at listener.[16] Subgenres of Shur includes: Bardasht, Maye, Salmak, Shur-Shahnaz, Busalik, Bayaty-Turk, Shikasteyi-Fars, Mubarriga, Ashiran, Semai-Shams, Hijaz, Shakh Khatai, Sarenj, Gemengiz, Nishibi-Feraz, space for Shur. Mugams relating to the Shur are: Shahnaz, Sarenj, Arazbary, Osmani, Rahab, Neva.

Segah is the third mode and consists of 0.5-1-1 tone which is created in amalgamation of three tetra-chords with the reach method. Segah mugam associated with love, romantic feelings at listener.[16] Subgenres of Segah includes: egah Zabul-Segah-Bardasht, Maye, Muya, Manandi-Mukhalif, Segah, high-pitched tone Zabul, Manandi-Hisar (in high-pitched tone), Manandi-Mukhalif (in high-pitched tone), Ashig-Kush, Mubarriga, Zabul, space for Segah, Kharij Segah-Bardasht, Maye, Takhtigah, Mubarriga, Manandi-Hisar, Manandi-Mukhalif, high-pitched tone Segah, space for Kharij Segah. Other mugams relating to the Segah are: Hashym Segah-sol, Kharij Segah-si, Mirza-Huseyn-lya, Orta Segah-mi, Zabul Segah.

Shushtar is the fourth and the smallest mode according to its amount of sounds. Sound line is created in amalgamation of two tetra-chords with different method. It has eight membranes and consists of 0.5-1-0.5 tone. In Shushtar mode the third membrane is the completive tone, the fourth membrane is Maye. It creates deeply sad feelings at listener.[16] Subgenres of Segah includes: Amiri, Shushtar, Masnavi, Movlavi, Tarkib, space for Shushtar. Other mugams relating to the Mugham are: Ovshary, Heydari.[17]
* Chahargah is the fifth and the longest mode according to the amount of sounds. It consists of eleven membranes. Three tetra-chords are amalgamated with two methods. The first and the second tetra-chords are amalgamated with the first method. The second and the third tetra-chords are amalgamated with different method. Tetra-chords are 0.5+1.5+0.5 tone structural. Chahargah mode is represented in two kinds in Uzeyir Hajibeyov’s composition.[16] It creates at listener excitement and passion. Subgenres of Chahargah are: Bardasht, Maye, Bali-Kabutar, Djovhari, Basta-Nigar, Hisar, Mualif, Garra, Mukhalif, Ouj Mukhalif, Maghlub, Mansuriyya, Uzzal, space for Chahargah.
* Bayaty-Shiraz is the sixth mode and consists of 1-1-0.5 tone, which is created in amalgamation of two tetra-chords with the third method. It consists of nine membranes. There passes membrane among the tetra-chords. It creates melancholic feelings at listener.[16] Subgenres of Bayaty-Shiraz are: Bardasht, Isfahanak, Maye, Gardaniyye, Nishibi-Faraz, Bayaty-Isfahan, Khums-Ravan, high-ptched tone Bayaty-Shiraz, Abulchap, Khaveran, Uzzal, Shikasteyi-Fars, Dilruba, space.[17]
* Humayun is the seventh mode and consists of 0.5+1.5+0.5 tone, which is created in amalgamation of two tetra-chords with the fourth method. It is able to get sound line of Shushtar mode by changing the tetra-chords’ places in Humayun mode. So, these two modes’ structures are close to each other. It creates deeply mournful feelings at listener.[16] Subgenres of Humayun are: Bardasht, Humayun, Baxtiyari, Feili, Boyuk Masnavi, Movlavi, Shushtar, Tarkib, Uzzal or Bidad, Kichik Masnavi, space.


Part of the confusion arises from the fact that the term itself can have two different, if related meanings. The famous Azeri composer Gara Garayev has the following explanation: “The expression mugham is used in two senses in the folk music of Azerbaijan. On the one hand the word mugham describes the same thing as the term lad [Russian for key, mode, scale]. An analysis of Azeri songs, dances and other folk-music forms show that they are always constructed according to one [of these] modes. On the other hand the term mugham refers to an individual, multi-movement form. This form combines elements of a suite and a rhapsody, is symphonic in nature, and has its own set of structural rules. In particular one should observe that the suite-rhapsody-mugham is constructed according to one particular mode-mugham and is subject to all of the particular requirements of this mode.” (Sovetskaya Muzyka 1949:3). Azerbaijani conservatory throughout the 20th century produced significant scholars and scholarship. Among them, Rena Mamedova explored the philosophical content of mugham, as an Azeri “formula of creative thinking”.[18] Elkhan Babayev wrote extensively on rhythmic aspect of mugham performance.[19] The native scholars continued and expanded Hajibeyov’s analysis of mugham.

Mugham describes a specific type of musical composition and performance, which is hard to grasp with western concepts of music in another respect: for one, mugham composition is improvisational in nature. At the same time it follows exact rules. Furthermore, in the case of a suite-rhapsody-mugham the concept of improvisation is not really an accurate one, since the artistic imagination of the performers is based on a strict foundation of principles determined by the respective mode. The performance of mugams does therefore not present an amorphous and spontaneous, impulsive improvisation.
Azerbaijan Mugham Theatre in Baku.

With respect to the concept of improvisation, mugham music is often put in relation to jazz, a comparison that is accurate to a certain point only. Although mugham does allow for a wide margin of interpretation, an equation with jazz is oversimplified, since it fails to account for the different kinds of improvisation for different Mugam modes. The performance of a certain mugham may last for hours. (For the uninitiated listener it is close to impossible to know whether a musician is actually improvising or playing a prearranged composition.) Furthermore, as Garayev stresses, mugham music has a symphonic character.

The songs are often based on the medieval and modern poetry of Azerbaijan, and although love is a common topic in these poems, to the uninitiated ear many of the intricacies and allusions are lost. For one, the poems do not primarily deal with worldly love but with the mystical love for god. Yet, strictly speaking, this is still secular music/poetry, as opposed to, say, Sufism.[21] Nevertheless, mugham composition is designed very similarly to Sufism in that it seeks to achieve ascension from a lower level of awareness to a transcendental union with god. It is a spiritual search for god.

(courtesy open-source)


Seyid Shushinski Ensemble



The Music Of Azerbaijan


A brief History of Azerbaijani music

Azerbaijani music was developing through the centuries. The traces of ancient music of Azerbaijan were found in a number of monuments, excavated in time of archeological digs, as well as in rock carvings of Gobustan (18-3 millennium B.C) and Gemigaya (3-1 millennium B.C). Kitabi Dede Gorgud (8th century), creative works of Nizami, Fizuli provide full coverage of medieval music art, music genres and music instruments. The records of such prominent medieval scientists of Azerbaijan as Sefiaddin Urmevi (18 century), Abdulgadir Maragai (17 century), Mir Movsum Nevvab (19 century) pointed out the highly developed art and culture of music and mastery performance and cited theoretical issues of music in medieval Azerbaijan.

The first written monument of our country epos Kitabi Dede Gorgut , containing several chapters, related to music and citing the names of different musical instruments, testifies that out music art possesses ancient history.

Mir Movsum Nevvab Garabagi
The first book on music dates back to the 13th century. Two prominent scientists and musicians of Azerbaijan Sefieddin Urmevi (1217-1294) and Abdulqadir Maraghai made a great contribution to the development of theory of Near and Middle Eastern music in the 13-15th centuries. Booklets Kitabi el-Edvar and Seferiyye by Urmevi established the science of music of Azerbaijan and laid the foundation for its further development. Urmevi entered the history of Azerbaijan as the founder of the school “System” and tabulator science. The system musical notation, created by Urmevi, was the most perfect system of that period

Booklets that followed the creative works of Maragai, did not deal with complex theoretical problems of the theory of Eastern music or in case they dealt, they repeated those of Urmevi, just interpreting them in different ways. The main advantage of these booklets was their practical importance. The creative works of that period include the booklet Negavetil Edvar by the younger son of Maraghai Abdulaziz Chelebi and Megasid el-Edvar by his grandson Mahmud Chelebi

A booklet “About Music” by Mirza Bey is one of the interesting works, created in South Azerbaijan in early 17th century.

Mirza Sadiq (Sadiqdjan)
Beginning in late 19th century music meetings, associations and circles (by Mahmud Agha in Shamakhy, Kharrat oghly , Mir Movsum Nevvab in Shusha, Meshedi Malik Mansur in Baku). In the 1880th M.M.Nevvab and Hadjy Husu organized meetings of Musicians, which were dedicated to discussion of esthetic problems of music, mastery performance and mugam . Meetings were attended by famous singers and saz players Meshedi Djemil Amirov, I.Abdullayev, S.Shushinskiy, Sadykhdjan and others.

Hadji Husu, progeny of Kharrat Gulu, is one of the great representatives of vocalism of Shusha. He studied mugam , improved a number of them and created new mugam s. Mirza Sadyg Esed ogly was a maestro of tar of the 19th century, he reconstructed tar and created the tar of modern type. Meshedi Zeynal , Meshedi Djamil Amirov, Shirin Akhundov, Gurban Primov were all representatives of this art.

Meshedi Djamil Amirov
There are a number of cities in the world, which absorbed music by its stones, tower and its atmosphere. These are Vienna (Austria), Neapol (Italy) and Shusha (Karabakh, Azerbaijan). There exist a popular saying that infants in Shusha even cry under the music of mugam .

Prominent representatives of the Shusha Caucasus Conservatoire successfully represented Azeri music and glorified it all over the world.

Cabbar Qaryaghdi oglu
Shusha is the home of Mir Movsum Nevvab, Kharrat Gulu, Hadjy Husu, Sadikhdjan, Meshedi Isi, Abdulbaghy Zulalov, Djabbar Qaryaghdyoglu, Kechedji ogly Memmed, Meshedi Memmed Ferzeliyev, Islam Abdullayev, Seyid Shushinskiy, Bulbul, Zulfi Adygozelov, Khan Shushinskiy,

Meshedi Djamil Amirov, Qurban Pirimov, composers Uzeyir Hadjybeyov, Zulfugar Hadjybeyov, Fikret Amirov, Niyazi, Afrasiyab Bedelbeyli, Soltan Hadjibeyov, Ashraf Abbasov, Suleyman Aleskerov, and singer Rashid Behbudov. Yet this list is not a complete list of musicians of Shusha.

by Heydar Aliyev Foundation

The Music of of Azerbaijan

Folklore songs. The most important genre of musical and poetic creative activity of Azeri people, folklore songs perfectly reflected pure, moral inner world, wishes and expectations of Azeri people.

Folklore songs of Azerbaijan are divided into several genre groups depending on their theme and content, difference in a poetic language and many-coloredness. These groups are labor songs, ceremonial songs, household songs (lyrical songs are also included in this group) and historical songs.

Labor songs are the most ancient of genres of folklore music. The most famous are those devoted to cattle-breeding sayachi songs, while the most popular songs among plant-growers are hovaly labor songs. The most ancient songs are “Choban Avazy”, “Tutu nenem”, “Saghim mahnisi”, “Chichek shumla yeri”, etc.

One of the ancient types of Azeri folklore songs are ceremonial songs. Festivities, weddings and funeral processions were accompanied with traditional songs and these songs are popular among people even nowadays. These songs include songs, created in ancient times and performed at various ceremonies and devoted to the Sun, the fire, the rain and other natural forces. Such playful and show ceremonies were accompanied by traditional ceremonial songs. The songs are based on works of bayaty , the widely spread form of folklore literature.

Household songs are divided into nursery songs, humoristic songs and satiric and lyrical songs, according to their content, form and feelings expressed. Nursery songs, especially those sang by mothers to their children -lullaby songs are the most ancient ones among all other household songs. Lullaby songs comprise ninnies, layla and okhshama.

Genre of lyrical songs is the most rich and wonderful genre of music. Lyrical songs at the same time, account for the most part of this music. Lyrical songs mainly cover the theme of pure love, beauty of love, separation, expectation, grief, sorrow, etc

Lyrical songs became the most important means of people’s self-expression. Some of these songs are optimistic, while others are sad, and full of sorrow. The specific feature of the first group of lyrical songs is a lively rhythm, segah style, while the second group is characterized by such exclamations as “Ah”, “Vay”, the style of “Bayaty Shiraz” and alternation of 6/8 and ? times, etc. The first group includes such songs as “Gul oghlan”, “Yaz bize gonag geledjek”, “Qoy gulum gelsin”, etc; the second group comprises “Senden mene yar olmaz”, “Onu deme zalym yar”, etc. Lyrical songs are of more complex form. They are characterized by a couplet form, form, analogous to rondo form and complex two part form, repetition of verses, sequentism , etc.

Epic-historical and heroic songs also occupy an important place among the folklore songs of Azerbaijan. These songs, that have been created since ancient times are devoted to historical events, taking place in Azeri people’s life or people’s heroes, which played a great role in the life of people.

Songs about Koroghlu, his love Nigar, devoted friends delis and devoted horse Qirat serves an example to that.

Eposes and songs about Qachaq Nebi, Qachaq Kerem, Deli Aly and other characters were also composed. These include such songs as “Geden gelmedi”, “Piyada Koroghlu”, “Gachag Nebi”, etc.

Dances. Dance music, along with favorite genre of music, is one of the widely spread and important components of national folklore music. Folklore dances are basis of the Azeri national instrumental music. The dances are created by the people and passes through generations. Instrumental folklore dance music of Azerbaijan is characterized by richness of music, symmetric structure, diversity of diapason, gradual intensification, repetition, variation and method of sequence. Dances are distinguished by specific tune, metro-rhythmic properties and colorful forms. Like folklore songs, dances also reflect people’s feelings, emotions, character and temperament.

Dances of women are specific for their lyricism, tenderness and grace, for example “Vaghzaly”, “Uzundere”. A number of dances can be performed only by women, “Nelbeki”, “Djeyrany”. Male dances are characterized by stormy emotions, energetic rhythm, power and temperament. These are “Qaytaghy”, “Djengy”, “Qazaghy”, “Khanchobany”, etc.

Collective dances are also popular among the population. Most of them accompany working process and household ceremonies. The dance “Halay” is one of these dances. Vaghzaly usually accompanies weddings. The dance “Yordu-yordu” can be performed by both men and women. The most ancient collective dance is a widely spread “Yally”, which dates back to ancient times.

Mugam. Traditional professional genres also developed along with genre of music and dances of the Azerbaijan musical folklore. Mugams were the most important of them. Mugams are the greatest pattern of folklore vocal instrumental compositions of deep and rich, complex, emotional meaning, the peak of national classic music of Azerbaijan and peoples of Near and Middle East. Since ancient times, the stable development of mugam helped its formation and enrichment. Mugamat , mugam (i.e. complex of literal senses) consists of 12 mugams, Ushshaq, Neva, Abuselik, Rast, Iraq, (Eraq), Isfahan, Zirefkend, Buzruk, (Bosorg), Zengula, Reavi, Huseyni, Hidjas, 24 parts, 48 nooks, 6 avazs, colors and tensifs. The term muhgam is used in two meanings. The first is the equality of tunes. At present there are seven tunes in Azeri folklore music and a number of mugams: Chahargah, Shushtar, Bayaty-Shiraz, Humayun, etc. The second part means musical composition of a specific form, interesting and complex, consisting of several parts. Mugam is compared with suite-rhapsody and symphony due to its form. This composition bases on a specific tunes, on mugam and develops in frames of laws, established in mugam. Performers of mugam, a singer and accompanying troupes (trio-tar, kamancha, def) or solo instrumentalists contributed various alterations, new shades, points, trills, etc depending to their creative fantasy, skill, talent. Singers perform mugams on lyrical-philosophical gazelles of well-known poets _Khagani, Nizami, Nasimi, Fizuli, etc.

In mugams the improvised parts of mugam alternate with exact metrorhythmic parts of mugam that are vocal tesnifs and instrumental rhythmical

The improvisation of Azeri mugams is more frequent and brighter compared with mugams of other people. Therefore, professional performers of mugam are also the authors of this type of mugam. Zerbi-mugam is another type of instrumental vocal mugams of Azeri people. This includes “Heyraty”, “Arazbary”, “Ovshar”, “Mansuriyya”, “Shimai-shems”, “Keremi”, “Kesme-Shikeste”, “Garabag-shikestesi”. The peculiarity of these mugams is that the improvised part of a vocal mugam of a singer is performed on the exact metrorythmic accompaniment.At the same time a def or a def and a drum occupy an important place in the accompaniement by a saz trio. The saying mugams of vocal parts are characterized with a melody of a rich a rich ornament starting from the highest diapason.

Creative activity of Ashugs. Beside mugams, professional oral traditions of the music of Azerbaijan include the musical and poetical creative activity of ashugs. The wotd “ashu” is derived from the word “eshg” (“love”) and means the devotedness to one’s profession. As a term it developed in the 14th century. The art of ashugs, which emerged in ancient times was popular among the people as it praised the wishes and expectations of people.

The art of ahugs, being democratic in its expression, bears a wide contes and is diverse and colorful. It includes songs, praising love, friendship, satiric and lyrical songs, as well as songs, praising heroism of people, their freedom and historical eposes. The art of ashig is a synthetic one as a poet creates poems, composes music, and performs these songs playing on tar and dances. Ashug is frequently accompanied by balaban and wind bands. However, the saz is the principal instrument of the ashug. Saz is an ancient string musical instrument of Azerbaijan. Due to its wonderful timbre, it was also glorified by poets. The most widely-spread genre of the art of ashugs are eposes, especially heroic-historical eposes. Vocal-instrumental parts are replaced by poetic words in eposes.

The epos, devoted to the national hero of 16th century, fighter against feudal and foreign occupants, a man of courage Koroghlu, is famous worldwide. The heroism of Koroghlu was glorified in “Koroghlu djengisi”, “Atly Koroghlu”, “Piyada Koroghlu”, “Koroghlu”, and other ashug songs of the epos. The heroic song “Misri”glorified the period of the most intensive competition between ashugs. Two, three even four ashug may take part in the competition and improvise on a definite topic.

Praises and gozellemes are the most famous components of the lyrical genre of the art of ashugs. These gozellemes may be dedicated to either a beautiful women or to the man of counrage Koroghlu or his legendary horse Girat. The most wonderful patterns of the ashug lyricism are lively songs as “Afshary”, “Sherili” and others that are usually full of sorrow such as “Yanyg Keremi” and “Dilgemi”.

The genre comprising moral songs is also interesting one in the art of ashugs.

Such poetic forms of the national poetry as gerayly, divani, qoshma, tedjnis are the most preferred by ahugs along with the genreas of poetry (qoshma, mukhammas, ustadname, gefilbend)

The most widely spread poetic meter of the ashug creativity is one based on the number of syllables. The majority of ahug songs are written in forms of couplets. Each couplet is preceded by preface and couplets are separated with an instrumental solo.

Azeri ahugs are distributed among definite zones and differ due to the local characteristics of ashug’s art. For example, ashugs of Goyche, Ganja, Kelbedjar, Gazakh, Tovuz, Borchaly, Shirvan, Salyan differe in their creations and purposefully preserve and secure traditions of their personal creative activity.

In ancient times and in Middle Ages Agugs were called “ozan”, “Varsag”, “dede”.

The most ancient, written source Kitabi Dede Korkut of the seventh century is devoted to heroism, patriotism, love and life of ozans, the ancestors of contemporary ashugs of Azerbaijan.

Over that 1300 years ago Ded Korkut wished that the stability and piece would not leave our lands and houses and ozans would create and sing. Therefore, ozan is a wise old man, who knows everything, the honesty of people and their meanness. Dede Korkud was one of those men. The major instrument of Oghuz ozans was qopuz and by some legends, this instrument was created by Dede Korkut, who played on it with a great skill.

Through centuries the ozan-ashug creations of Azerbaijan influenced on other fields, kinds of musical genre and later on the creative activity of modern composers. U.Hadjibeyov was the first to use the unrivaled properties of Ashug music with great professionalism and skill (opera “Koroghlu” the masterpiece, composed by U.Hadjibeyov). Another composer Gara Garayev created the synthesis of technical means of modern music and ashug music also with a great skill in the second part of the third symphony.

Musical instruments of our nation are distinguished for richness and diversity. Many of them were made in the ancient times and have been improved throughout the centuries. ‘Tambourine player stone’ near Gobustan rock paintings of 6000 years was used by our ancestors as a percussion instrument. Various musical instruments engraved on items found during archeological excavations in Azerbaijan indicate to their antiquity. Governed by tangible cultural riches, works by our classic poets, booklets by music experts, miniatures by artists of Middle Ages, wall paintings, diaries of travelers having travelled our country, museum collections, we can say nearly 90 musical instruments have been used in Azerbaijan. They are divided into 5 groups according to the sound source, the basis of modern classification: string, wind, percussion, self sounding. In accordance with this classification, out of instruments distributed in Azerbaijan 32 (26 played with mediator, 4 with bow, 2 with switch) are string, 23 wind, 16 percussion, 17 self-sounding.

Tar, ‘the most important instrument for expansion of study of Eastern music’ to Uzeyir Hajibeyov, kamancha, which he considered ‘the most beautiful of melodic instruments’, saz, the ‘friend’ of ashygs, ganun that was compared with ‘box of secret’ by Fuzuli, oud, the ‘king’ of all instruments in due time, are most popular string instruments at present.

Tar, one of the most perfect instruments of Azeri nation, is played with mediator. Tar is made of mulberry, walnut and pear trees, open side of the body is made of cattle heart membrane. Its strings are of different thickness and composition.

Tar that has passed through long development is mentioned in poems by Baba Tahir and Gatran Tebrizi of XI century. Capital improvement of tar is linked to the name of Mirza Sadyg Asad, the skilful tar player. Before him tar had 5 strings. He added tune and ring strings, kept 22 frets, specified their place, clinched ‘inner arm’ to the body to reinforce tuning. Tar, which became lighter, was held not on lap as before but on chest. Thus, technical opportunities of tar were expanded. For short time Mirza Asad’s tar got popularity beyond Azerbaijan under the name ‘Azerbaijani tar’.

Divided into big and small bowls, body of tar reminds from the top of figure of eight. 22 frets are linked to its fingerboard. The instrument has 11 metal strings, which are called white (made of metal with steel mixture), yellow (bronze) and red (white strings covered with reddish or yellowy bronze string) strings. 2 double strings (white and yellow) in the very bottom are main strings, since sound of melody is produced by them. They are followed by tune strings consisted of double – red (sometimes yellow) and white (can be replaced by yellow too) strings, and above them there is thick red – bass tune, tone string. Above tune strings there are 2 couples of white ring strings. Main and ring strings are tied to 6 big tuning pegs on the top, while tune ones to small tuning pegs. Double white, yellow and ring strings have permanent tune. 3 tune strings are tuned to various loudness respective of mode of mugham or composition. During performance, mediator is used in different methods.

Kamancha of ancient times had a string, long fingerboard and foot. Now, it has 4 strings, third and fourth bass strings of which are covered with copper and bronze wires. Strings are played with bow made of cornel tree in the form of slightly bended switch and horsehair in the end. It consists of ball-shaped bowl made of walnut tree basically, round fingerboard and iron billow called ‘spit’ that unites them and crosses through bowl. Open side of bowl is covered with sturgeon skin. Stretcher is placed on that in the aslant position. One ends of strings based on stretcher are tied to hooks on the spit, while other ends to tuning pegs on the upper side of fingerboard.

Saz, development of which is closely linked to the art of ashyg, is played with tazana (mediator). It is often mentioned in poems by classic poets and ashygs. Primitive saz had small bowl and 2-3 strings. In the course of ashyg music, measures of saz were enlarged, number of strings and frets increased. Pear-shaped deep bowl of saz is made of 9 mulberry tree strips. Its fingerboard is made of walnut tree. Saz has kinds such as large or big (8-11 strings), medium (8-9 strings) and short (4-7 strings), armpit. 1500-mm, 12-string major large or mother saz was used in the near past. 17-18 and more frets are tied to its fingerboard. 3-4 lower strings are high-tone, 2-3 middle strings are bass and 2-4 upper strings are accompaniment. High-tone and accompaniment strings have permanent tune, while tune of bass strings changes according to mode-harmony of composition.

Ganun is played on the lap by plucking the strings with two tortoise-shell picks, one in each hand, or by the fingernails. It was widely spread in the East, including Azerbaijan in due time. After being forgotten for some time, in the late 50s orchestras began playing it again. Ganun’s body is in the shape of flat right-angeled trapezium. Cover is made of wood mainly, has resonator holes on the surface. Lower part of the cover is coated with skin, on which wooden barrow is placed. 72 strings made of metal or kapron are stretched over the barrow. One ends of strings are tied to holes on the right-angeled side of the body, while other ends to wooden tuning pegs. Tuning the instrument, tuning pegs are screwed with special key. One or two small metal barrows are placed near tuning pegs, under strings to change tune of strings up to half tone or a tone and a half.

Oud, one of ancient instruments played with a feather of eagle, comes from ‘al-ud’, which is called ‘lyutnya’ by Russians, ‘laot’ by Germans, ‘lyuto’ by Italians. Till X century oud had 4 strings, later the fifth one was added and every string was doubled to make sound louder. Brought to Sicily and Spain first oud was spread in whole Europe in Middle Ages. XVII – XVIII was renaissance of oud, which gradually lost its popularity, giving up its place to violin, guitar. Only in the eastern countries it kept superiority. Present oud consists of pear-shaped bowl made of walnut tree slices (up to 20), short fret-free fingerboard and top hooked to the back. Resonator holes are made to assure good sound on wood. In the bottom of the cover there is barrow to which strings are directly tied. It has 5 doubled strings. An additional string is tied sometimes. 1st and 2nd double strings are made of bowels, others of metal.

Dambur, 2-string instrument made of lime tree widespread in Zagatala and Balakan districts, has a scoop-shaped long body. 5 wooden frets are tied to shorter fingerboard. Metal strings, which were made of silk before, are sounded with fingers.

String instruments played with mediator were more popular in Middle Ages. According to Kitabi-Dede Gorgud, gopuz was favorite instrument of ozans, ancestors of present ashygs. Gopuz with 2-3 strings was much alike saz. Berbetin was similar to oud and a bit larger. Tune of oud was basis for tuning of other instruments. Gashgar lute and tenbur that are used now in Central Asia were popular in Azerbaijan. Tenbur had kinds such as dutar, setar, chartar, penjtar, sheshtar. Bowl of 3-string ozan, which was like hump tenbur, was covered with skin basically. Sheshkhana, invented by mugham singer Rzaeddin Shirvani, was much like oud. One of instruments like oud was sheshtay and 8-9-string chekhes. Chang, widely used in Azerbaijan in Middle Ages, was a favorite instrument of singers, musicians, poets. Beside chang with an arched body, triangular and quadrangle-shaped chang and nuzhet, which were sounded with special sticks, were used. Nuzhe and mughnu, invented by prominent music expert Safiaddin Urmavi, were used in Azerbaijan. Nuzhe was made in base of chang and ganun. The quadrangle-shaped instrument had 81 strings. 33-string mughnu was much similar to lute, but was larger. 96-string santur, with a body consisted of trapezium-like box and played with sticks, was used in Azerbaijan in the near past.

Among instruments played with a bow of horsehair, chegane, cheganag and keman were popular in Azerbaijan. Chegane, which had a pear-shaped bowl and 2 or 3 strings, was leaned on the floor by its stand. 3-string cheganag had a sieve-like bowl. Keman reminded of a violin.

Balaban, one of the ancient wind instruments our ancestors left to us, is played in all corners of Azerbaijan. Ksula is used in north and northwest Azerbaijan, yan pipe and tulum in Nakhchyvan.

Zurna (gara zurna as well), one of the most ancient instruments of our nation, had 5 kinds in Sheki region for length of body and sound: main and medium large, which is used now, small, medium and foot small.

Zurna is combined of body (kotuk, karkhana), billow, key and reel. Body, made of dry apricot tree, has 8 music holes on the surface and 1 on the back. Diameter of body gets shape of cone enlarging from the 6th hole. Hole in wide foot is always open. Forked ‘tongs’ made of wild willow is placed in the body from the top. Billow made of bronze and copper is linked to that. Cane ‘key’ is tied to the bottom end of the billow. Round ‘reel’ made of mother-of-pearl or bone is connected to the billow. During performance, lip touches that. After performance, key is capped.

Balaban, which is often called also yasti (flat) balaban for flat mouthpiece and soft sound, consists of body made of apricot tree, cane, barrow and cover. Body has 8 holes on the surface and 1 on the back in the middle of 1st and 2nd holes (sound fret) on the surface.

Fife is made of cane basically. The lower end of cylindric body (280-350 mm in length, 20 mm in diameter) is a bit hewed, the head is cut aslant and wood is placed inside. On the surface of the head there is a quadratic hole with metal ring to adjust sound. Body has 7 holes on the surface and 1 on the back.

Ney, consisted of straight cylindric, empty body, is made of apricot tree, date-palm or copper. To assure good sound the upper end of the instrument is a bit hewed. Body has 5-7 music holes on the lower surface and 1 on the back towards the top.

Shield accordion (more famous as Azerbaijani or Eastern accordion) and clarinet are widely used by musicians.

Wind instruments that were popular in Azerbaijan in Middle Ages include burghu, long instrument expanded towards the bottom, bugh, short with a pretty large top, musigar, consisted of 8 pipes of different length, kerenayi, 2m in length, expanded towards the bottom, nefir, a horn instrument consisted of long, straight tube and with a bit large top, gavdum with a wrapped pipe, shahnefir, the bend kind of nefir, mizmar, similar to fife, nay with a sharp sound. Erghan, the ancestor of modern organ, was made of numerous tubes and played with bellows. Sumsu, the primitive type of fife, sumsu-balaban, bird-like burbugh and kelenay (kelezurna) were used in the near past. Shapbyr-balaban is rarely played now.

Gaval, which was called ‘the most delicate’ of percussion instruments by Uzeyir Haibeyov, naghara, goshanaghara, dumbek are very popular at present.

Gaval is consisted of narrow, round wooden rim. One side of gaval is open, another side covered with fish skin. Metal rings are fastened to the rim from inside. Diameter is 340-456 mm, width 40-50 mm. Gaval is played by touching palms and fingers of both hands on the side or centre of the skin surface, also shaking the instrument.

Naghara, made of apricot, walnut, mulberry and lime trees, has a cylinder-like frame. Steel hoop covered with goat skin is stretched to both sides by crosswise revolved rope. According to the size of the body it has various names such kos, the big one played with a small type, goltug, manual naghara, bala naghara. Big naghara is played with 2 beetles, others by hand and sticks.

Goshanaghara (dumbul, dumbelek as well) is comprised of the body made of 2 walnut, mulberry trees of the same height, but different size and metal. It reminds of cup. Skin of goat, camel or horse covered on the surface of the body is stretched by screw mechanism. Different sounds are obtained by touching sticks separately on both surfaces, on one surface (center and side), on each other or on the body, touching the palm on the surface.

The cup-shaped body of dumbey was made of clay before, now of wood basically, wide surface is covered with goat skin and stretched by strap or screw mechanism. Height of the instrument, which is played like gaval, is 350-400 mm.

Drum, the cup-like instrument played with sticks, was popular in middle ages. Body was made of copper or bronze, open side coated with wolfskin. Its small type used in hunting was called drum-bass. Kus, larger than drum, was played via sticks with crooked ends or covered with cloth. Consisted of 2 big drums, juft-kos was played in battles usually. Tambourine was similar to modern gaval. 4-6 copper circles were fastened along its rim. Sometimes circles were replaced with small rings tied to external and internal sides of rim. This instrument was called circle. Mezher had a wide rim to which rings, bells were fastened. Davul, mentioned in Kitabi-Dede Gorgud epos, reminded of big naghara. Diameter of body of tebire was diminished towards the middle. Both sides of dumbul’s rim were broad. Nagharazan was similar to one-sided naghara, duhul like longish naghara.

Self-sounding instruments shakhshakh, kaman, lagguti. Shakhshakh (chalpara) consists of 2 wooden round plates (bowl) tied via string to the top of handle. Shaking the instrument by handle, they sound touching each other. The 400-mm wooden part of kaman is crooked like a bow. Metal plates, rings and bells are fastened to its entry made of string, their ends are linked to the ends of the stick. By shaking yallibashy and striking blows on that rhythm of dance is kept. Lagguti consists of 2 wooden flat beams different in size. Deep resonator cracks have been hewed along their long side. 2 sticks are used to play the instrument.

Instruments such as sinj, deray (in military marches basically), jeres (during migration, by dancers), bracelet-like khelkhal (by dancers), zeng, gymro, kase, aghyz-gopuzu, zyngyrov, chan, tesht, safail, gashyghek, zil have been used in Azerbaijan.

Our traditional musical instruments form different musician bands. Sazende, the mugham ‘trio’ of singer, playing gaval, tar player and kaman player, bands of saz player girls playing small saz, ashygs, naghara and zurna players, balaban players, dambur players, tulum players, naghara players were very popular.

Our composers have concert, sonata, piece and other works for tar, kaman, saz, ganun, balaban, zurna.

Mejnun Kerimov, the candidate of art study, Honor Artist, has carried out large-scale studies to restore the instruments neglected and include them in ensembles again. A number of instruments such as rud, lute, berbet, cheng, gopuz, choghur, cheghane, Shirvan’s tenbur, santur, nuzhe have already been restored. Candidate of art study Abbasgulu Najafov has also joined this mission. An ensemble has been formed of the musical instruments restored.

The art of mugham is an important branch of verbal heritage of the culture of Azerbaijan professional music. It has deep roots in cultural traditions and history of Azerbaijan people. Great number of followers of this cultural tradition in the country, and an important role it plays in the national culture as a source of endless enthusiasm for the composers, painters, sculptors and poets of speak about the basis of this culture in Azerbaijan. Several common features relate Azerbaijani mugham with Iran destgahs, Uzbek and Tajik shashkoms, Uygur mukams, India ragas, Arabian nubas and Turkish tegsims. They comprise the common artistic traditions of the oriental music. The art of mugham is one of the main cultural wealth that forms the basis for national self-consciousness and self-identification of the Azerbaijanis. This kind of art is also famous among the Talishes, the mountain the Jewess, the Armenians, the Lezgins, the Georgians, the Avars and other ethnic groups living in the territory of Azerbaijan.

Artistic values of Azerbaijani mugham for national culture and the culture of the whole world and its high sense acknowledged by highly authorized international organization YUNESKO in 2003.YUNESKO appreciated mugham as ‘one of the masterpieces of the verbal and non-material heritage of the world’.

The term ‘mugham’ in Azerbaijan music also means the categories of fret, melody and genre.

In the meaning of ‘fret’ the term ‘mugham’ is used at least 700 years. In the booklet of the prominent theoretician, performer and composer of Azerbaijani music Abdulgadir Maragai lived in the 14th century, mugham is applied to 12 main frets wide spread in the music of the Near and the Middle East (Buselik, Neva, Ushshag, Irag, Isfahan, Zirafkend, Bozurg,Rehavi, Huseyni and Hijaz). Today mugham is not only the main 7 melodies in Azerbaijani music (Rast, Shur, Segah, Chahargah, Bayati-Shiraz, Humayun, Shushter)but also a number of tonic variants (Mahur, Dugah, Bayati-Gajar, Kharic Segah, Orta Segah, Mirza Huseyn Segahi, Yetim Segah, etc.). Thus in its wide meaning the term ‘mugham’ is also applied to the main subclasses of the main frets and generally reflect them as fret.

Melodies with free measure in modern life of Azerbaijan music are also called ‘mugham’. In spite of the fact that the traditional repertoire of mugham comprises different types, i.e. the melodies without any measure or improvised melodies (‘bahrsiz hava’), melodies with tact measure(‘bahrli hava’) and melodies of mixed types of the measure (‘garishig bahrli hava’),when a singer is asked to perform a mugham he surely understands ‘bahrsiz hava’. The wide spread idea is that melodic style of mugham derived from the traditional reading of Koran, but according to the opinion of some scientists it is alike the traditions of anthem performing of Avesta. The opinions differ on one hand and overlap in sacral character of mugham on the other.

Mugham is the general name of the largest genre of traditional Azerbaijan music and is applied to all of its forms. Nevertheless they all carry their own names. Main forms of music representing this genre are destgah (vocal-instrumental or instrumental), mugham (vocal-instrumental, solo-instrumental and solo-vocal) and zerbi-mugham. The largest for the volume and literary idea among the forms of mugham in Azerbaijan music is destgah.

Vocal-instrumental destgahs (the earliest variety of the destgah) widely spread in Shusha, Shamakhi, Baku, Ganja, Lenkeran and Sheki cities of Azerbaijan in the 19th century. Mir Mohsun Nevvab Garabagi gave first scientific description of mugham in the booklet ‘Vuzuhul-erqam'(1884). Despite of the fact the destgahs had stable principles of form till 20th of the 20th century. The same destgah might be performed differently by mugham schools of Garabag, Baku and Shamakhi.

In 1922 teaching of mugham included in to the curriculum of the first European type musical school established in Baku. Construction of the curriculum caused reforms in the structure of Azerbaijan destgahs and the relative unification of traditional district schools. According to the request of Uzeyir Hajibayov (1885-1948) a group of the prominent musicians (Mirza Faraj Rzayev, Mirza Mansur Mansurov, Ahmed khan Bakikhanov, Seyid Shushunski, Zulfi Adigozalov) worked out reduced versions of the destgahs for education. Nevertheless in 1920s and 1930s versions extended by the-that time masters existed simultaneously with the versions for education. Reduced versions started to be performed later in concerts, radio and recorded to the gramophones thus strengthening its position. Many melodies performed in Azerbaijan destgahs in the first decade of the 20th century were already forgotten in the 1960-1970s.

As a musical term ‘destgah’ means ‘set or sum of the tons and steps’. The form is based on the set of the several definite melodies-‘mughams’ different in each destgah. For example, the set of the melodies in ‘Rast’ destgah is differed from the set of the frets of ‘Chahargah’ destgah. The pattern of the destgah in Azerbaijan music, i.e. composition of the fret cycle may only have the abovementioned main melodies and their tonal variants. The main difference between the forms of destgah and that of mugham is that the musical pattern of the destgah comprises several various mugham- fret system, while mugham is composed of the musical composition of one mugham-fret with all the possible tonal varieties. Destgah and mugham also differ in their volumes. (Rahab mugham is an exception here, as in the process of its historical evolution it changed from destgah to mugham and in some degree preserved the principles of the fret and composition of the destgah.).

Khan Shushinsky, Bahram Mansurov,
Telet Bakikhanov.
Vocal-instrumental varieties of the compositions are performed by the group of the performers. The group is composed of a singer-khanende, playing on gaval (percussion musical instrument), tar (a musical instrument) and kamancha (a musical instrument).

This group of the mugham and destgah performers is called ‘trio of mugham’ and spread in Azerbaijan since the late 19th century. There exist larger groups of performers, too. Performance of the destgah by one soloist-khanende (singer) has widely spread in the practice of Azerbaijan music during the recent times.

Vocal-instrumental destgah is composed of standard musical measure (Deramed, Tesnifs, Regler (colours)) and free verse improvising parts (Berdasht, Maye and Shohbet). There are some destgahs based on the simultaneous sequence of both melody types (Zerbi-Mugham). Practically,all the parts of the destgah, except Berdasht might be performed apart from destgah in the form of small musical forms. Each of the parts of the destgah has their definite function and form. Deramed and Berdasht are prelude instrumental plays. The third part, Maya (translated as the base, dough leaven) is the main and the largest part of each destgah. Deramed, Berdasht and Shohbet are inseparable parts of the vocal instrumental destgah; they determine its motion and logics. The Tesnifs (music type vocal instrumental melodies) and Rengler (shades) (mainly in instrumental plays supposed for dances) divide the destgah into layers and bring beauty to it. The performer is free to choose them for his/her wish, taste and the literary meaning.

The rule of following of the parts in destgah is as follows: from tonic (Maya) melody rises to the highest level of the tonic and again returns to Maya; this form the stepping structure of the raise and then destgah is completed. The dramaturgy of destgah is a cycle of the changing spiritual condition of a human. The sequence of those conditions is directed to the emotional peak at each destgah. Artistic conception of the destgah takes the human through emotional cases (‘moments’) morally freeing and purifying him and embodies the idea of the moral way of human’s personality. This way is laid through gradual release of human spirit from the social ties, through separation from the outer world and interference the world of the personal feelings and experiences. Sometimes the peak of this process is the ecstatic reflection of the feelings. Then comes freedom.

The art of mugham is tightly related with the classic poetry.

Some of the melodies in the mughams carry the names of the forms of the poems, such as, mesnevi, saginame, semai, shehrashub, dubeyti. This shows the relation of the melodic pattern to those forms of the poetry, or even the source of those patterns. The melodies of the vocal mugham are performed by the poems of the quantitative meter fitted to the peculiarities of Azerbaijan language.

Gazal, a genre of the classical poetry is the main form of the poems performed in mughams. The singers of the past prefer the gazals of the middle age Azerbaijani poets, such as Nizami Ganjavi and Khagani Shirvani (12th centiry), Imadeddin Nasimi(14th century),Shah Ismail Khatai and Mahammad Fuzuli (16th century), Molla Panah Vagif (18th century), Khurshid banu Natavan and Seyid Ezim Shirvani (19th century).The singers of the modern period mainly prefer the gazals of Aliaga Vahid(20th century), the latter classic poet of Azerbaijan.

Alongside with the gazal it is possible to use in mughams (especially in zerbi-mughams) national poems in the forms of goshma or bayati. Singer is free to choose the kind of the poem, but he should take into consideration the melodic peculiarities of the mugham he performs. For instance, gazals chosen for ‘Rast’ mugham that have positive emotive shades would not fit to ‘Humayun’ mugham, that according to the description of U.Hajibeyov carries the shades of ‘deep sadness’ or to ‘Shushter’ mugham mainly performed at religious or mourning ceremonies.

Till the early 20th century Azerbaijani khanendes (singers) followed the tradition to perform the mugham with Persian poems. The tradition broken by the prominent Azerbaijani khanende Jabbar Garyagdioglu (1861-1944); foundered the tradition to perform the mughams in Azerbaijani language. This tradition was popular not in Azerbaijan, but also in the South Caucasus.

Among the instrumental varieties of the mugham have the same structure and the principles of extension of the form as in the vocal-instrumental varieties. The difference is that Deramed, Berdasht and Tesnifs are not performed in the instrumental compositions.

Instrumental kinds of the mugham widely spread at early 20th centuries when new talented instrumentalists appeared in Azerbaijan and developed instrumental performance. Particular role in the process plaid the changes made on the tar (musical instrument) by Mirza Sadig Asad oglu. Once brought to Azerbaijan from Iran, the tar possessed stronger sound useful for the concerts. Today the destgahs might be solely performed on other traditional instruments, for example on kamancha, ud, canon (stringed), zourna, balaban, ney(breathing). Beginning with the 20th century some European instruments (clarinet, oboe, accordion) penetrated the traditional music and performance of mugham on them is appreciated by the audience as authentic.

Both the vocal-instrumental and instrumental varieties of the genre might be performed both in the form of melody cycle (destgah) or in one-part melodic improvisation in one fret.

Small mughams (vocal-instrumental and instrumental)-‘Rahab’, ‘Gatar’, ‘Shahnaz’, ‘Sarenj’, ‘Bayati-Kurd’, ‘Neva’, ‘Deshti’, ‘Hijaz’, etc. in comparison with the other destgahs are free musical compositions of smaller volume. If tesnifs may comprise from 5 to 10-12 subdivisions, with the exception of the tesnifs and the shades, mughams are generally composed of about 3 subdivisions. The only mugham that have more than 5 divisions is ‘Rahab’.

Vocal mugham (without instrumental accompaniment) is performed in the ceremonies or in mourning, and is performed by the gazals and gasidaz written in religious or mourning character.

Zerbi-mughams (rhythmic mughams) are composed of one-part vocal-instrumental composition performed within one fret and referred to the group of the small independent forms of mugham.18 samples of this mugham used in the 19th century are preserved in ‘Garabag shikestesi’, ‘Shirvan shikestesi’, ‘Kesme shikeste’, ‘Zerbi-Simayi-Shems’, ‘Zerbi-Mensuriyye’, ‘Arazbari’, ‘Ovshari’, ‘Maani’ and ‘Heyrati’. The characteristic feature of those compositions is co-ordination of the independent in measure vocal melodies (usually of high register) with rhythmic instrumental accompaniment. There are totally instrumental patterns (‘Heydari’) of this genre that are kept within the frames in definite measure (‘bahri hava’).

Culture of mugham performance

Literary and musical societies established in Azerbaijan cities beginning from 20thsof the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century played great role in extension of mugam performance and gave it professional shape. The most famous among them were ‘Mejlisi-Feramushan’, ‘Mejlisi-Uns’, ‘Society of mucisians’ in Shusha, ‘Beytus-safa’ and musical society of Mahmud aga in Shamakhi,’Majma-ush-suara’ in Baku, ‘Divani-hikmet’ in Ganja, ‘Anjuman-Ush-shuara’ in Ordubad, ‘Fovjul-fusaha’ in Lenkeran. The poems, literary men, musicians, intellectuals, experts and connoisseurs of the classical poetry and music gathered in those societies, carefully listened to mughams, made discussions around tender performance of the music and the poem. In the 19th century the society was one of the main forms where mugham performed before the auditory. Concert form of musical performance at early 20th century and democratization of Azerbaijan music caused disappearance of those societies.

The societies formed tasteful, understanding auditory level (‘the society of the wise’) that required particular culture and careful listening of the mugam as well as its high artistic performance. At late 19th and early 20th centuries the societies stimulated professional perfection of Azerbaijan musicians.

The school of rovzakhanlar (performers of musical repertoire in the ceremonies) under the mosques also carried some educational importance. The boys with good voice were taught here perfect performance of mughams and correct pronunciation of the classical poems. Till the 20s of the 20th century those schools were the only educational institutions that served professional perfection of mugham performers.

Since 20s of the 20th century-in the Soviet Period, musical education, as well as the education of mugham in Azerbaijan crossed 3 steps: secondary school-technical school-conservatoire. Thus the process of teaching mugham formally takes 14-15 years. According to the opinions of mugham performers, professional perfection is achieved not less than in 5-10 years of the professional training. To master mugham and to become the professional of his/her profession the performer needs 20-25 years. Such higher level of the requirements raises mugham to the level of professional art of verbal tradition.

The art of mugham performance requires the performer special musical memory and comprehension, capability of improvising, talent of composing. Professional musician should know all the mugham repertoires, be able to perform before the audience without repetition. Khanende should know the classical poetry and the measures of eruz, the range of his/her voice should not be less than two octaves. The instrumentalist (sazende) should be able to perform mugham in different solo and accompanied versions. Mugham performer possessing all the abovementioned peculiarities is called a master.

The process of mugham teaching was and is realized in the form of the repetitions started by the teacher and continued by the student. The teacher performs parts from the melody and the student repeats till strengthening in the mind, the process goes on with the following fragment of the melody. In majority of the cases the students use the compact disks with the melody that they learn. They also use Dictaphones to write the melody they learn and the advices of their teachers.

The culture of mugham performance formed of the creative achievements of the prominent musicians- the heritages of the khanendes and sazendez famous in all the Caucasus and Iran. The great khanendez of the past were Mirza Sattar, Haji Husu, Meshedi Isi, Ebulhasan khan Azer Igbal, Mirza Mukhtar Mammadzadeh, Jabbar Garyagdi oglu, Alesker Abdullayev, Abdulbagi Zulalov, Agasaid Agabalaoglu, Mirtagi Mirbabayev, Majid Behbudov, Kechesi oglu Mahammad, Islam Abdullayev, Meshedi Mammad Farzaliyev, Huseyngulu Sarabski, Seyid and Khan Shushinskis, Bulbul and Zulfu Adigozalov, the prominent sazendez(instrumentalists) of the past tar players Mirza Sadig Asad oglu, Mirza Faraj Rzayev, Meshedi Jamil Amirov, Shirin Akhundov, Meshedi Zeynal Hagverdiyev, Mirza Mansur Mansurov, Gurban Pirimov, brothers Bakikhanovs , Pasha Aliyev and Firuz Alizadeh,kamancha players Ismail Talishinsli, Gilman Salahov, the prominent clarinet players Abutalib Yusifov, Kamranbeyim, Ehed Aliyev, Kerbalayi Letif, Teyyub Demirov and the zourna player Ali Kerimov.

In the Soviet period the art of mugham was preserved by the khanendes Abulfat Aliyev, Gulu Asgarov, Nariman Aliyev, Hagigat Rzayeva, Yaver Kelenterli,Zehra Rahimova, Jahan Talishinskaya, Fatma Mehraliyeva, Rubaba Muradova, Shovket Alekberova, Tohfa Aliyeva, Hajibaba Huseynov and Yagub Mammadov, the tar players Ahsan Dadashov, Bahram Mansurov, Baba Salahov, Kamil Ahmadov, Haji Mammadov, Habib Bayramov, Mammadaga Muradov, Amirulla Mammadbeyli, Khosrov Malikov, Geray Melikov, Adil Geray and Anver Mansurov, the kaman players Gilman Salahov, Talat Bakhikhanov, Elman Badalov and Adalet Vezirov, the clarinet players Latif Alitev, Abutalib Yusifov, Ahad Farzali Oglu, Meshedi Ali and Teyyub Demirov and the national music performers Nadir Akhundov, Agasef Seyidof and Firuza Zeynalova.

Performers and pedagogues like the khanendes Islam Rzayev, Arif Babayev, Alibaba Mammadov, Janali Akberov, Agakhan Abdullayev, Alim Gasimov, Mansum Ibrahimov, Sakina Ismayilova, Gandab Guliyeva, Melekhanum Eyyubova, Zabit Nabizadeh, Zahid Guliyev, the tar players Agaselim Abdullayev, Vamig Mammadaliyev, Mohlet Muslumov, Firuz Aliyev, Server Ibrahimov and kaman players Habil Aliyev, Mirnazim Asadullayev, Shafiga Eyvazova and Fakhraddin Dadashov also made great contribution to Azerbaijan culture of mugham performance.

Azerbaijani musicians were the first in the Moslem East who started tours to the Europe. They recorded gramophones and attracted the auditory which was non-traditional to mugham. For the first time in 1906 an English Joint-Stock Company ‘Gramophone’ recorded Azerbaijani music to gramophone records in the performance of the famous khanende Jabbar Gryagdi and other musicians of Azerbaijan. In the period 1906-1914 some gramophone-recording studios, as well as French company ‘Brothers Pate’, Germanic Joint-Stock Company ‘Sport- Record’, Russian companies ‘Extraphone’, ‘Concert-Record’, ‘Monarc-Record’, ‘Gramophone-Record’ and ‘Premier- Record’ issued tens of records with Azerbaijani mughams, tesnifs and colours(shades).

After the establishment of the Soviet regime in Azerbaijan, particularly beginning with 1930s, culture of music had completely been taken under the state control. Policy of ‘Iron barrier’ applied by the soviet state, for a long time created and obstacle for Azerbaijani music and Azerbaijani musicians to the international music market. On the first decade of the 20th century, in the period when Western auditorium interested in the culture of the East, traditional musicians of the Soviet East had for evident political situation an obstacle on their ways as well. The large place in artistic market of the West, among all the music cultures of the Moslem Middle East occupied traditional Arabic, Iran and Turkish music. Azerbaijan mugham lost its position in the foreign cultural environment and nihilist tendency expressed in evident slogans (‘down with tar!’, ‘down with mugham’) of the 20-30s of the past century gradually weakened the social status of mugham.

Beginning with the 30s of the 20th century to 1970s the primitive attitude to mugham gradually strengthened its position in Azerbaijan society, but it still remained popular in part of this society. Attitude toward the art of mugham started to be changed only at 1970s, when the first international symposiums and festivals of traditional music held under YUNESKO’s support (Moscow 1971, Alma-Ata 1973, Samergend 1978, 1983) and when those processes caused the reaction in the soviet society. Thus those measures gave start to interest towards art of mugham and negative attitude toward mugham changed to highly professional art.

Beginning with the 1990s art of Azerbaijan mugam attracts the attentions of the audience, specialists and the managers in the world. Traditional musicians of Azerbaijan participate at the international festivals, made tours about the world, their disks produced in the largest record-studios of the West.

The art of mugham stimulated creation of the 20th century Azerbaijan composers. Beginning with 1908, when Azerbaijani composer Uzeyir Hajibeyov staged his first opera in Baku and gave the start to professional musical theatre in Azerbaijan, many new musical works created on the basis of mugham. Those are opera of mugham( brothers Uzeyir and Jeyhun Hajibeyovs and others), symphonic and chorus mughams (Fikret Emirov, Niyazi, Suleyman Alesgerov, Nzim Aliverdibeyov), sonta-mugham (Agshin Alizadeh, Nariman Mammadov), jazz-mugham (Vagif Mustafazadeh, Rafig Babayev, Azize Mustafazadeh). Growing list of works of Azerbaijani composers is based on the principles of mugham.

Kechechi oglu Mahammad, Gurban Pirimov, Sasha Oganezashvili.