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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 azworld.org)


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