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  • From: Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition, 1973, in English

    KEMANCHA (kiamancha), abowed stringed instrument found in Azerbaijan, Armenia [while Azerbaijanis lived there until 1988], Georgia, and Dagestan, as well as in the countries of the Middle East. It has a spherical body, a rounded neck that widens at the top, and four strings. Its total length is 640-660 mm. The modern kemancha is tuned in fourths and fifths. (vol. 12, p. 400)


    DUDUK (from the Turkish du:du:k), a wind instrument having a pipe about 300 mm in length with nine fingerholes and a double reed. Usually twoduduks are played--one performer plays the melody while the other holds a single tone (the pedal point). The dudk is widespread amon the people of the Caucasus. (vol. 8, p. 438)


    ZURNA, a wind instrument popular among the peoples of the Caucasus (the Azerbaijanis, Armenians, Georgian, and Avars), Middle Asia (called the surnay by the Tadzhiks and the Uzbeks), china (the sona), and Iran. It is the precursor of the oboe and resembles the latter in both shape and tone. It uses the diatonic scale extending slightly over 1 1/2 octaves (usually from C'). The zurna is played in folk ensembles with other national percussion and stringed instruments. (vol. 9, p. 698)



    Azerbaidjan music can be divided into classical and folk (urban and peasant) music. Azerbaidjan classical music was the music of the palace. The "destgiah" is the chief form of classical music, an instrument (Pg. 102--ed.) -vocal form without regular rhythm. The "destiakh" is performed by a singer ("khanende") playing on the "def", a tambourine accompanied by the "tar" and "kemantcha". The "tar" is a musical instrument resembling the lute with 12 metal strings and a leather cover. The "kemantcha" is a stringed instrument--an Asiatic violin. The classical music of Azerbaidjan is strongly permeated with Persian, Arabian and partly Turkish motifs. The Arabian-Persian system of harmonies "mugamat" is closely followed. The essence of Turkish music is not found here, but, in the folk music of the peasants of Azerbaidjan. Despite all religious prohibitions music plays an important part in the daily life of the Azerbaidjan peasantry. Numerous songs were composed by the people themselves and by individual folk singers and musicians--"ashugam". There are songs of love and jealousy, joy and suffering, historical and legendary national heroes and singers. And lastly there are songs for special occasions for ceremonies--weddings, funerals, the daily work of the peasants, ploughing, harvesting, etc. The "ashug" is always accompanied by the instruments "sas" and "sarna"; the singer himself plays the "sas", an instrument resembling the lute with metal strings. The "duduk" and "nei" are common in Azerbaidjan. The former is similar to a reed pipe and the latter is a flute-like wind instrument. Other instruments are the "nagara" or "dumbek" (small drum) and the "dumbul"--a small kettle drum with indefinite notes. These instruments are largely used to accompany songs and dances.

    Written by E. R. "Shirvanshah" (Baku, Azerbaijan) for Anthology of Azerbaijani Mugam, Vol. 7 ~ by Khan Shushinski

    Heritage of the centuries..., July 25, 2005

    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).

    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.


  • Nizami Ganjavi (Gançavi)
  • Nizami Ganjavi - great Azerbaijani poet (response, in Russian, to all Iranian and Armenian claims)

    Azerbaijani Cuisine, Restaurants worldwide:

  • Pasha Restaurant (1516 Broadway Street, San Francisco, CA 94109, Fax: 415-885-4478)
  • Caspian Restaurant (Irvine, California)
  • Caspian Restaurant, 1496 Marine Drive West, Vancouver, BC BCV7T IBS, tel. 604-921-1311
  • Altyn Turkmenistan. Location: Hotel Turkmenistan, 19 Neutral Turkmenistan Street, Asghabat, Turkmenistan.
  • Caspian Bistro (Minneapolis, 2418 University Avenue SE, 1 mile from U. of Minnesota, (612)623-1113)
  • Caspian (1063 E. El Camino Real, Sunnyvale/CA/USA (Santa Clara), (408) 248-6332)

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