AZERBAIJAN xi. Music of Azerbaijan



xi. Music of Azerbaijan

History. The art music of Azerbaijan is connected with the Irano-Arabo-Turkish art of the maqām, of which the great theoreticians were notably Ṣafī-al-dīn Ormavī (d. 693/1294) and ʿAbd-al-Qāder b. Ḡaybī Marāḡī (d. 838/1435), who were originally from Urmia and Marāḡa in Azerbaijan. According to Hajibekov, this tradition collapsed at the end of the fourteenth century (with the Mongol rule), and subsequently each national group reconstructed its own system from the debris (1945, p. 18). The names were preserved, but the realities to which they applied varied from one tradition to another. In the same way the old rhythmic patterns (oṣūl) disappeared in favor of several simple formulas, mainly in 6/8 and 4/4. It seems, however, more correct to locate the break in the traditional chain of transmission in the 12th/18th century. This period was followed, at the beginning of the 13th/19th century, by a revival, in the course of which the remains of the old system were enriched by popular contributions. In the course of this evolution the art music of Azerbaijan remained intimately linked with that of Iran, to which it is still very close. In the absence of documents, this process of revival still remains quite obscure, but it may be located in the southwest and northwest of Iran. In the northwest, it was particularly the town of Šūša in the Qarabāḡ mountains that was the focus of musical life, but it was at Tiflis that Caucasian musicians found the widest audience. Since the beginning of the century the most active musical center has been Baku.

The Iranian elements in the development of the Azeri tradition were numerous, as is shown by modern terminology (čahār meżrāb, bardāšt), as well as by certain pieces in the repertoire, recent gūša and maqām that have Iranian names (Bayāt-e Šīrāz, Šūštar, Delkaš, Šekasta-ye Fārs, Bayāt-e Qājār). Conversely, Azerbaijani elements are found in Iranian music, particularly in dance pieces (reng). (See also M. Rezvani, Le théâtre et la danse en Iran, Paris, 1962, p. 149.) Azeri art music is also played in other regions of the Caucasus, especially among the Armenians, who have adopted the system of maqām and the instruments kamāṇča and tār. Aside from these recent and older Iranian elements (the majority of the names of the maqām are already found in such Safavid sources as Behjat al-rūḥ, attributed to ʿAbd-al-Moʾmen b. Ṣafī-al-dīn), a certain number of maqām and melodic patterns are typically Azeri or have gradually become so (e.g. Segāh, Čārgāh, Welāyetī, Qaṭār, Mobarqaʿ, and Kord-Šahnāz).

The musical traditions of Azerbaijan were already distinct from those of the area now known as Soviet Azerbaijan, but they became definitively separated toward the end of the 13th/19th century, with Iranian Azerbaijan opting for the purely Iranian style. Subsequently the music of the Soviet Azerbaijan underwent a period of Western acculturation marked by the reduction of the seventeen intervals in the octave to twelve tempered half tones, the integration of Western instruments, polyphony, and orchestration. On the other hand, a music that is Western in form but national in style developed, integrating such traditional elements as instruments (tār, kamāṇča, daf, and bālamān), rhythms, modes, and melodies. The founder of this new school was Hajibekov (1895-1948).

Ultimately acculturation has not deeply affected the old music, which is still performed by great interpreters faithful to their tradition. In the popular domain, the ʿāšeq bards have never stopped singing in cafes and at family celebrations, accompanying themselves on the sāz (čoḡūr in Azerbaijani Persian) and also accompanied by the reed flute (bālamān) and the tambourine (qawan[w]āl).

Bases of Azeri music. The scales in Azeri music are constructed from the following intervals, reproducing the octave division on the neck of the tār lute: see Chart 1.

Other, more abstract divisions are given in Grove’s Dictionary of Music. This scale, which incorporates popular elements (the ʿāšeq tradition), is distinct from the Persian, Turkish, and Arab traditions. It may have been inspired by that of Ṣafī-al-dīn, whom the Azeris knew. (In the 13th/19th century Ḥājjī Sayyed Aḥmad Qarabāḡī of Šūša compiled a small work on musical terms, entitled Wożūḥ al-aḡrām, from older sources.)

The art music tradition transmitted through several generations in the Mansurov family includes twelve principal modes (Rašt, Māhūr-e hendī, Segāh-Zābol, Čārgāh, Homāyūn, Šūštar, Bayāt-e Šīrāz, Šūr, Bayāt-e Kord, Bayāt-e Qājār, Rahāb, Navā-Nīšāpūr) and ten secondary modes (Delkaš, Kord-Šahnāz, Dogāh, Qaṭār, Eṣfahān, Čobān Bayātī, Orta-Māhūr, Orta-Segāh, Ḵārej-Segāh, Mīrzā Ḥosayn-Segāh, the last four being variants of Māhūr and Segāh). Beside these a certain number of small maqāms, generally played within the framework of a more important maqām, can be mentioned: Ḥosaynī, Welāyatī, Ḵojasta, Šekasta-ye Fārs, ʿErāq, Panjgāh, Rāk, Sāranj, Zābol, Basta-Negār, Ḥasār, Moḵālef, Manṣūrī, ʿOššāq, Samā-ye Šams, Mobarqaʿ, Rahāb, Ḥejāz, Daštī.

The majority of these maqāms can be taken as types of such modal compositions as the rhythmic introduction to a mode (darāmad), songs (taṣnīf), and dance tunes (reng, derenga). Finally, there are about 100 melodic types (šoʿba and gūša) that never serve as modal patterns for compositions but are interpreted in the course of development of the principal maqām. Some of them are rhythmically unmarked melodies; others are rhythmic transitions. Each of the twelve great maqāms includes between ten and twenty of these sequences, each of which has a name. Altogether they constitute an ideal repertoire, serving as a basis for improvisation and composition, which is quite comparable to the Persian radīf and embodies the originality of this system in relation to neighboring traditions.

A certain number of established classical compositions for voice and instruments, the żarbī maqāmlar, stand outside the range of the maqām. They are Arazbāra, Oṯmānlī (or Mānī), Owšār, Heyrātī, Heyrātī-Kābolī (instrumental), ʿErāq-Kābolī, Samā-ye Šams, Manṣūrīya, Ḥaydarī, and Ozzāl-Żarbī.

For a music sample, see Chahārgāh.

For a music sample, see Šahnāz.

For a music sample, see Segāh Yatim.

Bibliography :

Ch. Albright, The Music of Professional Musicians of Northwest Iran (Azerbayjan), Ph.D. thesis, University of Washington, 1976. R. At’ayan, “Azerbaijan,” in TheNew Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. S. Sadie, vol. 19, London, 1980, pp. 349-52. A. Badalbeyli, Musigi lugati, Baku, 1969. B. M. Belyaev, “Muzykal’naya kul’tura Azerbaĭdzhana,” in Ocherki po istorii muzyki narodov SSSR, ed. G. A. Balter, II, Moscow, 1963, pp. 5-81. E. M. Eldarova, “Iskusstvo azerbaĭdzhanskikh ashugov,” in Azerbaĭdzhanskaya narodnaya muzyka, Baku, 1981. U. Hajibekov, Principles of Azerbaijan Folk Music, Baku, 1985. M. Ismailov, Zhanry azerbaĭdzhanskoĭ narodnoĭ muzyki, Baku, 1960. R. Ḵāleqī, Sargoḏašt-e mūsīqī-e Īrān, Tehran, 1353 Š./1974. M. H. ʿOḏḏārī, Tārīḵ-epanjāh sāl-e honarmandān-e mūsīqī-e Irān dar Āḏarbāyjān, Tabrīz, 1972. S. Rustamov, F. Amirov, and T. Kuliev, Azerbaijan khalg mahrïlarï, 2 vols., Baku, 1956, 1958. Z. Safarova, Ouzéir Hadjibekov, Baku, 1985. F. Shushinski, Seyid Shushinski, Baku, 1966. J. Spector, “Musical Tradition and Innovation,” in Central Asia. A Century of Russian Rule, ed. E. Allworth, New York, 1967, pp. 434-84. R. Zohraov, Azerbaĭdzhanskie tesnify, Moscow, 1983.

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(J. During)

Originally Published: December 15, 1988

Last Updated: August 18, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. III, Fasc. 3, pp. 255-257