Bards usually perform the Köroǧlu/Goroḡli epic to the accompaniment of a string instrument, such as the sāz, the dambura, or the dutār. In some traditions, Köroǧlu/Goroḡli is an entirely separate music genre whose performance requires a demanding training in vocal technique and memory. In Badaḵšān, for example, the interpreter of Goroḡli produces a distinctive sound quality in a “low and guttural voice” (Sakata, p. 57). In contemporary Tajikistan and northern Afghanistan, singers specialized in performing Goroḡli are called Goroḡli-ḵᵛān (Reichl, pp. 326-27), Gorḡoli-ḵᵛān (Sakata, pp. 97-98, 165), or Goroḡli-gu (Slobin, pp. 125-26). The distinction between an ʿāšeq and a Kuroḡli-ḵᵛān, whose “duty is to know by heart all the mejles [episodes],” was already identified by Chodźko (pp. 13-14), though this distinction does not seem to apply to Khorasan and contemporary Azerbaijan.

Nowadays, in order to memorize each episode (Pers. majles, šāḵ; Turk. qol) of the epic a singer also resorts to literary sources, preserved in handwritten notes or inexpensive imprints. In Khorasan, a baḵši often owns a copy of Kolliyāt-e dāstān-e Kuroḡli (FIGURE 1), the 1990s reprint of which (22 × 14.5 cm, 168 pages) has a wrapper, printed on the back of a commercial advertisement.This printed version of Köroǧlu comprises a collection of Azeri Turkish quatrains (qošma) alternating with a Persian prose narrative (cf. Chodźko’s original manuscript, see i, above). Karl Reichl (pp. 324-25) and Mark Slobin (p. 109) have described how during a performance the bard adapts his prose to the language of his audience, though he retains Azeri Turkish as the language of the poetry. While the prosimetric form is prevalent in some of the traditions found in Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, or Uzbekistan, other traditions, such as those in Kazakhstan and Armenia, only use verses (Reichl, p. 324).

The traditional venues for the performance of the Köroǧlu/Goroḡli epic are life-cycle celebrations, private gatherings, and teahouses (see ČĀY). In Azerbaijan and northern Khorasan, from the 17th century up to the Islamic Revolution of 1978, teahouses played a pivotal role in the diffusion and the preservation of the epic. The performance of each majles could span several hours or days. In of Ḵᵛārazm (see CHORASMIA), for example, a baḵši requested seventeen days to perform an entire cycle (Reichl, p. 323).

The interpreter of Köroǧlu uses different melody types for his performance as he accompanies himself on his instrument. Most melodies accommodate strophes organized in quatrains, with each line comprised of 8 or 11 syllables. The strophes are usually separated by an interlude in which the instrumental rendition of the vocal melody is performed. In Khorasan, the Köroǧlu tune is characterized by a descending contour from the highest to the lowest note, a large range that often exceeds an octave, and a final resolution that resembles a plagal cadence. Moreover, in Khorasan, the Köroǧlu tune can also be performed as a purely instrumental piece to accompany a traditional Iranian wrestling match (košti), and the musicians (ʿāšeq; in Khorasan the word is used as a synonym of moṭreb and therefore does not mean bard, as it does in Azerbaijan) play a conical oboe (sornā) and a double-headed cylindrical drum (dohol).

The martial or heroic character of some Köroǧlu tunes is reflected in the titles, particularly in their adjectives. In Azerbaijan, the tunes are called JangiKöroǧlu (“the warrior Köroǧlu”), Dali Köroǧlu (“angry Köroǧlu”), or Qânli Köroǧlu (“bloody Köroǧlu”), while in Khorasan the baḵši calls them “warlike” (Pers. razmi).

In the modal system known as the dastgāh of Māhur, Köroǧlu is also the name of a melodic unit (guša), which comprises an instrumental dance piece (reng) in 6/8 meter. This guša is sometimes performed as an opening instrumental piece (pišdarāmad) or as a closing reng by a soloist or an ensemble. It is mentioned in the traditional corpus (radif) published by Musā Maʿrufi in 1963 and in the new edition of the repertory of Mirzā ʿAbdollah (1843-1918), edited by Jean During. In 1967, Stephen Blum recorded a version of Nur ʿAli Borumand (1905-1977), which is available in the University of Illinois Archive of Ethnomusicology.

For a music sample, see ʿĀšeq Jonun.

For a music sample, see Gurughli.

For a music sample, see Köroğlu (1).

For a music sample, see Köroğlu (2).

For a music sample, see The Köroğlu Story: an Excerpt.



F. Arsunar, Köroǧlu, Ankara, 1963.

A. Chodźko, Specimens of the Popular Poetry of Persia; please see i, above.

J. During, The Radif of Mirzâ Abdollâh: A Canonic Repertory of Persian Music, Tehran, 2006, printed music with commentary in Persian and English, esp. pp. 276-79.

Kolliyāt-e dāstān-e Kuroḡli, ed. S. Qamari, Tabriz, 1966; repr., Tabriz, n.d.

M. Maʿrufi, Šarḥ-e radif-e musiqi-ye Irān:Radif-e haft dastgāh-e musiqi-ye Irān, Tehran, 1963, printed music; repr. as Radif-e haft dastgāh-e musiqi-ye Irān, ed. M. Barkešli, Tehran, 1995.

K. Reichl, Turkic Oral Epic Poetry: Traditions, Forms, Poetic Structure, The Albert Bates Lord Studies in Oral Tradition 7, New York, 1992.

U. Reinhard and T. de O. Pinto, Sänger und Poeten mit der Laute: Türkische Ãsik und Ozan, Veröffentlichungen des Museums für Völkerkunde N.F. 47, Berlin, 1989, with two audiocassettes, esp. pp. 85-86, 115-18, 132, 232-34.

H. L. Sakata, Music in the Mind: The Concepts of Music and Musician in Afghanistan, Kent, Ohio, 1983, esp. pp. 28-29, 57-58, 97-98, 165-78.

M. Slobin, Music in the Culture of Northern Afghanistan, Viking Fund Publications in Anthropology 54, Tucson, Ariz., 1976, esp. pp. 122, 125-26.

S. Zerańska-Kominek and A. Lebeuf, The Tale of Crazy Harman: The Musician and the Concept of Music in the Türkmen Epic Tale Harman Däli, tr. from the Polish by J. Ossowski, ed. R. Hill, Warsaw, 1997.


Azerbaidjan: Musique et chants des âshiq, recording of Ashiq Hasan et al., notes by Jean During, Archives Internationales de Musique Populaire AIMP 29, Donneloye, Switzerland, 1990, compact disc, tracks 3 and 5.

Iran: Bardes du Khorassan, field recordings, notes by Ameneh Youssefzadeh, Ocora C 560136, Paris 1998, compact disc, track 7.

“Köroǧlu”dastanı vallarının albomuna, recording of Tariel’ Mamedov, Baku, 1987, 2 LPs.

Song Creators of Eastern Turkey, recording of Murat Çobanoǧlu et al., notes by Ursula Reinhard, Traditional Music of the World 6, Smithsonian Folkways SF 40432, Washington, D.C., 1993, compact disc, tracks 1, 5, 8, 17, and 19.

Turkmen Epic Singing: Köroğlu, field recordings, notes by Sławomira Zerańska-Kominek, Anthologie des Musiques Traditionelles: UNESCO Collection D 8213, Gentilly, 1994, compact disc.

Turkmenistan: Chants des femmes bakhshi, recording of Djamala Saparova et al., Engl. and Fr. notes by Sławomira Zerańska-Kominek, Inédit W 260064, Paris, 1995, compact disc, tracks 2 and 8.

Turkmenistan: La musique des bakhshy, field recordings, notes by Sławomira Zerańska-Kominek, Archives Internationales de Musique Populaire AIMP 22, Lausanne, 1991, compact disc, track 12.

Sounds from the Plain, recording of Sima Bina et al., Caltex Records 2190, Canoga Park, Calif., 1997, compact disc, track 3.

(Ameneh Youssefzadeh)

Originally Published: August 15, 2009

Last Updated: August 15, 2009

Cite this entry:

Ameneh Youssefzadeh, “KÖROĞLU ii. PERFORMANCE ASPECTS,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2009, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/kroglu-ii-performance-aspects (accessed on 20 September 2016).