Dating back to extreme antiquity (5th century B.C.) musical culture of the Azerbaijan people absorbed the features of various cultural systems of South-West Asia and obtained a developed and multi-layer structure that included country and urban folklore, music of high tradition, some forms of religious practice, modern genres of classical and popular music of Western type. Azerbaijan that was an organic part of many ancient and medieval states where Zoroastrism dominated for a long time was named after Persian Âzarâbâdagân that means “a place protected by God of Fire”. “Fiery” character of the culture is reflected in specific energy of Azerbaijan folk songs and dances that combine frolicsome and delicate female images with passionate group dances often based on violent rotation. Azerbaijan traditional singing is remarkable for its special brightness and nerve-strain that is coloured with plenty of intonation ornaments.
Elements of many cultures, mainly of Persian and Turkish traditions, are easily recognized in the quaint palette of sounds. The specific system of musical thinking “mugam” (from Old Arabic maqām that means “meeting”, “a place of a tribe’s meeting”) makes related the Azerbaijan music with Persian culture in particular. The notion “maqām” is one of the most important in Sufism that means a stand on the mystic path that everyone must pass on his way to Divine Revelation. This is a multilayer notion that means the system of tonalities and melody formulas that correspond definite psycho-emotional states. It is also a type of vocal and music composition consisting of many parts.
Extraordinary music memory and absolute music ear are required from a musician to perform mugams. The skill to create sizable compositions spontaneously based on the strict canon and extensive code of melody models is also of significant. Besides possessing a beautiful voice a singer (hanende) must be well-acquainted with the classical poetry and metres of the poetic system aruz, and an instrumentalist (sazende) must be able both to accompany the singer and perform solo compositions. By the end of the 19th century seven main maqāms had been formed: Rust, Shur, Segyah, Shushter, Chargyah, Bayati-Shiraz, and Humayun. Every tonality is connected with a definite emotional state: Shur describes some lyrical mood, Rust is connected with cheerfulness, love is related with Segyah. etc.
Some common art features make Azerbaijan mugam similar to Arab maqām, Iranian dastgah, Uzbek and Tadzhik macom, Uyghur muqām and Indian raga. At the same time it is deeply original phenomenon that defines the specific of the national consciousness. In 2003 UNESCO announced Azerbaijan mugam one of “masterpieces of folklore and immaterial heritage of humanity”.
On this disk the pieces of vocal and instrumental music in the style of mugams are presented in the interpretation of outstanding musicians of modern Azerbaijan: singer Aliar Mamedov and oboe player Kamil Dzhalilov.
The intrinsic merit of preserving national song heritage belongs to hanende-singers. Sakina Ismailova, a brilliant virtuoso of traditional singing and connoisseur of mugams, made Azerbaijan songs famous far beyond the borders of her native country. The lyrical songs in her performance that belong to the “Golden fund” of Azerbaijan folk culture are collected on this disk. One more aspect of Azerbaijan vocal culture is connected with the creative work of poets and singers – ashugs (from Turkish Ashiq that means being in love); they are known as keepers of classical poetry, epic sagas (dastans), folk songs and who both sing well, play a musical instrument and possess a dramatic talent. In most cases, they play saz, a pear shaped string plucked instrument.
Joining Transcaucasia to Russia led to the Russian-educated Azerbaijan elite appearance and along with it to the new type Europeanized national culture generating. Among the new elements of this culture the collectives that combined the principles of traditional art and academic forms of development were formed. In 1931 Azerbaijan State Folk Instruments Orchestra was established on the initiative of Uzeyir Hajibekov, the founder of Azerbaijan composer music. It became the first notation folk instruments orchestra in the Orient that was organized as a symphony orchestra.
It was followed by establishing of many collectives of folk instruments ensembles such as “Araz” (art director A. Abdullaev) and “Hamayun” (art director A. Mamedov). The professional support of all forms of folk singing and dancing, development of virtuosic performance on different musical instruments is connected with the activity of these collectives. Today old Azerbaijan instruments such as balaban (an instrument with a double reed, an analogue of Armenian duduk), zurna that possesses a wide socket and piercing sound, a bag pipe tulum, a bow instrument kyamancha, plucked tar, saz, rubab, barbet, various drums such as nagara, dumbek, tambourine gaval. Alongside with all these national instruments the sound of borrowed classical instruments such as clarinet, oboe, violin and accordion obtained their deeply national specific character.
Assoc. Prof., Ph.D