Music of Azerbaijan

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Music of Azerbaijan
Seyid Shushinski ansambl.jpg
General topics
Specific forms
Traditional music
Media and performance
Music festivals
Music media Medeniyyet TV
Nationalistic and patriotic songs
National anthem March of Azerbaijan

Azerbaijani music (Azerbaijani: Azərbaycan musiqisi) is the musical tradition of the Azerbaijani people from Azerbaijan Republic. It builds on folk traditions that reach back nearly 1,000 years. [1] For centuries, Azerbaijani music has evolved under the badge of monody, producing rhythmically diverse melodies. [2] Music from Azerbaijan has a branch mode system, where chromatisation of major and minor scales is of great importance. [2]

Azerbaijani language Turkic language

Azerbaijani or Azeri, sometimes also Azeri Turkic or Azeri Turkish, is a term referring to two Turkic lects that are spoken primarily by the Azerbaijanis, who live mainly in Transcaucasia and Iran. Caucasian Azerbaijani and Iranian Azerbaijani have significant differences in phonology, lexicon, morphology, syntax, and sources of loanwords. ISO 639-3 groups the two lects as a "macrolanguage".

Folk music Music of the people

Folk music includes traditional folk music and the genre that evolved from it during the 20th-century folk revival. Some types of folk music may be called world music. Traditional folk music has been defined in several ways: as music transmitted orally, music with unknown composers, or music performed by custom over a long period of time. It has been contrasted with commercial and classical styles. The term originated in the 19th century, but folk music extends beyond that.


In poetry, the term monody has become specialized to refer to a poem in which one person laments another's death.


Classical music

In 1920, Azerbaijani classical music had undergone a renaissance and Baku Academy of Music was founded to give classical musicians the same support as folk musicians. Modern day advocates of Western classical music in Azerbaijani include Farhad Badalbeyli, Fidan Gasimova and Franghiz Alizadeh.

Baku Academy of Music university

The Hajibeyov Baku Academy of Music is a music school in Baku, Azerbaijan. It was established in 1920 in Baku and was previously known as the Hajibeyov Azerbaijan State Conservatoire.

Farhad Shamsi oglu Badalbeyli is an Azerbaijani pianist and composer.

Fidan Gasimova Azerbaijani singer and actress

Fidan Akram gizi Gasimova, born June 17, 1947 in Baku, Azerbaijan SSR, is an Azerbaijani operatic soprano who was named a People's Artist of the USSR in 1988.

Opera and Ballet

Maude tower ballet Qamar Aslanzade and Batashov.jpg
Scene from Ballet of "The Maiden Tower" by Afrasiyab Badalbeyli
Leyli & Mejnun.jpg
Scene from Ballet of "Leyli and Majnun" by Gara Garayev
Uzeyir Hacib@yov5.gif
Ahmad Javad.jpg

The emergence of opera and ballet in Azerbaijan is associated with the Imperial Russian and Soviet era of Azerbaijani history when Azerbaijani musicians became exposed to European music traditions first-hand. The very first documented performance of an opera in Baku took place in May 1889 when Alexey Verstovsky's opera Askold's grave was staged at a circus arena in Baku (on the site of the current Azerbaijan Carpet Museum building), accompanied by the folk choir of Dmitry Agrenev-Slavyanski. Beginning in 1900, opera troupes toured Baku on a yearly basis (except 1901 and 1913), featuring prominent singers of the time such as Natalia Ermolenko-Yuzhina and Antonina Nezhdanova.

Russian Empire former country, 1721–1917

The Russian Empire, also known as Imperial Russia or simply Russia, was an empire that extended across Eurasia and North America from 1721, following the end of the Great Northern War, until the Republic was proclaimed by the Provisional Government that took power after the February Revolution of 1917.

Alexey Verstovsky Russian composer

Alexey Nikolayevich Verstovsky was a Russian composer, musical bureaucrat and rival of Mikhail Glinka.

<i>Askolds Grave</i> (opera) opera

Askold's Grave is an opera in four acts by Alexey Verstovsky (1799–1862) to a libretto by Mikhail Zagoskin (1789–1852).

Prominent Azerbaijani opera singers such as Bulbul, Shovkat Mammadova, Fatma Mukhtarova, Huseyngulu Sarabski, Hagigat Rzayeva, Rashid Behbudov, Rauf Atakishiyev, Muslim Magomayev, Lutfiyar Imanov, Fidan and Khuraman Gasimovas, Rubaba Muradova, Zeynab Khanlarova and many other singers gained world fame. [3]

Bulbul family of birds

The bulbuls are a family, Pycnonotidae, of medium-sized passerine songbirds. Many forest species are known as greenbuls, brownbuls, leafloves, or bristlebills. The family is distributed across most of Africa and into the Middle East, tropical Asia to Indonesia, and north as far as Japan. Bulbuls homeland is Iraq. A few insular species occur on the tropical islands of the Indian Ocean There are over 150 species in 27 genera. While some species are found in most habitats, the African species are predominantly found in rainforest. Rainforest species are rare in Asia, however, with Asian bulbuls preferring more open areas.

Shovkat Mammadova Azerbaijani singer

Shovkat Hasan qizi Mammadova was an Azerbaijani opera singer and music instructor.

Fatma Mukhtarova Russian singer

Fatma Sattarovna Mukhtarova was a Russian and Soviet opera singer (mezzo-soprano), Honorary Artist of Georgia, and People's Artist of Azerbaijan.

Folk music

Most songs recount stories of real life events and Azerbaijani folklore, or have developed through song contests between troubadour poets. [4] Corresponding to their origins, folk songs are usually played at weddings, funerals and special festivals.

Azerbaijani folklore is the folk tradition of Azerbaijanis which has developed throughout the centuries.

Regional folk music generally accompanies folk dances, which vary significantly across regions. The regional mood also affects the subject of the folk songs, e.g. folk songs from the Caspian Sea are lively in general and express the customs of the region. Songs about betrayal have an air of defiance about them instead of sadness, whereas the further south travelled in Azerbaijan the more the melodies resemble a lament. [5]

Caspian Sea lake in Asia and Europe, largest enclosed inland body of water on Earth

The Caspian Sea is the world's largest inland body of water, variously classed as the world's largest lake or a full-fledged sea. It is an endorheic basin located between Europe and Asia, to the east of the Caucasus Mountains and to the west of the broad steppe of Central Asia. The sea has a surface area of 371,000 km2 and a volume of 78,200 km3. It has a salinity of approximately 1.2%, about a third of the salinity of most seawater. It is bounded by Kazakhstan to the northeast, Russia to the northwest, Azerbaijan to the west, Iran to the south, and Turkmenistan to the southeast. The Caspian Sea is home to a wide range of species and may be best known for its caviar and oil industries. Pollution from the oil industry and dams on rivers draining into the Caspian Sea have had negative effects on the organisms living in the sea.

Lament literary genre

A lament or lamentation is a passionate expression of grief, often in music, poetry, or song form. The grief is most often born of regret, or mourning. Laments can also be expressed in a verbal manner, where the participant would lament about something they regret or someone they've lost, usually accompanied by wailing, moaning and/or crying. Laments constitute some of the oldest forms of writing and examples are present across human cultures.

As this genre is viewed as a music of the people, musicians in socialist movements began to adapt folk music with contemporary sounds and arrangements in the form of protest music.

Folk instruments

Balaban is considered Azerbaijan's national instrument. Balaban Azerbaijani.JPG
Balaban is considered Azerbaijan's national instrument.

Instruments used in traditional Azeri music include the stringed instruments tar (skin faced lute), the kamancha (skin faced spike fiddle), the oud , originally barbat, and the saz (long necked lute); the double-reed wind instrument balaban , the frame drum ghaval , the cylindrical double faced drum nagara ( davul ), and the gosha nagara (pair of small kettle drums). Other instruments include the garmon (small accordion), tutek (whistle flute), and daf (frame drum).

Due to the cultural crossbreeding prevalent during the Ottoman Empire, the tutek has influenced various cultures in the Caucasus region, e.g. the duduks. The zurna and naghara duo is also popular in rural areas, and played at weddings and other local celebrations. [6]


Ashiqs are travelling bards who sing and play the saz, a form of lute. Their songs are semi-improvised around a common base. This art is one of the symbols of Azerbaijani culture and considered an emblem of national identity and the guardian of Azerbaijani language, literature and music.

Characterized by the accompaniment of the kopuz, a stringed musical instrument, the classical repertoire of Azerbaijani Ashiqs includes 200 songs, 150 literary-musical compositions known as dastans, nearly 2,000 poems and numerous stories.

Since 2009 the art of Azerbaijani Ashiqs has been inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.


Meykhana is a distinctive Azerbaijani literary and folk rap tradition, consisting of an unaccompanied song performed by one or more people improvising on a particular subject. [7] [8] Meykhana is distinct from spoken word poetry in that it is performed in time to a beat.

Meykhana is often compared to hip hop music, also known as national rap among Azerbaijani residents, as it also includes performers that is spoken lyrically, in rhyme and verse, generally to an instrumental or synthesized beat. [9] Performers also incorporate synthesizers, drum machines, and live bands. Meykhana masters may write, memorize, or improvise their lyrics and perform their works a cappella or to a beat. [10]


Mugham is one of the many folk musical compositions from Azerbaijan, contrast with Tasnif , Ashugs . [11] Mugam draws on Arabic maqam. [12]

It is a highly complex art form that weds classical poetry and musical improvisation in specific local modes. Mugham is a modal system. [13] 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. [14] Mugham is a compound composition of many parts. The choice of a particular mugham and a style of performance fits a specific event. [14] 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. [14]

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 of Karabakh 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. [15] [16] [17]

In 2003, UNESCO proclaimed mugham as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. [18]

Popular music is distinguished from the traditional genres as those styles that entered the Azerbaijani musicality after the fall of the Soviet Union, either due to attempts of national modernization from 1918 onwards, the opening of the republic to Western musical influences or modern fusions and innovations from artists themselves. [19]

Mainstream pop

Nikki Jamal became one of the most successful pop artists of the 2010s. Nigar Camal 2012.jpg
Nikki Jamal became one of the most successful pop artists of the 2010s.

Azerbaijani pop music had its humble beginnings in the late 1950s with Azerbaijani cover versions of a wide range of imported popular styles, including rock and roll, tango, and jazz. As more styles emerged, they were also adopted, such as hip hop, heavy metal and reggae.

Azerbaijani pop music reached new level after the country made its debut appearance at the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest. The country's entry gained the third place in 2009 and fifth the following year. [20] Ell and Nikki won the first place at the Eurovision Song Contest 2011 with the song "Running Scared", entitling Azerbaijan to host the contest in 2012, in Baku. [21] [22]

The biggest pop stars in Azerbaijan are arguably Roya, Aygun Kazimova and Brilliant Dadashova. [23]

Azerbaijani jazz

The Azerbaijani jazz is a popular variety of jazz, widespread in Azerbaijan. It covers a broad range of styles (traditional, post-pop, fusion, free flexion) [24] and often features a blend with traditional Azerbaijani music. Among modern famed Azeri jazz musicians are Aziza Mustafazadeh, who was influenced by Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett, [25] Isfar Sarabski, Salman Gambarov and Rain Sultanov.

Azerbaijani hip hop

The first Azerbaijani hip-hop song "Yesterday is Past", created in 1983 by Chingiz Mustafayev, who would later become Azerbaijan's national hero for unrelated reasons. [26] The pioneer of Azerbaijani rap often associated with name of Anar Nagilbaz in 1992, which also included elements of disco but the popularity of the rap genre came with the rise of Dayirman, which included primarily patriotic elements. [27]

Azerbaijani rock

The Azerbaijani rock scene began in the mid-to late 1960s, when popular United States and United Kingdom bands became well-known. Soon, a distinctively Azerbaijani fusion of rock and folk emerged; this was called Azerbaijani rock, a term which nowadays may be generically ascribed to most of Azerbaijani rock. [28] Coldünya and Yuxu are the best known group of older classical Azerbaijani rock music.

Electronic dance music

There are many clubs across Azerbaijan, especially across its Baku region. [29] The alternative music scene however is derived mostly from Baku's club scene that sees DJs merging the past with the present, utilising traditional motifs with new age sounds and electronic music. [30]

See also

Related Research Articles

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Uzeyir Hajibeyov Azerbaijani composer

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Azerbaijani hip hop is the musical genre which became popular in Azerbaijan in mid-1990s. It's a mix of native meykhana genre of Azerbaijani music with Western hip hop.

Mugham folk musical composition from Azerbaijan

Mugham is one of the many folk musical compositions from Azerbaijan, contrasting with tasnif and ashiks.

Ashik Saz poets

An Ashik was traditionally a singer who accompanied his song— be it a dastan or a shorter original composition—with a long necked lute (bağlama) in Turkish culture and related Turkic cultures. The modern Azerbaijani ashik is a professional musician who usually serves an apprenticeship, masters playing the bağlama, and builds up a varied but individual repertoire of Turkic folk songs. The word ashiq عاشق is subjective forms derives from ishq عشق (love), related to Avestan iš- "to wish, desire, search". The Turkish term that ashik superseded was ozan. In the early armies of the Turks, as far back as that of Attila, the ruler was invariably accompanied by an ozan. The heroic poems, which they recited to the accompaniment of the kopuz, flattered the sensibilities of an entire people.


Meykhana is a distinctive Azerbaijani literary and folk rap tradition, consisting of an unaccompanied song performed by one or more people improvising on a particular subject. Meykhana is distinct from spoken word poetry in that it is performed in time to a beat.

Alim Qasimov Azerbaijani mugham singer

Alim Hamza oglu Qasimov is an Azerbaijani musician and one of the foremost mugham singers in Azerbaijan. He was awarded the International Music Council-UNESCO Music Prize in 1999, one of the highest international accolades for music. His music is characterized by his vocal improvisation and represents a move away from the traditional style of mugham. Qasimov has recorded nine albums, three of which are mugham albums with his daughter, Farghana Qasimova.

Vagif Mustafazadeh Azerbaijani musician

Vagif Mustafazadeh, also known as Vaqif Mustafa-Zadeh, was an Azerbaijani jazz pianist and composer, acclaimed for fusing jazz and the traditional Azerbaijani folk music known as mugham. According to many world famous jazz musicians, Mustafazadeh is one of the pioneers and "the architect of jazz in Azerbaijan".

Balaban (instrument) double reed wind instrument of the duduk family

Balaban, or balaman is cylindrical-bore, double-reed wind instrument about 35 centimetres (14 in) long with eight finger holes and one thumb hole. Balaban, one of the ancient wind instruments, is played in all corners of Azerbaijan. This instrument is played in Iranian Azerbaijan and in the Republic of Azerbaijan.

Kamil Jalilov is a musician known for his master expertise playing wind instruments and Azerbaijani folk instruments.

Ashiqs of Azerbaijan intangible cultural heritage

The art of Azerbaijani Ashiqs combines poetry, storytelling, dance and vocal and instrumental music into a traditional performance art. This art is one of the symbols of Azerbaijani culture and considered an emblem of national identity and the guardian of Azerbaijani language, literature and music.

When the Music Dies single

"When the Music Dies" is a song by singer Sabina Babayeva. It represented Azerbaijan in the Eurovision Song Contest 2012, coming fourth overall with a grand total of 150 points.

The Azerbaijan State Museum of Musical Culture was opened in 1967, in Baku. The goal of the museum is the collection, storage, investigation and popularization of materials related to the musical history of Azerbaijan.

Opera in Azerbaijan

Opera in Azerbaijan has a history dating back to the 19th century Russian Empire.

Azerbaijani musical instruments

Azerbaijani traditional musical instruments are designed for emotional color, rhythm, tempo and artistic features of Azerbaijani traditional music. Furthermore, it got through a very long path of historic development and carried many characteristic features of Azerbaijani traditional music. Many of string, wind and percussion instruments were made long before our era and developed over the course of the history and provided a basis for Azerbaijani traditional musical treasury.

Azerbaijani pop music music genre

Azerbaijani pop music had its humble beginnings in the late 1950s with Azerbaijani cover versions of a wide range of imported popular styles, including rock and roll, tango, and jazz. As more styles emerged, they were also adopted, such as hip hop, rock and reggae.

Azerbaijani folk music song

Azerbaijani folk music combines the distinct cultural values of all civilisations that have lived in Azerbaijan and Iranian Azerbaijan region.

Azerbaijani classical music

Azerbaijani classical music includes a range of musical styles rooted in the traditions of Western or European classical music that European settlers brought to the country from the 20th century and onwards.

Jazz mugham

The Jazz mugham is a variant of a musical fusion genre that developed from mixing Azerbaijani jazz with mugham, typically instrumental compositions with a jazz approach to lengthy group improvisations, often using wind and vocal music and displaying a high level of instrumental technique.


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