The etchnic culture of Azerbaijan
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Sounding of instrument

Qaval, decorated with mother-of pearls
by B.Balabeyov.
Baku. 2001

The gaval belongs to the group of unilateral percussion instruments (photo 7). There is a lot of information about this instrument found in the works of medieval poets. Images of gavals are presented in ancient miniatures, showing that this instrument was widespread in Azerbaijan during the Middle Ages. Most likely, it is the only instrument that has preserved its original shape. It has never been neglected. The gaval was mainly used in palace musical majlises during the Middle Ages.

There are varying sizes of gavals found in Eastern countries and Central Asia. Even though the gaval is considered to be a membranophone instrument, it has some of the features of an idiophone instrument. Metal rings, or sometimes a set of four small jingles, hang from the body, producing a unique sound when the instrument is shaken.

The gaval was included as a lead instrument in the Traditional Instruments Orchestra founded by Azerbaijani composer Uzeyir Hajibeyov, who also wrote the first musical scores for this instrument. Nowadays, the gaval plays a significant role in ensembles and orchestras composed of traditional instruments. This instrument has wide performance capabilities because it is possible for it to produce trills, tremolos, mordents and other musical features.

The gaval is always part of a mugham trio (musical group consisting of a singer, tar player and kamancha player) that performs genres and forms of traditional Azerbaijani music such as "rangs", "derameds", "tasnifs" and "zarbi-mughams". The gaval's cylindrical frame is 60-75 mm tall, and its diameter is 340-450 mm. It is made of walnut wood, with 60-70 small copper rings fitted to the inner side of its frame along the perimeter. Sturgeon skin that has been tanned in a special way is stretched over the round frame. The thinness and transparency of the fish skin makes the sound of the instrument especially pleasant. While playing on the instrument, the performer holds it with his hands and plays with his fingers. Sometimes the gaval is slapped as well.


        © Musigi Dunyasi