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Sounding of instrument

Ana saz
The State Museum of Azerbaijani Musical Culture

The saz is a string instrument that is played with a plectrum . It is an integral part of the ashug art, rooted in the tradition of the great ozans. Moreover, the saz is one of the symbols of the Turkic world and Turkic spirituality.

The syncretic art of ashugs, which combines playing an instrument, reciting poetry, singing, telling epics as well as acting and dancing (plastic art) is, along with mugham art, is connected with the most ancient layers of Azerbaijan's national culture. The predecessor of today's ashug was considered to be very creative and was known among ancient Turkic peoples as "shaman", "oyun", "bakhshi", "yanshag", "varsag" and "ozan".

Just as the ozan's art has been passed down throughout thousands of years of evolution to the art of the ashugs, the gopuz has developed to become the ashug saz. The modern Azerbaijani saz is considered to be the perfect descendant of the gopuz. Its modern shape was already formed by Shah Ismail Khatai's epoch. There are some beautiful lines about the saz in one of the poems by Shah Ismayil Khatai (16th century):

Today I have not taken my saz in my hands, Therefore my voice is disappearing away into the sky. There are four important things that everybody needs: Science, words, singing and saz.28

The modern Azerbaijani saz differs from the saz that is widespread among other Turkic peoples in terms of its technical performance and acoustic features, with considerable advantages.

Saz, decorated with mother-of-pearl
Maker - B.Balabeyov. Baku. 1999.

The body of the saz is made of specific kinds of mulberry wood. The neck is made of nut wood. The trunk of the body is assembled from wooden pieces in an odd number (usually nine). These lags are assembled on a small part called the "kup". which connects the body with the neck. The neck is attached to the "kup". The top of the body is covered with a thin wooden sounding board, and 16-17 frets are fastened to the instrument's finger-board.

The "tavar saz", or "ana saz", has nine, sometimes eight strings. The smaller "orta" or "goltug" saz has six, sometimes seven strings. The "jura saz", which is the smallest, has four to six strings. In former times, the strings were made of high-quality steel that had been dipped in a silver solution; such strings never rusted and broke only in very rare cases.

In an orchestra of national instruments, the saz is used as a solo instrument. Usually, the "goltug" or "jura" saz is used for this purpose. The sound of the saz is produced with the help of a plectrum, made as a rule from cherry bark. Quite often the neck and lateral parts of the instrument are decorated with mother-of-pearl.

The basic "Tavar" saz has a total length of 1,200 mm. The depth of the body is 200 mm. The tavar saz's range goes from the "do" of the first octave to the "sol" of the second octave.


        © Musigi Dunyasi