The etchnic culture of Azerbaijan
Ethnic culture of AzerbaijanMail usMain page


The lecture is presented
by the author, ethnomusicologist, docent of Azerbaijan
National Conservatory Fattah Khaligzade.

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Republic of Azerbaijan situated in Transcaucasus, to the west shores of the Caspian Sea, is a polyethnic state of the Middle East. Beside the Azerbaijanis, which constitute more than 90% of the country’s population, here are living also Russians, Talyshes, Lezgis, Georgians, Avarians, Tsakhurs, Jews, Tatars, as well as other national and ethnical minorities, which during the continuous historical period had successfully preserved their own cultural and folk traditions. The colorful folk music of the national minorities represents the organic part of the spiritual culture of Azerbaijan.

This quite difficult and still unexplored area of ethnomusicology constitutes the significant part of the huge projects “Atlas of the Traditional Music of Azerbaijan” which is carrying out by the international scientific-publicist journal “Musigi Dunyasi” under the scholarly leadership of the professor, doctor of art sciences Tariyel Mammadov. The given project includes also exploring the various local styles of the Azerbaijan folk music.

The authors of the new project based on the rich historical experience of their predecessors such as Scientific Research Cabinet of Music (1930s.), Baku Music Academy and Institute of Architecture and Arts of the National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan Republic (1960 - 1990) puts aim to collect and study folk music of the republic in all variety of the ethnic cultures and historical layers (archaic, traditional, modern).

The general overview of the Azerbaijan folk music should be started from the geographical localizations of the separate peoples and ethnic groups.

In the so-called Land of Fires live over 30 peoples and ethnicities, which worship such different religions as Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Beside Azerbaijanis the Turkic-speaking peoples are presented by Oguzs- Turks of Akhyska and Crimean Tatars as well as Kazan Tatars of the Kipchak origin. They had arrived in Azerbaijan in the first part of the XXth century. Tatars are living predominantly in Baku and Apsheron peninsula, whereas Turks had been settled also in the various rural localities of the country.

Caucasian peoples – Lezgis, Avarians, Tsakhurs, Rutuls apart from Dagestan AR inhabits also some of the north and north-west districts of Azerbaijan. Nearby (in the Qabala and Oguz districts) can be seen “Udis”, one of the ethnicities of the historical Caucasian Albania. The Georgians–christians and Georgian-speaking Moslems Ingiloys live in some border-line localities of the Gakh and Balaken districts. Azerbaijan is inhabited also by Iranian-speaking peoples – Talyshes, Tats, Moslem Kurds, as well as Judaist Mountain Jews. Christian peoples of various origin (Russians, Assyrians, Armenians) as well as Jews (Ashkenazis) belong to the different linguistic groups. If Russians and Jews had appeared in the ethnic map of Azerbaijan since the beginning of the XIXth century, Assyrians had arrived from the East Turkey a century later.

Now let us look at the issue of the generic typology in the folk music of the peoples and ethnic minorities of Azerbaijan. Ritual, calendar and work songs, laments and lullaby, lyrical songs and instrumental dance tunes of each culture are remarkable for their distinguish forms. The role of the certain genres in the different folklors is not identical, of course.

For instance, the instrumental dance tunes, performed by the zurna (double-reed wind instrument) and naghara drums take a predominant place among Lezgis, Avarians, Tsakhurs and Rutuls. These ethnicities shared the similar music style, typical melodic formulas and the same music instruments, such as zurna, balaban, naghara, tutek, sipsi, tanbur and others. At the same time in the folk music of the Caucasian peoples of Azerbaijan one can feel subtle characteristic details, which can became a subject for the special research works.

Russians and Tatars, differs in language and religion, however have much in common, such as solo and choir singing without accompaniment, lyrical songs of the cantilena style, which undoubtedly, had been formed as a result of close cultural contacts at their homeland. At the same time we should point out the more prevailing role of the pentatonic in Tatar folk music.

Rich generic and performing traditions are peculiar for the folk music of Talyshes, inhabiting in the South-East part of the republic. Old traditions of their wedding, calendar and work songs, as well as “halay” – dance songs, performed by women ensemble, had been sufficiently preserved up to our days. As a poetical basis for many examples they use texts both in Talysh and Azerbaijan languages, which is evidence of the close relationship.

Such relationship and interactions between the different national and ethnic communities of Azerbaijan depend to the high extent on the historical and geographical factors. Folk music of the peoples, living in Azerbaijan for many centuries, had been submitted to the remarkable degree of inter-influences calling to life in some cases bi-culturalism in terms of both music and text. In this connection let us mention folk music of Talyshes and Tats, partly also those of Tsakhurs and Mountain Jews. On the contrary, people which arrived in Azerbaijan during the last two centuries, such as Russians, Tatars, Turks, Ukrainians could preserve their folk traditions in more pure forms.

The rich music heritage of the all people and ethnicities of Azerbaijan offers a valuable material for the development of ethnomusicology and consolidation of all society of our republic.

At last, we would like to draw attention to the words by the Abdulla Shaig – one of the outstanding representatives of Azerbaijan literature of new period: “We are all the particles of the same Sun”.



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