Azerbaijani music (Azerbaijani: Azərbaycan musiqisi) is the musical tradition of the Azerbaijani people from Azerbaijan Republic. Azerbaijani music has evolved under the badge of monody, producing rhythmically diverse melodies.[1] Music from Azerbaijan has a branch mode system, where chromatisation of major and minor scales is of great importance.[1]

Classical music

Main article: Azerbaijani 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.

Opera and Ballet

Main articles: Azerbaijani opera and Azerbaijani ballet

Scene from Ballet of "The Maiden Tower" by Afrasiyab Badalbeyli
Scene from Ballet of "Leyli and Majnun" by Gara Garayev

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.

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.[2]

Folk music

Main article: Azerbaijani folk music

Most songs recount stories of real-life events and Azerbaijani folklore, or have developed through song contests between troubadour poets.[3] Corresponding to their origins, folk songs are usually played at weddings, funerals, and special festivals.

Folk instruments

Balaban is considered Azerbaijan's national instrument.

See also: Azerbaijani musical instruments and Tar (Azerbaijani instrument)

Instruments used in Azerbaijani 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.[4]


Main article: Ashiqs of Azerbaijan

Ashiqs are traveling 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.

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


Main article: Meykhana

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.[5][6] 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.[7] 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.[8]


Main articles: Mugam and Khananda

Mugham is one of the many folk musical compositions from Azerbaijan, contrast with Tasnif, Ashugs.[9] Mugam draws on Arabic maqam.[10]

It is an art form that weds classical poetry and musical improvisation in specific local modes. Mugham is a modal system.[11] 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.[12] Mugham is a compound composition of many parts. The choice of a particular mugham and a style of performance fits a specific event.[12] 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.[12]

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.[13][14][15]

In 2003, UNESCO proclaimed mugham as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.[16]

Popular music

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.[17]

Mainstream pop

Main article: Azerbaijani pop music

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.[18] 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.[19][20]

The biggest pop stars in Azerbaijan are arguably Roya, Aygun Kazimova and Brilliant Dadashova.[21]

Azerbaijani jazz

Main article: Azerbaijani jazz

The Azerbaijani jazz is a popular variety of jazz, widespread in Azerbaijan. It covers a broad range of styles (traditional, post-bop, fusion, free flexion)[22] 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,[23] Isfar Sarabski, Salman Gambarov and Rain Sultanov.

Azerbaijani hip hop

Main article: 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.[24] 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.[25]

Azerbaijani rock

Main article: 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 the Azerbaijani rock.[26] 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.[27] 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.[27]

See also


  1. ^ a b Энциклопедический музыкальный словарь, 2-е изд., Москва, 1966 (Encyclopedical Music Dictionary (1966-1967), 2nd ed., Moscow)
  2. ^ "Звезды азербайджанской оперы". Всероссийский Азербайджанский Конгресс. Archived from the original on 2014-09-03.
  3. ^ Broughton, Simon and Sultanova, Razia. "Bards of the Golden Road". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 2: Latin & North America, Caribbean, India, Asia and Pacific, pp 24–31. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 978-1-85828-636-5
  4. ^ Азербайджанская свадьба. (in Russian). Archived from the original on 26 June 2014. Retrieved 26 June 2014.
  5. ^ Bahl, Taru; Syed, M. H. Encyclopaedia of the Muslim World. Anmol Publications PVT. p. 25. ISBN 9788126114191.
  6. ^ Мейхана - это не «хулиганский жанр», а часть азербайджанского фольклора - режиссер Абдуль Махмудов Archived 2013-10-14 at the Wayback Machine (in Russian)
  7. ^ Aghayev, Shamil. "МЕЙХАНА - ОНА И В ИЗРАИЛЕ МЕЙХАНА". Archived from the original on 30 August 2010. Retrieved 23 December 2010.
  8. ^ Kajar, Chingiz (2007). Старый Баку.
  9. ^ Intangible Cultural Heritage - The Azerbaijani Mugham
  10. ^ Music encyclopedias, e.g. The New Grove's entry on Azerbaijan.
  11. ^ "Weaving chords of beauty in Baku". Euronews. Retrieved 26 June 2014.
  12. ^ a b c Hunt, Ken. "Alim Qasimov and the domino principle". Retrieved 26 June 2014.
  13. ^ Azerbaijani Music Selected for Voyager Spacecraft
  14. ^ Azerbaijani mugham sent out to outer space 32 years ago
  15. ^ "Voyager - Spacecraft - Golden Record - Sounds of Earth". NASA. Retrieved 2009-05-25.
  16. ^ UNESCO: The Azerbaijani Mugham
  17. ^ "Musiqi tarixi". (in Azerbaijani). Retrieved 26 June 2014.
  18. ^ Augstein, Frank. "Azerbaijan duo upset favorites Ireland for first-time win at 2011 Eurovision Song Contest". Daily Journal. Associated Press. Retrieved May 14, 2011.[permanent dead link]
  19. ^ "Azerbaijan wins the Eurovision Song Contest". BBC. May 14, 2011. Archived from the original on 14 May 2011. Retrieved May 14, 2011.
  20. ^ Lusher, Adam (May 15, 2011). "Azerbaijan wins Eurovision Song Contest". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved May 15, 2011.
  21. ^ Эстрадная музыка. (in Russian). Retrieved 26 June 2014.
  22. ^ "Music". Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan. Retrieved 2010-01-25.
  23. ^ William Minor. Unzipped souls: a jazz journey through the Soviet Union, Temple University Press, 1995, p. 83-84
  24. ^ Documenting the Horrors of Karabakh
  25. ^ "Rep musiqisi". (in Azerbaijani). Retrieved 29 December 2011.
  26. ^ "History of Azerbaijani Rock". Retrieved 25 June 2014.
  27. ^ a b Битва "электроников". (in Russian). Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 26 June 2014.