School of mugham


Karabakh is a fatherland of Azerbaijani poetry and music; it is a part of the Azerbaijan Republic. It is a land of miraculous and picturesque nature, as well as the richest spiritual and cultural traditions. Karabakh is the native land of a great many outstanding Azerbaijani scientists, poets, writers, artists, and musicians.
Shusha city is a historical and cultural centre of Karabakh. It takes specific place in Azerbaijani musical culture.
Shusha city invariably attracted attention of progressive public due to its economic development, geographical location and fascinating nature in XIX century. At the start of the 19th century Shusha had already become a center of musical Azerbaijan. The forming of Karabakh Mugham School started exactly that period.

Karabakh mugham School as a school of traditional music culture was developed around individual masters, handing down traditions of their professional creative work.
Their lives and creation were closely connected with this city. It is typical that they called Shusha as “Conservatoire of Caucasus”. All hanende (singers) learning essence of mugham skill, and perceiving its secrets in Shusha, as well as players on folk instruments, performed their creative activity at every corner of Azerbaijan and even along the Caucasus.
Yet at late of XVIII and early of XIX centuries many artists lived and created in Shusha. Aming them Shahsanam oglu Yusif, Mirza Huseyn, Hasanja, Qarachı Asad and others laid foundation of Shusha khanande art. At that period tar performer Ali Asgar, kamancha player Qarachi Hajibey, double drum performer Qapanchi oglu Kerim were famous.

At 2nd half of XIX century and early of XX century Karabakh mugham school had passed on the way of high development stage. During this period many famous khanande and performers like Haji Husu, Mir Mohsun Navvab, Mirza Sadıq Asad oglu (Sadıqjan), Masahdi Mammad Farzaliyev, Abdulbaqi Zulalov (Bulbuljan), Kechachi oglu Mahammad, Jabbar Qaryagdı oglu, Islam Abdullayev, Seyid Shushinski, Mashadi Jamil Amirov, Qurban Pirimov, Majid Behbudov, Bulbul, Zulfu Adıgozelov, Khan Shushinski and others represented Karabakh mugham school
Mugham performance requires knowing all tone, rules of melodic development, ability to sing melody, melodic performances, which make a base of each section etc. Naturally to know all of these, one is required to pass through school.

It is memorable that the first music schools where they taught mughams appeared in Shusha in the middle of the 19th century. Famous in Shusha connoisseur of mugham Harrat Gulu was the first who opened such school. He chose talented children with good voices from the region and taught them basis of eastern poetry and music as well to sing mughams and tesniffs. However Harrat Gulu School basically served religion, because he prepared children to participate in devotions. Despite all this the school played significant role in upbringing of many singers. Such singers as Haji Husi, Abdulbagi Zulalov, Jabbar Garyagdi, tar-player Mirza Sadig Asad oglu were alumni of this school. After Harrat Gulu’s death, Ker (Blind) Khalifa and Molla Ibrahim continued his work in Shusha mugham school.
Mugham singers, who mastered all rules to sing mughams and best tradition of their predecessor, carefully protected these traditions, developed and enriched them, and then transmitted to the future generation. Thus they created their own style of singing, own traditions, own performing schools, and had own adherents.
That time mughams were performed mainly at weddings and banquets. However, starting from the second half of the 19th century new tradition had appeared. It was a tradition to arrange poetic and musical mejlises, i. e. music assemblies or meetings of poets and musicians. Wonderful Azerbaijani poetess Khurshud Banu Natavan arranged such assemblies, called “Mejlisi-uns”. An outstanding scientist, artist, and musicologist Mir Mohsun Navvab arranged such assemblies, called “Mejlisi Faramushan”.

Mejlises cardinally differed from wedding parties. They carried on interesting talks on literature and painting, and discussed aesthetic problems of poetry, music and mugham mastery.
Mugham-destgakh were improving and enriching with new sections. New tesniffs and rengs were creating. Performance of such mughams as “Rast”, “Shur”, “Mahur”, “Seygakh”, “Chahargakh”, “Bayati-Shiraz” and “Bayati-Isfahan” often continued up to 2 or 3 hours.
Music instruments started improving in the middle of the 19th century as well. That time Iranian tar was a main instrument accompanying for singers (it was kept on the lap). Tar-player Mirza Sadig Asad reconstructed this tar and factually created new instrument: Azerbaijani tar. It was eleven stringed and seventeen-stepped instruments. They played this tar clasping it to one's bosom. As a result this tar obtained new sounding and new performance techniques appeared. Azerbaijani tar took the leading place in mugham performance as both: soloing and accompanying instrument.

Karabakh performance school had original features. Knowledge of all mughams’ rules and perfect possession of singing technique were mandatory. Singers were required to have clear mellifluous voice of great compass, and skills to sing fluently in upper and low registers. We should note that Jabbar Garyagdi has the greatest compass – two and a half octaves – among singer of a period under review. He had lyrical-dramatic tenor. It is interesting that Bulbul preferred him, comparing his voice with one of Caruso’s.
Repertoire of Karabakh singers was broad. They performed all classic mugham-destgakhs: Rast”, “Shur”, “Mahur”, “Seygakh”, “Khumayun”, “Bayati-Shiraz”, “Chahargakh”; zerbi-mughams: “Eyrati”, “Karabakh Shikestesi”, “Osmani”, “Mansuriye”, and others.
Speaking on creative works of Karabakh singers, one wants to note one feature more. It is composition of own tesniffs and songs, sometimes for own texts. Thus, Jabbar Garyagdi and Khan Shushinsky created songs beloved among the public. For instance we could mention songs “Iravanda xal galmadi” (author - Jabbar Garyagdi) and “Shushanin daglari” (author - Khan Shushinsky). There were also many singers who possessed composer talent.
Activity area of singers broadened at late 19th century. This period mugham started to sound in the theaters and concert halls. Singers, performing mughams and tesniffs, accompanied by instrumental ensembles, started to perform in intervals between theater performances firstly in Tiflis, and then in Shusha. It was of a great success.

First music performances appeared within this period. In 1897, Abdurrahim Akhverdiyev, famous writer (that time student of St. Petersburg University) guided performance of musical scene called “Mejnun at Leyli’s Tomb”. It was performance in costumes for the text of the final part of “Leyli and Mejnun” poem (great Azerbaijani poet Fizuli).
Here for the first time theatre, poetry and mugham was combined. Participants of the performance khanende performed some part of poem accompanied with mugham.
This music performance was met with delight. It was a notable event in music life of not only Azerbaijan, but also for the whole Trans Caucasus. It became bless ground to create music theater in Azerbaijan. Uzeir Hajibeyov, basing on this performance (seen in his childhood in 1908), created the first Azerbaijani mugham opera “Leyli and Mejnun” (poem of great Azerbaijani poet Fizuli - 1908). Opera “Leyli and Mejnun” was the first opera in the East.
Music life rapidly developed in Baku in early 20th century. This city became the first one among Azerbaijani cultural centers. Outstanding cultural figures, including some Karabakh musicians started coming here. The continued their activity in Baku. However they always were connected spiritually with Karabakh and Shusha, their native land. They continued transmitting their knowledge to young musicians.
It is noteworthy that in the creation of Karabakh musicians the traditions of mugham school are still preserved and transferred from generation to generation.

State music schools, special and higher music institutions have been opened in Baku in the middle of the 20th century. This time mugham singers increased their teaching activity. They continued upbringing of professional musicians firstly in Eastern Conservatoire, then at Baku Musical College, and later in Baku Music Academy. At the moment they teach classic mugham art in the National Conservatoire and University of Culture and Arts.
Speaking about development of mugham art, we should note gramophone records of folk musicians. These records, preserving voices of great masters are the national property of Azerbaijani people. They played significant role in propaganda of Azerbaijani music and its recognition in the world.
Within 1906 – 1905, big sound-recording companies of different countries (such as “Gramophone”, “Pate”, “Sport-record”, “Extraphone”, and Nogin factory) invited famous Azerbaijani singers and recorded them. Jabbar Garyagdi was the first of them. Then they recorded voices of Kechachi oglu Mahammad, Meshadi Mammad Farzaliyev, Islam Abdullayev and others. Gurban Pirimov (tar) and Sasha Oganezashvili (kemancha) accompanied them.
Records of mughams and folk music opened ways for scientific researches. Activity of Scientific Research Cabinet in the Azerbaijan State Conservatoire, headed by Bulbul during 1932-43 is remarkable. Here they recorded mughams, tesniffs, folk songs and dances, ashig creative works and others, performed by famous singers and players. Then they interpreted recorded material, and issued it as collections, which had a scientific importance. Because those material became a subject of research of musicians. Many folk singers cooperated with this Cabinet. They invited many masters for recording. For instance, we could note Jabbar Garyagdi. They recorded over 200 songs and tesniffs in his performance, and part of them was recorded in notes by Said Rustamov .
Thus mugham that is expression of folk ideology, folk attitude, was perfected in the creative works of professional performers, improving in performance schools. So it came across nowadays. Mugham as a genre of Azerbaijani professional music of oral tradition among Karabakh people is the ground of national music culture. It lives, develops, walks around the world greatest stages, and is carefully transmitted to growing generation.