Shusha – pearl of Azerbaijani culture, cradle of Azerbaijani music

Baku, March 14, AZERTAC

In Old Shusha, just like in other regions of Azerbaijan, music sounded everywhere. However, it was a little bit different. In Shusha, almost all the inhabitants sang and played musical instruments, irrespective of age and position. It was performed during palace receptions of honorable and foreign guests, as well as during military campaigns. The music was accompanied with the sounds of big drums (kes, naghara), kettledrum, zurna and karanay, sheypur, nefir and shah-nefir. No sports competition could dispense with music. In the Shusha zorkhanas and at Jidir duzu, where sports competitions were traditionally held, there was always music, as well as singing and recitation of heroic dastans. During races, musicians played zurna and performed military melodies of Koroghlu being so respected by Karabakh racers. At the watering place, horses used to stop drinking water only after playing a certain melody or a whistle. Music sounded in numerous Shusha coffee houses, in bazaars, at Shusha picnics, as well as during every holiday.

The holiday of Novruz was the most musical one. Any children’s game was accompanied with songs, and the exchange of new songs or melodies itself was one of the most popular games of Shusha children. A simple cane pipe of a shepherd skilfully controlled huge flocks of sheep. With the sounds of a melody called Yaylimi sheep dispersed on meadows in the search of food and, with the sounds of another melody called Yighilma, they gathered around choban (‘shepherd’) in order to go further to a watering place; finally, a day was finished by a melody called Gayitma that called for returning home.

Musicians did their best to prepare for weddings. A wedding could last several days and often turned into a sort of competition of the best singers and musicians of the city. In order to perform elegies it was necessary to know the fundamentals of mughams. These were taught in mosques or by private teachers. In poor families, long before the beginning of such performances, boys were prepared to sing elegies in the family itself. Rich families invited professional singers. For specially trained mourners it was considered difficult and honorable to sing marsiya at funeral. One had to choose right poems or compose them depending on the temper and life of the deceased, as well as manage to touch the public with virtuosity. A choir of mourners was particularly impressing. In the history of Shusha, the most famous mourner was Ashig Maleyka.

In Shusha, which is surrounded with various forests, there existed all the conditions for producing Azerbaijani musical instruments, such as tar, saz, kamancha, ud, ganun, daf, balaban, zurna, tutak and ney. From here, they were taken to various parts of the country.

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