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Music & Artists

Jonathan Gandelsman plays before a live drawing by Kevork Mourad.


Artist at Work
Johnny Gandelsman plays before a live drawing by Kevork Mourad in a performance of Franghiz Ali-Zadeh's Mugam-Sajahy by the Silk Road Ensemble during a residence at RISD in 2005.



"Urban Muslim players express their highest artistic feelings in the performance of classical or court music known as maqam. Like European classical music, this type is based on a sophisticated theory and favors skilled musicians and singers."



orig. Azerbaijan  Mugham, or mugam, is a tradition of vocal music practiced in Azerbaijan, with variations of different names found over a wide area of the Middle and Far East. Drawing on popular stories and local melodies, it is a highly expressive and narratively complex form of music. Because it is both improvisational and adherent to a highly nuanced set of rules, mugham is difficult to master and notate.

Mugham songs are often based on ancient Azerbaijani poetry with recurrent themes of love and mysticism, and performances can last for hours. Many Azerbaijani composers trained in mugham have gone on to compose Western classical orchestral music, often incorporating mugham idioms. Several, including Fikret Amirov (1922-1984), have even undertaken the difficult task of writing mugham compositions for symphony orchestras.

Mugham performers
Rauf Islamov
Ali Asgar Mammadov
Alim Qasimov
Fargana Qasimova

Other vocal traditions
Urtiin duu (longsong)

Other Azerbaijani instruments