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As Makam Music Magazine, we had an interview with Assoc. Prof. İrfan Çiftçi, the Cultural and Promotion Advisor of Embassy of Turkey in Baku, a poet and culture man, on Azerbaijani National Music and "music" in the Cultural and Promotional activities carried out by Turkey in Azerbaijan's capital Baku.


Having a rich cultural heritage, Azerbaijan is the first country with Muslim majority in the world to include performing arts such as opera and theatre into its culture.

The Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan was founded in 1918, but two years later, in April 26, 1920, the Red Army entered Azerbaijan, so the Soviet Socialist Republic of Azerbaijan was founded in April 28, 1920 and joined the Soviet Union. Azerbaijan regained its independence in 1991 when the Soviet Union was dissolved.


Azerbaijani music is an important part of the music life in the Caucasus. The Azerbaijani folk music is called "Muğam". Derived from Arabic "Makam", the term passed to Azerbaijani Turkish language. Muğam was the common music of the near eastern countries until the political changes that took place in the 14th century.


Today, muğam is the common name given to the magnificent genre of traditional Azerbaijani music. Muğam art is seen as one of the important cultural values ​​of Azerbaijan. In 2003, UNESCO put "Azerbaijan Muğam" under protection and announced to the whole world in 2003.


Until the end of the 19th century, muğams were recited mainly in upper-class weddings, in literal conversations and musical gatherings attended by intellectuals, in religious ceremonies and mourning ceremonies. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the first mass concerts were organized as muğam concerts so that they could be presented to the masses of people.


There are seven main muğams in Azerbaijani music: “Rast”, “Şur”, “Segâh”, “Şüşter”, “Çahargah”, “Bayatı- Şiraz”, and “Hümayun”. In his book titled "Basics of Azerbaijani Folk Music", Üzeyir Hacıbeyli (Hacıbeyov) describes the mood infused to the audience by muğhams as following: Rast raises the feeling of bravery and well-being, Şur; jolly, lyrical mood, Segâh; feeling of love, Şüşter; deep sorrow, Çahargah; feeling of enthusiasm and passion, Bayatı-Şiraz; sadness, Hümayun; deep feelings of sorrow. 


Speaking of Azerbaijani music, the first person to come to mind is the great music scholar, also the composer of the Azerbaijan National Anthem, Üzeyir Hacıbeyli. Known as a scientist, writer, interpreter and orchestra conductor, Üzeyir Hacıbeyli became the first creator of symphonic music, opera, in the whole eastern world, and laid the principles of music science in Azerbaijan. On January 12, 1908, in Baku, the great artist Hacıbeyli performed the first opera in the east, "Layla and Majnun", which he composed from the great poet Füzuli's work with the same name. Moreover, he composed operas named "Şeyh Sinan" (1909), "Rüstem and Zöhre" (1910), " Shah Abbas and Hurşid Banu" (1912), "Kerem and Aslı" (1912), "Harun and Leyla" (1915), and Köroğlu (1937), and musicals such as "Husband and Wife" (1909), "If Not That One, Then This One (Meşhedi İbad) " (1910) and "Arşın Mal Alan" (1913), which has been staged many times in Turkey. Üzeyir Hacıbeyli established a bridge between the Eastern and Western music by combining muğam with opera and symphonic music.


In Azerbaijan, music has always been seen as an important item of culture and supported by the State as well. A special decree was issued for establishing the Azerbaijani National Conservatory with the decision of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev, in June 13, 2000. A year later, in accordance with the decision of the President Heydar Aliyev to establish the material-technical ground of the Azerbaijani National Conservatory dated August 10, 2001; Baku Music College and Cumhuriyet High School of Arts joined the Azerbaijani National Conservatory. Folk Artist Siyavuş Eşrafoğlu Kerimi was also appointed as Rector to the Azerbaijani National Conservatory in the same decree. Professor and lecturer staff of the Conservatory consists of professional musicians, conductors, and singers in folk music instruments, well-known musicians, composers, folk artists and world-famous musicians in their branches.


Respected Assoc. Prof. İrfan Çiftçi, the Cultural and Promotion Advisor of Turkish Embassy in Baku hosted our magazine in Baku and gave invaluable information about Azerbaijan, especially about music for our readers. We were amazed at the depth of the evaluations about music by Dr. Çiftçi, who is also a poet besides a political science expert. What we could transfer onto these pages is merely a summary of our really long interview.


Born in Kars, İrfan Çiftçi was only four when he attended the "Âşık gatherings"[1] thanks to his grandfather's prestigious position in the community although children's attendance was not regarded appropriate. He grew up by both attending to these gatherings and listening to the records brought by his father, who was a worker in Germany then. His father's favourite singers were Behiye Aksoy, Ahmet Sezgin, Mehmet Özbek and Zeki Müren. All these values ​​have given İrfan Çiftçi a solid foundation in music. 


[1] Âşık is a type of artist appeared in Turkish folk literature since about the beginning of the 16th century. Âşık tradition refers to transfer of hearts' emotions of people from generation to generation by embroidering into the public's memory with folk poets' melodies. Âşıks, who are representatives of this tradition, carry what they learn from their masters to the future through their apprentices. It is believed that an aşık earns his poetry power and authority by drinking the "love drink" offered to himself by his guru in his dream and seeing the dream of the "ideal lover" (HEZİYEVA, Şergiyye, PhD Student of Azerbaijan State Medeniyyet and İncesenet University, Kars Âşıklık Geleneği ve Badeli Âşık/Kars Minstrel Tradition and Minstrel With Bade, A.Ü.Türkiyat Araştırmaları Enstitüsü Dergisi, Erzurum 2010, 211-225)