Azerbaijan International

Summer 2000 (8.2)
Pages 68-69

A Home for Azerbaijani Folk Music
Museum of Traditional Instruments

by Jala Garibova

Traditional Music Instruments

Above: Young performers of traditional instruments. Photo: Oleg Litvin

Lovers of traditional Azerbaijani music will feel quite at home in this quaint Baku museum that showcases folk instruments. Its exhibits are built around the personal collection of Ahmad Bakikhanov, one of Azerbaijan's greatest tar players. Each instrument in the collection has its own unique story to tell, whether the piece is an oversized tar, a replica of a 12th-century chang or a saz shaped like a cane. To learn more about Bakikhanov's passion for music and collecting instruments, we took a few moments to chat with Director Zinyat Sulymanova and one of Bakikhanov's sons, Mammadreza, a musician himself and professor at the Asaf Zeynalli Music College.

Ahmad Bakikhanov_____
Ahmad Bakikhanov (1892-1973) was a distinguished tar player who loved to collect antique Azerbaijani folk instruments. According to his son Mammadreza, he used to have all kinds of musical instruments in his home, including tars, kamanchas, double drums and sazes. He built up an extensive personal collection around his favorites.

Left: Ahmad Bakikhanov, esteemed tar player whose private collection of folk instruments provides the foundation for the Bakikhanov Home Museum of Traditional Instruments.

Mammadreza remembers that his father was very protective of his treasures. "This tar dates back to the 19th century," explains Mammadreza, pointing to one of his father's prized string instruments. "It has a gorgeous sound. It was my father's favorite, but so many people would borrow it from him that he hardly ever saw it. Then he decided to move the tuning pegs so that the tar had to be strummed with the left hand - usually a tar is strummed with the right hand. My father went to a lot of trouble just to learn how to play this tar the left-handed way so he could use this instrument."

Bakikhanov was known for organizing a folk instruments ensemble, which still exists and is named after him. "My father had a lot of trouble creating the ensemble," remembers Mammadreza. "Some people tried to prevent him from including instruments like the 'ud' or the clarinet, saying that they were not of Azerbaijani origin. My father fought this for a long time. Uzeyir Hajibeyov, famous for creating fusion music by combining both eastern and western instruments in the same orchestra, supported and helped him."

Amirov, Shushinski, PrimakovToday Bakikhanov's collection of folk instruments is on display to the public. His former residence is now the Museum of Music Culture, Department of Folk Instruments.

Displayed inside are the Azerbaijani folk instruments that Bakikhanov collected, many of them dating from the 19th century up through the 1930s.

Left: Azerbaijani Famous Musicians: Composer Fikrat Amirov was greatly influenced by traditional folk melodies. Here he works with mugham performers Khan Shushinski (holding round percussion instrument known as gaval) and Gurban Primov with tar.

Photo: Azerbaijan National Photo and Cinema Archives.

The purpose of the museum is to preserve and perpetuate Azerbaijan's folk music. To encourage younger generations to learn more about these traditions, the museum often invites music students to come see Azerbaijan's native instruments for themselves.

The museum is rather small - only two rooms - as it used to be Bakikhanov's apartment. "Originally, it was his uncle's house," says Mammadreza. "My father moved here at a young age. When I was a child, I remember a lot of famous people used to visit our apartment, such as Seyid Shushinski and Hasan Sayyar. Uzeyir Hajibeyov was a frequent guest. When he was visiting us, my father wouldn't let us come out of the bedroom and disturb them. He and Hajibeyov used to have long discussions about music."

One-of-a-Kind Instruments

Bakhikhanov Museum - BakuMany of the 350 exhibits at the museum feature rare traditional instruments. For example, there are various tars, including a 4-stringed tar that is made like a cane.

Left: Entrance to the small home museum that features Azerbaijan's traditional instruments. Photo: Blair

Mammadreza recalls, "My father would take this tar on his trips, and no one would ever guess that it was an instrument. The timbre of such instruments is different; they have a stronger sound and are designed for solo performances.

My father also had a violin and two sazes made like canes. My brother gave the violin to the Moscow museum named after Glinka (a Russian composer). My father's cane-like saz disappeared in the 1990s; later we heard it was in Germany somewhere. One of his students donated this cane-like saz to this museum."

Another unusual item is a bass tar, which is larger than a typical tar. The bass tar is used in folk instrument ensembles just like a contrabass would be used in a symphonic orchestra.

Bakikhanov also liked to collect various kinds of drums, including a wooden double drum dating back to the 19th century. Historically, double drums were made of wood, but he had one made that was more like a kettledrum, with a metal frame to give it better tuning and sound regulation.

Medieval Instruments

Traditional Music Instruments - Bakikhanov Museum"We also have a section for ancient Azerbaijani musical instruments," says Zinyat Sulymanova, the museum's Director. "These instruments, which date from the 12th to 19th centuries, were recreated by musicologist Majnun Karimov. He used medieval texts and miniature paintings to reproduce replicas of Azerbaijani instruments that have become extinct. For example, we have an example of a 'chang', which looks much like a harp. Its silk strings are plucked with the fingers of both hands."

Left: One of the exhibits in the museum. The harp-like instrument in foreground is called "chang". Photo: Blair

These models of ancient instruments were built in the Laboratory for the Reconstruction of Ancient National Musical Instruments, located in the basement of the Music Academy (For more about Karimov's work with ancient instruments, see "
Reconstruction of Azerbaijan's Medieval Instruments," by Jean Patterson, AI 5.4, Winter 1997, page 28).

One exhibit showcases the tar, watch and pair of glasses of the famous tar player Gurban Pirimov. The museum also has a copy of the first record of Azerbaijani music. The recording was made in Warsaw in 1912, when Alasgar Abdullayev performed the Bayati Shiraz mugham there.

Another vinyl record on exhibit was produced after WW II. One side features Bakikhanov's performance; the other side is his student's. At the time there was an argument among musicians how to play mugham. Everybody had different opinions, so they wanted to document Bakikhanov's style as they considered him an authority.

Also there are some rare photographs of early music groups, ashigs (wandering minstrels) and khanandas (singers). A photo of Uzeyir Hajibeyov's First Orchestra of Folk Instruments (1930) is also on exhibit.

Bakikhanov Traditional Instruments Home Museum
Address: 119 Zargarpalan St. Tel: (99-412) 94-60-62
Hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed Mondays.

Ahmad Bakikhanov's son Mammadreza and Zinyat Sulymanova were interviewed by Jala Garibova. Alla Bayramova also helped with this article.

Azerbaijan International (8.2) Summer 2000.
© Azerbaijan International 2000. All rights reserved.

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