The balaban is a wind instrument with a small tubular body and a large tubular reed, flattened at the end for a double reed effect. The opposing tapered end inserts into the wooden body of the balaban like a cork. The sound of the balaban is soft and mournful. It can be played as a solo instrument or as part of an ensemble or orchestra.

The zurna is a conical oboe, made of apricot or pear wood. It uses a double reed to generate a sharp, piercing sound. It has eight holes on the front, seven of which are used while playing, and one thumbhole, which together provide a range of one octave. This instrument is often used in open-air folk ceremonies. The zurna has been found in archaeological settlements dating as far back as 1,000 BCE.

The tutek is a small pipe, made of apricot, walnut. or mulberry wood, especially favored by rural shepherds, used during folk ceremonies. A performer breathes through a thin gap at the top of the wooden cylinder, and uses both hands to cover the tutek’s eight holes—s—even on the front and one on the back. The tutek produces a high pitched whistling sound.

The ney is a very common wind instrument, with several regional variations in Iran, Turkey, Central Asia and North Africa. Its origins are ancient. Crafted out of a hollow cane or reed, the ney is said to be the ancestor of the modern flute. Performers blow in either a side or end-mouthpiece, using six, seven, or nine holes to produce a rich, mournful sound.

The garmon is a small accordion, operated via two rows of buttons on the left and right sides of the instrument’s main body. The performer uses four or five fingers on both hands to press combinations of buttons, which release air across reeds inside the accordion, which in turn produces vibration. The accordion traveled from Germany to Russia in the 19th century, and made its way to Azerbaijan, then a part of the Russian empire.

The AZERBAIJANI Musical Tradition

A postage stamp from Soviet-era Azerbaijan, depicting a few of many traditional Azerbaijani musical instruments.Azerbaijan has a rich, varied musical tradition. Musicians draw upon an ancient selection of Near Eastern instruments, such as the balaban, the naghara, the tar, the saz, and the zurna, to create musical forms unique to Azerbaijan. Instruments can be played individually, in an improvisational manner, or in ensembles, during traditional ceremonies and folk dances.



Jeffrey Interview VideoAmerican Jeffrey Werbock began his love affair with Azerbaijan mugham, and Azerbaijan, in the 1970s, when he first witnessed the music performed. Fulfilling his ambition to master the complex form, Werbock went on to engage deeply with the Azerbaijani culture and Azerbaijani people. Jeffrey Werbock is highly regarded across continents as an expert mugham player and as an important bridge between Azerbaijanis and Americans.