This blog addresses the musics of the Caucasus. It is intended as a one-stop shop to provide an overview of the musical traditions from the region. As an ethnomusicologist, I found it difficult to access information on all the traditional musics of the Caucasus, and when I collected as much information as I could, I found it difficult to connect to musical examples. So this blog tackles this challenge by summarizing relevant scholarly articles on the musical traditions while providing adequate examples as well as sources for further listening and study.
The Boundaries Defined:
Geographically speaking, the focus is on the music of the South and North Caucasus. Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia are the countries that define the South Caucasus, historically known as Transcaucasia. The republics or districts traditionally associated with the North Caucasus are Abkhazia, Adyghea, Karachai-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, North and South Ossetia, Ingushetia, Chechnya and Dagestan.
Musically speaking, I focus primarily on vocal forms of traditional and/or folk musics. Any musical genre that was institutionally synthesized through a fusion of traditional musics with Western art music, pop or jazz aesthetics is not discussed. Unfortunately, I am not able to give adequate attention to sacred music either – though at times it does enter the discussion. The dance and instrumental music of the caucasus is yet another dense and complicated subject I have not yet been able to synthesis, though I hope to address it in the future posts.
Below is how I suggest entering the discussion of the music of the Caucasus.
The Caucasus – an overview
This offers a general introduction to the Caucasus, some historical details, and lists the specific people whose music I discuss… read more→
Of all the people in the Caucasus the traditional music of Azeris seem to be most easily categorized into 3 definitive streams: classical mugham stemming from an Iranian urban influence; ashiqs, which shows direct connection to Turkic bardic tradition; and rural folk or peasant music… read more→
While the full range of Armenian traditional music is complex and interwoven with other people’s musics of the region (like the Kurds, the Persians, the Azeris), what I focus on in this section is Armenia’s most distinctive and expressive lyrical genre … read more→
Transcaucasian Urban Folk
By looking at the urban musical traditions of Armenia and Georgia, this section bridges the monophonic musical traditions already discussed with the subsequent posts that tackle polyphony in the Caucasus … read more→
Polyphony in Georgia and the North Caucasus
Part singing occurs through most of Georgia and the North Caucasus. In general, the upper voices are sung by soloists while the rest accompany on bass in the limited range of baritone-tenor. The section looks at the truly amazing variety of polyphonic forms throughout the region … read more→
The Bards and Ballads of the North Caucasus
The bards and ballads of the North Caucasus offers a gold mind of material for ethnomusicologist and music enthusiast. The following offers an entry into the rich and various traditions of solo singing among the Vainakh, the Adyghe, the Ossetians, the Avars, the Lezgis, the Kumyks, the Laks and the Nogai … read more→