Instrument Glossary - Aga Khan Music Initiative - AKDN
Aga Khan Development Network

Instrument Glossary: Alim and Fargana Qasimov

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Bardic Divas
Badakhshan Ensemble
Alim and Fargana Qasimov
Homayun Sakhi
Invisible face of the Beloved

Cylindrical oboe made from apricot, mulberry, or nut wood played with a large double reed that produces a soft, breathy, and often mournful sound.

Frame drum, also called qaval, widely used in Azerbaijani folk music as well as in the classical mugham. Fish, goat skin, or, nowadays, plastic provides the playing surface. Jingling metal rings are sometimes attached to the inside of the frame.

Cylindrical double-sided frame drum held under the arm and played with hands rather than sticks. Naghara is typically played at festive celebrations, especially weddings.


Spherical spike fiddle with a cylindrical neck fitted with four steel strings. The resonating chamber is traditionally covered with catfish skin. To play different strings, performers  turn the instrument left or right on its spike rather than change the angle of the bow. A similar spike fiddle, sometimes fitted with three strings instead of four, is played in Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, where it is called ghijak.


Double-chested plucked lute used in urban music from the Caucasus and Iran. In Azerbaijan, the tar is widely considered the national instrument. Iranian and Azeri tars are distinguished by number of strings, quantity and position of frets, playing position, and type of plectrum. The skinlike cover of the resonating chamber is traditionally made from the pericardial membrane that englobes a cow heart.

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