Shashmaqam – Oriental Traditional Music

Music from Central Asia – Shashmaqam Music





Shashmaqam, or Six Maqams, is a tradition shared by Tajik Traditional Music and Uzbek Traditional Music. It was named a UNESCO Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2003. The Shashmaqam is a modal suite that brings together lyrical and instrumental songs, poetry and dance. It is the classical music of Central Asia which was created by Bukharian singers and musicians orally and in the 18th century it was compiled in six (Perisan Shash) complex cycles (Maqam).



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History of Shashmaqam

Its origins trace back to the city of Bukhara and Samarqand with profound contributions from that city’s historic Jewish population, as well as Sufi Islam and Persian Classical Music. Bukhara and Samarkand were multi-cultural but mostly Tajik and Persian-speaking cities; they still are, even though they have been part of Uzbekistan since the founding of this republic in 1929 and its independence in 1991.

The  Shashmaqâm is traditionally sung in Persian.  Shashmaqam is based upon classical poetry on the languages of Uzbek and Tajik, and it was performed at the court of the ruling emirs. Therefore, it was the music for intellectuals, and not everyone could understand it. To understand the poetry, listeners needed to be educated. The singers were typically bilingual in Uzbek (a Turkic Language) and Tajik (an Iranian language), and they could switch unconsciously from one language to the other language.

The genre is performed solo or by a group of singers and an orchestra of lutes, fiddles, frame-drums and flutes. Performances generally open with an instrumental introduction followed by the nasr, the main vocal section consisting of two distinct sets of songs.

Listen to the music here –


The term “shashmaqam” translates as six maqams and refers to the structure of music with six sections in different musical modes, similar to classical Persian traditional music. Interludes of spoken Sufi poetry interrupt the music, typically beginning at a low register and gradually ascending to a climax before calming back down to the beginning tone.


The famous reviver of Shashmaqam, Yunus Rajabi (1897-1976)

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Tour the Shashmaqam Museum of Yunus Rajabi



To know more about the musical instruments used visit –


Music of the Bukharan Jewish Ensemble Shashmaqam

Shashmaqam, a New York based ensemble recognized in their homeland for their extraordinary musical talent, has been performing music and dance from their native Uzbekistan and Tadzhikistan since 1983. Their music reflects the many diverse cultures of the region. Perhaps the most distinctive element of their sound is a dramatic and disciplined vocal tradition.

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COUNTRY(S) Azerbaijan; United States; USSR (former); Uzbekistan
KEYWORD(S) Jewish; Weddings; World music
LANGUAGE(S) Tajiki; Uzbek

To hear their work visit-

To know more about the melodic and rhythmic structures, sequences of music and composition –

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