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Cultural Traces Around the World

The Spirited Art and Culture of Azerbaijan, Part 1 of 2

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Situated in the Caucasus region bridging Eastern Europe and Western Asia, Azerbaijan is a land endowed with gorgeous landscapes ranging from high mountain ridges and lowland terrains to the Caspian Sea, as well as rich and diverse wildlife. The name Azerbaijan comes from the ancient Persian words “azer” which means fire, and “baygan” which means protector, referring to the area around Baku, the current capital city. Azerbaijan’s cultures and traditions have been recognized as a world treasure to be protected and preserved.

The art of carpet making is a family tradition in Azerbaijani that has been passed down from mother to daughter for generations. The traditional, handmade Azerbaijani carpet was designated a Masterpiece of Intangible Heritage by UNESCO in 2010. The Lahij village is known as the center of Azerbaijan’s copper craft. The village preserves the traditions of copper casting, forging, carving and polishing, which are usually carried out by a copper-smelting master who is assisted by his apprentice.

The folklore of Azerbaijan offers a wealth of tales, epics, proverbs, songs, wise sayings and even fairytales for children, some of which go back thousands of years. The folk poetry “Bayati” is one of the oldest art forms that follow strict rules. Usually recited in reflective and contemplative tones by the performer, the Bayatis express the deep feelings and concerns of the common people.

Another ancient art is Ashiq, a form of folk music and poetry created by Ashiks, which means “the lovers of nature and life” in Azerbaijani. Along with Ashiq, the Azerbaijani Mugham, another form of folk musical composition, is also on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The tar is a traditionally crafted, long necked, plucked lute, which is the most popular musical instrument in Azerbaijan. UNESCO added the craftsmanship and performance art of the tar to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2012. One of the most famous and respected mugham singers is Alim Qasimov, who has recorded nine albums, frequently appears on TV and in newspapers, and travels internationally to perform.
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