The word Maqam or Moqam refers to the highest level of mastery of composing, playing, and singing a traditional form of music local to the Khorasan Province, Iran. The person who plays Maqami is known as Bakhshis. Maqam also means a position in Farsi, implying the high stand of the Bakhshis musicians. In general, the music of Khorasan is divided into two regions of north and south regions. This form of music with local instruments transmits Gnostic, historical, religious, and epic themes. Maqami music encompasses special vocal and/or instrumental melodic modes performed with Turkish, Persian, Turkmen, or Kurdish lyrics.
Bakhshis know all the maqams and their lyrics learned gradually through traditional master-pupil training, some of them can also make musical instruments. The word Bakhshis is originated from Bakhshesh meaning bestowment that refers to the natural musical talent bestowed upon these musicians by God as a gift. In appreciation of this gift, Bakhshis feels a kind of duty to sing Gnostic poems to show their gratitude to God. Praises of the prophet Muhammad is another subject of the poems in Maqami music. Because of the significance of the music of Bakhshis, it was inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010.
The word Bakhshis is originated from Bakhshesh meaning bestowment that refers to the natural musical talent bestowed upon these musicians by God as a gift.
Besides Bakhshis, the other group of Maghami musicians in Khorasan is Ashiqs who play often at joyful ceremonies while accompanying a traditional dance. Of note is that Ashiqs in Iran differ from those of Azarbaijan as they are Kurds and Turkish, respectively, each with their own special musical instruments. Some of the most common Ashiqs’ instruments include Sorna (horn), Dohol (drum), and Kamancheh (bowed string instrument). Finally, the third group of Maghami musicians in Khorasan is Luties who apparently do not exist today. They used to roam villages to play a simple instrument called Dayereh (a frame drum with jungles) and sing poems.
The most common musical instruments used for Maghami music include:
Dutar, meaning two-strings in Farsi, is the most applied instrument in Maghami music. It is a kind of string instrument in Iran with a pear-shaped bow, a neck made of apricot or walnut wood, and two strings. Its strings represent the sharp and flat pitches. It is believed that Dutar is a cognate of Tanbur (a long-necked instrument with three strings used in Iran and also in Armenia, India, Turkey, Uzbekistan, etc.) created by the Islamic scientist and musician Abu Nasr Farabi. In 2019, the International Committee of UNESCO for the safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage was held in Bogota, Colombia from 9 to 14 December. The committee inscribed traditional skills of crafting and playing Dutar on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
A small-sized wind instrument with a double pipe tied together, which is mostly played on joyful occasions by Kourmanji ethnic groups in the Northern Khorasan.
It is a woodwind instrument with a history of more than 4000 years but still in use. It consists of an end-blown hollow cane with five or six finger holes. It can usually be found in Iran in classical orchestras.
Sorna is another kind of local woodwind instrument similar to Ney but with a double-reed- construction and the higher pitch usually played at ceremonies and festivities.
It is a type of cylindrical drum struck with two sticks and/or bare hands. Dohol mostly accompanies Sorna at joyous ceremonies like weddings.