Shashmaqam Day in Tajikistan Date in the current year: May 12, 2024

Shashmaqam Day in Tajikistan Shashmaqam Day is one of the many official holidays observed in the Republic of Tajikistan. It was created to celebrate an iconic style of music that is believed to have developed in the city of Bukhara.

Shashmaqam (shashmaqom) is a Central Asian musical genre characterized by the cyclic structure of musical pieces and extensive use of improvisation. Its name is translated from Persian as “six maqams”, maqam being the system of melodic modes in traditional Persian and Arabic music.

A maqam is a melody type, i.e. a set of melodic frameworks, each with a specific scale and typical melodic figures, that musicians and vocalists are guided by during improvisation. Shashmaqam is a system of six main maqams (hence the name) and more than twenty secondary maqams that are used to transition between the main maqams.

Shashmaqam originated in pre-Islamic Persia as a type of court music and received its current shape in the city of Bukhara, which used to be a major center of trade, scholarship, culture and religion due to its location on the Silk Road. The city was also home to a sizable Jewish community; it was Bukharan Jews who opened music schools where they popularized shashmaqam in the 9th and 10th centuries.

The late 16th century, when Bukhara became the capital of the Bukhara Khanate, is widely regarded as the Golden Age of classical shashmaqam music. It saw the formation of the standard shashmaqam ensemble consisting of two tanburs, a dutar, a ghijak, a dayere, and two or three vocalists. Shashmaqam was performed in Tajik (Persian) and in Uzbek, by Jews and by Muslims; it is widely regarded as one of the traditions that unite the peoples of Central Asia.

The first recording of shashmaqam music was made in 1923 by Russian composer, musicologist and ethnographer Viktor Uspensky. Interestingly, it was an instrumental piece because the original work was supposed to be performed in Tajik, which contradicted the intention of the minister of education to Turkify maquam in Uzbekistan.

During the first half of the 20th century, shashmaqam was frowned upon by the Soviet government because it was seen as a remnant of the old feudal system and the culture associated with it. The situation began to change after the death of Joseph Stalin; shashmaqam was rehabilitated and once again embraced in both Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. For the next few decades, the Tajik shashmaqam and the Uzbek shashmaqam developed independently from one another.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the independence of Tajikistan, the revival of the Tajik shashmaqam began in earnest. In 2008, the shashmaqam music of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan was inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Shashmaqam Day has been observed in Tajikistan every May 12 since 2000. It was established by president Emomali Rahmon and is listed among other official holidays in the Law of the Republic of Tajikistan “On Holidays”. Shashmaqam Day is marked with concerts, festivals, and other cultural events that focus on promoting shashmaqam among the general public and preserving it for future generations.

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