The first frets of Mugham - one of the main genres of Azerbaijani folk music – sounded in ancient times. Its performance art goes back to the tradition of Koran recitation or even earlier - to Avesta hymns.
The meaning of the word “Mugham” is interpreted as “God sent music”. And for its numerous admirers - it is not only a beautiful lyrical melody, but also a state of mind, a way to merge with the world and a kind of cosmic philosophy. Mugham is normally performed by three musicians - tar player, kamancha player and a singer - khanande, who leads the main theme decorating it with improvisations and emotional shades. For the Azerbaijani people, mugham is music, philosophy and a kind of meditation, which helps to uncover spiritual bases in people, having a healing effect on the soul and mind and forming a cosmism of thinking and everything that laid the basis of multiculturalism - the modern progressive policy of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Mugham as a genre took shape in Azerbaijan in the period of the “Muslim Renaissance”, which is attributed to the 12th-13th centuries when many great poets created. Their ghazals, like the poetry of later writers, formed the basis of Mugham. In those distant years, the formation of various schools of Mugham singers began in Baku, Shamakhi, Ganja, Nakhchivan, and, of course, in Karabakh. It was Shusha - “Conservatory of the East” – that gave the world the most outstanding singers. Their hallmark was the famous Mugham “Karabakh shikestesi”.
The first gramophone record of Azerbaijani Mugham singers was released in 1906. It was released by the British joint stock company Gramophone. In subsequent years, several other European companies recorded Azerbaijani Mugham.
In 1908, the founder of the Azerbaijani composer school, Uzeyir Hajibayli, wrote the Mugham opera “Leyli and Majnun”. And in 1921, the Azerbaijan State Conservatory, in which the teaching of Mugham was included in the curriculum, was founded in Baku.
In 1948, Mashadi Jamil oglu Amirov completed work on the symphonic Mughams “Shur” and “Kurd Ovshari”, which marked the beginning of a new genre in the history of world music.
In the 1970s, UNESCO was actively involved in the popularization of Mugham. Under its auspices, the first international symposiums and festivals of traditional music were held in Moscow in 1971, in Alma- Ata in 1973 and in Samarkand in 1978 and 1983. Mugham became widely known not only in Europe but also in the USA, Canada, Japan and other countries.
But the real revival of Mugham took place in the 21st century. In 2003, Azerbaijani Mugham was proclaimed as a masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. In 2008, Azerbaijani Mugham was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Four years later, a multi-volume encyclopedia of Mugham was published in Baku, and the head of its editorial board and editor-in-chief was First Lady, Mehriban Aliyeva. On 27 December 2008, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and the former Director-General of UNESCO, Koichiro Matsuura, opened the International Mugham Center. In March 2009, it hosted the First International World of Mugham Festival, which was organized on the initiative of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation.
Since then, these festivals of Mugham have been held every two years, and each new festival gathers more and more artists and admirers of this ancient and eternally young art.