A review of folk music in Iran (4)/ Qashqayi music

Qashqayis are of Turkish language tribe of Iranian plateau. Probably they are of old Turkman ethnic tribes who after the Mongolian invasion fled to southwestern parts of Iran. Presently their main residence is in Fars province. The principal representations of Qashqayi music, according to their repertoire as well as their instruments, are ashiq, changi and sareban.


The terms applies to a group of professional musicians having common features with their Azerbaijani counterparts, both together differing from ashiqs of Khorasan. Whereas khorasani ashiq is mainly considered as performers of dance music and light songs and as players of feast instruments, Azerbaijani and Qashqayi ones are mainly “qopuz” or “chogur” players and skilled in narrative ballads. This makes them more like bakhshis of Khorasan.

However, there are differences between Qashqayi and Azerbaijani ashiqs: in addition to their difference in repertoire, Qashqayi ashiq has replaced chogur with “tar”, and tar with “kamancheh”. Ashiqi tradition among Qashqayis is in danger of extinction and ashiqi families are quite few.


The Caste of barber-musician and “karna”, “sorna” and “naqareh” players who perform in feast and public gatherings are generally known as changi who are comparable to Khorasani ashiqs. The coincidence of being barber, dentist, circumciser and musician is common in so many different music cultures. This coincidence normally lowers the social stature of this kind of musicians. Changis are not exception to this rule, so they are mainly endogamous.

Dance is extremely important in Qashqayi culture. When a nomadic tribe arrives at its settlement, tents are erected and the time is for a feast and joyous ceremony. In weddings, horse-riders welcome the bride, groom and the guests. Karna and naqareh players perform dance tunes and song pieces in their special tent and dancers are grouped together to follow their music. Men are replaced by women who always wear in bright colors and have colorful kerchiefs in hands. These group dances are performed in open circles. Hands are moved to karna tune and feet follow naqareh rhythms.  Dance pieces come in succession, and gradually accelerating to faster tempo. Karna and naqareh are the principal instruments at these occasions.


These amateur musicians show no ethnic relation with Qashqayis, and this is most obvious when considering the language of their songs (of Iranian language family). Their principal instrument is “ney” and the movement of camels. Sarebans are also famous for their singing skills. Beside narrative songs, Qashqayis also have got several non-narrative songs.