Musical poetic works of ashugs (ashug – from the word “eshg” – love) – singers – storytellers – poets are part of the professional art of oral tradition. The predecessors of ashugs in Azerbaijan were ozans. In Azerbaijan an ashug has long been called “El anasy” – “Mother Nation”), because he always expresses the feelings of the nation, defends freedom of love, sings about loyalty to the country. An ashug performs his story while accompanying it by playing the saz. The Ashug music consists of easily recognizable tunes, which are (individually and together) known as ashug havasi (ashug music). The most common genres are: dastan (heroic epic story), deyishme (fight), ustadname (moralising songs), gezelleme (hymns), shikeste, misri (lyrical songs). An ashug usually performs solo, but there are also ashug ensembles.
Professional ashugs are divided into two categories: ashugs – artists and ashugs – poets. Ashugs – artists, thanks to their individual abilities, bring in their own narrative variations and modifications, especially in prose form.
Ashugs – poets, in addition to the narrative activity, focus on a poetic work. Such ashugs are called ustad – „master“. Ustads had their own schools.
In 2009, the Azerbaijani ashug (ashug music) education was inscribed in the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO.