Mugham is the main genre of Azerbaijani oral classical music tradition. Lyrics for mughams are usually the poems of classical poets. In this genre, an improvised vocal part sounds in the background of significant motifs of the accompanying instruments. There are 7 basic mughams in the Azerbaijani folk music: Rast, Shyr, Segyakh, Chargyakh, Shushmer, Bayati-Shiraz, Khymayut and several additional mughams. In Azerbaijan, mugham is usually performed by a trio: a tar payer, a kamancha player and a gaval player who is also often a singer – khanende.
Presentation of mughams requires special training both in terms of knowledge of materials and forms, and in terms of virtuosity and technique. Most mugham performers come from Karabakh, specifically from the town of Shusha.
In the current musical practice of Azerbaijan, mugham is played on any instrument, except drums only. However, mugham instruments are considered mainly tar and kamancha, and also oud, kanon, balaban.
Five types of mugham music performed by leading figures of Azerbaijani mugham – Bahram Mansurov, Ahsan Dadashov, Habil Aliyev, Khan Shushinsky were included in the record collection “Anthology of Traditional Music of the World”, commissioned by the UNESCO International Institute for Comparative Studies in Berlin in 1979.
In 2008 UNESCO declared Azerbaijani mugham as one of the “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”.