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Chorshanbe Goibnazarov (Alumnus BGSMCS)


Qașā’id-khānī a musical expression of social, cultural and religious identity in Badakhshan

Qașā’id-khānī a musical expression of social, cultural and religious identity in Badakhshan

Research Topic

This research focuses on the qașā’id-khānī, a musical performance among the Isma’ili community living in the mountainous Badakhshan province of Tajikistan. Badakhshanī music represents a distinct cultural practice within Central Asia that has been shaped by the combined forces of geography, history, language, and religion.  Music plays a great role in funeral ceremonies, wedding, circumcisions, welcoming guests and many other ceremonies in the region. My first and principal assumption is that qașā’id-khānī is a musical performance, which helps to fulfil various integrative functions. It is a central phenomenon within religion and culture. Qașā’id-khānī is a performative event believed to carry a long tradition among the Badakhshanī Isma’ili Muslims. My project sets out from the assumption that there is some special and very important relation between qașā’id-khānī and identity, and I want to investigate the nature of that relation. I am planning to study the role of this musical performance in shaping social, cultural and religious identity in Badakhshan.

The Qașā’id-khānī

The term qașā’id-khānī is a combination of two words; qașā’id a plural form of the Arabic word qașīda (odes) and a Persian word khān, meaning “to recite or sing”. However, in Badakhshan the qașā’id-khānī is more than simply reciting or singing odes. It is performed in sessions of many hours on a variety of social, cultural and religious occasions, accompanied by two archaic musical instruments, rubāb and daf , on Thursdays evenings and Fridays, at cultural and religious festivals, at shrines of saints, and, in particular, when a member of a given community has passed away. The first visit of the Aga Khan, to the region (May 1995) added another three important annual festivals at which the qașā’id-khānī has come to be performed, namely, the so-called Day of Light (Rūz-i Nur), which is associated with the first visit of the Aga Khan to the region, the Birthday of the Aga Khan, (also called ‘Īd-i Mawlūd which is elsewhere in Muslim contexts the Birth of the Prophet Muhammad and the Day of Imamate, which is a commemoration day, when the Aga Khan, became the present Imam. In present times, the qașā’id-khānī has gone through lots of changes in terms of new forms and styles, genres and hybridization. It is recorded on CDs, DVDs, performed as a form of entertainment in concert arrangements internationally.


The geographic and cultural area from which the qașā’id-khānī arises is known by many names; The Roof of the World (Bām-i Jahān), Badakhshan and Pamir. Most of the modern scholars writing on Tajikistan use “Pamir” and “Badakhshan” in interchangeable way. The full official name of the province is Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO) and was given to the region by the Soviets in 1925. The capital of the region is Khorog. Although the term Gorno-Badakhshan is a Russian designation, it is still widely used in English sources. Badakhshan is situated in sparsely populated Pamir mountains in the south-east of Tajikistan and shares borders with Afghanistan on the west and the south, China on the East and Kyrgyzstan to the north. People live in villages and small towns as well as isolated on the mountains or in valleys and belong to several different linguistic groups. Tajik/Persian the state/official language and it also functions as a lingua franca all over the area.

The majority of people in Badakhshan are adherents of the Shi’a branch of Islam, more precisely, Ismailism, with the exception of two districts, in which live mainly Sunni Muslims. The Ismailis of Badakhshan believe in the unbroken religious authority and rightful guidance of divinely inspired Imams, from ‘Alī (d.661), cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad, to the present Imam, Shāh Karīm al-Husayni (b.1936), who figures as the 49th Imam and the fourth Aga Khan. This doctrine unifies the entire Ismaili community around the world.

Key Points of the Research

The key point of this research is that the performance plays significant role both in public and private sphere and in happy and sad moment of life, creates a social bond within the community and maintains their allegiance to their faith and religion. It helps them to support each other in the moment of happiness, assists them to know about their religion, brings them together and maintains their social solidarity, introduces their culture worldwide, brings unity, harmony, peace and spiritual happiness to families, teaches moral and ethical values of Islam and forms as a way of meditation in individual’s life.

First Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Ingeborg Baldauf

Second Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Margrit Pernau