Balaban (instrument)


Azerbaijani folk instrument Balaban.[1][2][3][4][5][6]

Playing range


Alihan Samedov

Balaban, or balaman[7] (Azerbaijani: Balaban) is cylindrical-bore, double-reed wind instrument about 35 centimetres (14 in) long with eight finger holes and one thumb hole. This instrument is played in Iranian Azerbaijan and in the Republic of Azerbaijan. In Turkey it is called mey.

Balaban can be made of mulberry or other harder woods, such as walnut. The bore through the instrument is about 1.5 centimetres (0.59 in) in diameter. The double reed is made out of a single tube of cane about six cm long and pressed flat at one end. The performer uses air stored in his cheeks to keep playing the balaban while he inhales air into his lungs. This “circular” breathing technique is commonly used with all the double-reed instruments in the Middle East.


The balaban consists of a stem, a reed, a regulator, and a cap.[8]

The stem of the balaban, or govda, is a 280–320 millimetres (11–13 in) cylindrical tube made primarily of apricot wood (sometimes also hazel, pear, mulberry, boxwood, etc.). The process of carving a balaban stem is called balaban chakma. The upper end of the stem (bash or kup) is given a round shape, whereas the lower end (ayag) is sharpened. The bore is 10 millimetres (0.39 in) in diameter. Eight holes or "tones" constituting a "sound tone" (sas pardasi) are made on the obverse and another one is made on the bottom side, opposite of the interval between the first and the second holes of the sas pardasi. Sometimes an additional hole called nizam pardasi is made on the lower end of the bottom side to ensure good timbre.[8]

The holes made on the stem are classified as follows:[8]

Sound tone– sas pardasi Functional #1 – first tone– bash parda
#4 – main tone – shah parda
#6 – open tone– achyg parda
#8 – bottom tone– ayag parda
rear – back tone– arkha parda
Tonal #2 – tone of segah – segah pardasi (1)
#5 – tone of segah – segah pardasi (2)
#7 – tone of mahur – mahur pardasi
Acoustic bottom – tone of balance – nizam pardasi

The reed (gamish, garghy or dil) made of club-rush that grows in an arid area is inserted into the upper end. It flattens and takes the shape of a double reed. It is tied to a 60 millimetres (2.4 in) long and 10 millimetres (0.39 in) wide regulator (kharak, boghazlig, boyundurug, ulama, akma) made of a willow or grape branch cut lengthways. The reed is then fixed by a collar-like regulator on one side and a 7–12 millimetres (0.28–0.47 in) pivot on the other side. The cap (qapaq, aghizlig, kip, band, etc.) made of willow, hazel, cornel or mulberry is put on the reed to prevent it from damage. It is tied to the regulator in order not to be lost.[8]


On solemn occasions such as weddings and holiday ceremonies, a balaban-player is accompanied by a percussionist. A traditional Azeri musical group consisting of two balaban-players and a percussionist is called balabanchilar dastasi. In the past, the balaban was an essential musical element in the performance of mugham. It was also used in pastoral songs and funeral music. According to Huseyngulu Sarabski, hunters played the balaban to attract quails. Certain types of the balaban are also used in ashik music.[8]


Kamil Jalilov's recording of the song with balaban was included on the Voyager Golden Record, attached to the Voyager spacecraft as representing mugham, only Azerbaijani song included among many cultural achievements of humanity.[9][10][11][12]



  1. Толковый словарь русского языка Кузнецова. 1 е изд е: СПб.: Норинт. С. А. Кузнецов.
  2. Музыкальная энциклопедия. Азербайджанская музыка. Под ред. Ю. В. Келдыш. Т 1. А — М.: Советская энциклопедия, 1973.
  3. Меджнун Керимов. Атлас традиционной азербайджанской музыки. Бабалан
  4. Известия. Ру: «Имеющий уши да услышит…»
  5. Сергей Александрович Токарев. Основы этнографии: Учеб. пособие для ист. специальностей вузов.. — Высшая школа, 1968. — С. 311. — 359 с.
  6. Encyclopaedia Iranica. Balaban.: «BĀLĀBĀN, a cylindrical-bore, double-reed wind instrument about 35cm long with seven finger holes and one thumb hole. The instrument has Armenian origins. It is played in eastern Azerbaijan in Iran and Soviet Azerbaijan (where it is also called düdük).»
  7. Музыкальная энциклопедия. Баламан. Под ред. Ю. В. Келдыш. Т 1. А — М.: Советская энциклопедия, 1973.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 Charming Sounds of the Balaban by Saadat Abdullayeva
  9. "AZƏRBAYCANDA BALABAN SƏNƏTİNİ ÖYRƏNƏN AMERİKALININ İNDİ 80 TƏLƏBƏSİ VAR (Balaban ustadı Babaxan Əmirovun dedikləri)". (in Azerbaijani). Retrieved 13 May 2014.
  10. Azerbaijani Music Selected for Voyager Spacecraft
  11. Azerbaijani mugham sent out to outer space 32 years ago
  12. "Voyager - Spacecraft - Golden Record - Sounds of Earth". NASA. Retrieved 2009-05-25.

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