Balaban, or balaman (Azerbaijani: Balaban) is cylindrical-bore, double-reed wind instrument about 35 centimetres (14 in) long with eight finger holes and one thumb hole. Balaban, one of the ancient wind instruments, is played in all corners of Azerbaijan. This instrument is played in Iranian Azerbaijan and in the Republic of Azerbaijan.
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.
Balaban, which is often called also yasti (flat) balaban for flat mouthpiece and soft sound, consists of body made of apricot tree, cane, barrow and cover. Body has 8 holes on the surface and 1 on the back in the middle of 1st and 2nd holes (sound fret) on the surface. It consists of a stem, a reed, a regulator, and a cap.
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.
The holes made on the stem are classified as follows:
|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.
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. The short selection of Azerbaijani mugham played in balaban, national wind instrument was included on the Voyager Golden Record, attached to the Voyager spacecraft as representing world music, included among many cultural achievements of humanity. 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.
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.
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