Qopuz the Azerbaijani Long-necked Lute

Qopuz the Azerbaijani Nine-stringed Long-necked Lute

by Peyman Nasehpour

Introduction. The qopuz is a pear-shaped nine-stringed long-necked lute popular in Azerbaijan. The qopuz is played by an Ashiq who is a poet-musician. This note is a brief introduction to the qopuz and related musical instruments.

The etymology of qopuz. The "qopuz قوپوز", also spelled as "قپوز" and "غوپوز", is a nine-stringed long-necked lute. In Persian dictionaries, it is explained that the word "qopuz" is a Turkish name, but no more information is available. Abdolqadir Maraghi in his books (Jami al-Alhan and Maqasid al-Alhan) on music, written in Persian, describes a kind of five-stringed lute under the name "qopuz-e-rumi قوپوز رومی". Redhouse in his dictionary explains that qopuz is a Turkish name and defines the qopuz as a lute with a somewhat globular body.

The qopuz in Azerbaijani music. One of the main instruments popular among Azerbaijani-speaking Iranians is the qopuz, though it is more frequently called the "saz ساز". Note that the word "saz" is a Persian general term for any kind of musical instrument. The qopuz is played by an "Ashiq آشیق" who is a vocalist, qopuz player, poet, and storyteller. This is why the "qopuz" is also called "Ashiqlar sazi آشیقلار سازی" in the Azerbaijani language which means the musical instrument of Ashiqs.

The qopuz has nine metal strings. The first three lower strings are tuned with the same frequency and are the main strings that the melody is played on them. The other strings are sympathetic. The whole body is wooden. The soundbox of qopuz is bigger than the soundbox of tanbour and dotar. Nowadays, the qopuz is played by a nylon plectrum though its plectrum was made of cherry wood in the past.

In recent decades, the qopuz has been used in music ensembles as well. The Ashiqlar music (in the Azerbaijani language, "Ashiqlar musiqisi آشیقلار موسیقی‌سی") ensemble consists of an ashiq (who is a vocalist and qopuz player), a "balaban بالابان" player, and a "ghaval قاوال" player. Note that the "balaban" is a double-reed wind instrument and the "ghaval قاوال" is an Azerbaijani frame drum. The qopuz has been also used in bigger Azerbaijani ensembles, for example, conducted by maestro Ali Salimi (composer and Azerbaijani tar player from Ardabil, Iran).

The Tabriz Orchestra of Azerbaijani music conducted by maestro Ali Salimi

The Tabriz Orchestra of Azerbaijani music conducted by Maestro Ali Salimi

Dedicated to Nasrollah Nasehpour by Ali Salimi

Dedicated to Maestro Nasrollah Nasehpour by Maestro Ali Salimi

Azerbaijani-speaking people in Hamedan invite Ashiqs to sing and play the "çögür (chogur) چُئگور" which is a nine-stringed long-necked lute similar to the Azerbaijani qopuz. In Persian dictionaries, this instrument, under the name "chogur چگور", has been considered a musical instrument performed by Turks and Turkmens. The Persian poet, Mohammad Taqi Bahar (1886-1951), widely known as "Malek osh-Sho'ara Bahar ملک‌الشعرا بهار" has included the name of the instrument "chogur" in his poems for at least twice:

  1. ز در درآمد و کرنش نمود زابلئی چگور برکف و گفتش بزن بخوان رستم

  2. طنینش چنان می‌نماید ز دور که از پهنهٔ دشت‌، بانگ چگور

Ashiq Aziz Shahnazi. "Aziz Ramesh عزیز رامش", widely known as "Ashiq Aziz Shahnazi آشیق عزیز شهنازی", was born to Iranian parents in "Ganja گنجه" (in 1929 [Wikipedia] or 1931 [BD]). The name of his father was "Musa موسی" and his mother was "Sarvenaz سروناز". In 1938, Aziz and his parents moved to "Mazra'eh Jahangir مزرعه جهانگیر" village in Ahar County. He was a student of "Ashiq Asad Meskin آشیق اسد مسکین". In 1969, he moved to Tabriz and was active to promote Ashiqlar music and trained a couple of important students including Ashiq Rasoul Ghorbani and Ashiq Hassan Eskandari. Ashiq Aziz Shahnazi passed away on July 8, 1995. Today many Ashiqs sing his poems in their performances.


[BD] Bahman Boustan and Mohammad Reza Darvishi: Morouri bar Musighi-ye-Sonnati va Mahalli-ye-Iran, Tehran, 1991.

[Da] Mohammad Reza Darvishi: Dayeratolma'aref-e-Sazha-ye-Iran, Mahoor Publications, Tehran, 2001.

[Re]: James W. Redhouse: A Turkish to English Lexicon, Librairie du Liban (New Impression, 1987), Beirut, 1890.

[Se]: Mehdi Setayeshgar: Vazhe-Name-ye-Musighi-ye-Iran Zamin, Tehran, Vol. I (1995) & Vol. II (1996).

Keywords. qopuz, ashiqlar sazi, saz, kopuz, komuz, qomuz, lute.

For more, also check the following notes:

Azerbaijani Musical Instruments

Persian Musical Instruments

Ashiq Hassan Eskandari from Tabriz (the capital of East Azerbaijan Province of Iran)

Ashiq Hassan Eskandari from Tabriz (the capital of East Azerbaijan Province of Iran)