The article below by Professor M. T. Massoudieh on the history of music in Baluchistan was originally posted in the Encyclopedia Iranica.


Melodies in the music of Baluchistan are usually connected with particular ceremonies (marāsem), usually religious rites, festivals, or holidays. The principal religious rites are exorcism (gwātī), ecstasy (māled-e pīr-e pataṛ), and mourning (majāles-e tarḥīm); the most important festivals and holidays are weddings, childbirth, circumcision, date harvesting (hāmīn), and wheat harvesting. The relationships between melodies and particular ceremonies are reflected in their names.

Līkō and Zahīrōk. These are vocal forms (āvāzī) and are sung when one is away from close relatives, friends, a beloved, and even from one’s country. In the beginning Zahīrōk was only sung by two groups of women, who in the course of their daily work would exchange melodies. This method of performance is not common today; in practice Zahīrōk is sung by male singers accompanied by a short-necked fiddle (sorūd, also surōz, or kēčak, Pers. qeyčak).

The Līkō and Zahīrōk, which contain similar texts, differ in that each is common to a particular area of Baluchistan and that each has different melodic characteristics. Līkō is most common in Sarḥadd-zamīn and Zahīrōk in Mokrān (Makurān). Among the characteristics of the Sarḥaddi style is the repetition of hemistichs which are performed in one period, usually composed of two sentences or two melodic figures. The first sentence or figure of the period has an unfinished quality, while the second sentence or figure evokes a feeling of completion.

Kordī (Kurdī). The text of Kordī, like Līkō and Zahīrōk, evokes the suffering arising from distance and separation, but in Līkō and Zahīrōk the suffering is real, while in Kordī there is only remembrance of separation. The text is usually in the dialect of Rūdbār and the region between Īrānšahr and Bampūr. Kordī was also initially sung by women when working with stone handmills used for making wheat flour; however, this is no longer the custom. Kordī, like Līkō and Zahīrōk, has free meter. The name Kordī may suggest that this āvāz was associated with a branch of the Kurds in Baluchistan.

Mōtk or Mowtk. These are for the ceremonies of tarḥīm, the assembly convened for the blessing of the dead and mourning. The text of this āvāz describes the virtues of the deceased and the sorrow of mourning. On this basis Mōtk can be counted as a type of elegy (marṯīa). Mōtk is usually performed by a group of women without instrumental accompaniment. The verses (bayt) and refrains (tarjīʿband) are sung alternately by two groups of singers or by soloist and group. This way of performing appears to be no longer customary. Mōtk, like Līkō, Zahīrōk, and Kordī, is not strictly metrical.

Šayr (Šeʿr). This is an āvāz with poetic text consisting of epic stories, romance, historical events, social narrative, advice, etc. The poet (šāʿer), also called pālavān (pahlavān), performs Šayr with instrument and voice. Baluchi pālavāns sing of historical events, thereby preserving the history of Baluchistan orally. Šayr is usually sung in gatherings of important people or khans; on rare occasions it can also be performed at wedding ceremonies. The instruments accompanying the performance are the plucked, long-necked lute (Bal. dambūra, Pers. tanbīra) providing a rhythmic drone, and the sorūd (qeyčak). The most important and well-known Šayrs current in Baluchistan are epic Šayr, including Mīr Qabar, Čākur wa Gwaharām, Ḥażrat Adham, and Moḥammad Ḥanīfa; historical Šayr, including Jīhand Khan and Dādšāh; love Šayr, including ʿEzzat wa Mehrōk, and Še (Šayḵ) Morīd wa Hānī; social narrative, including Mīr Pasond Khan and Morād Khan (see also on Baluchi literature above).

Gwātī. This term, literally “windy” or “windiness,” is also used to designate depression believed to be caused by an evil spirit disturbing the psychosomatic equilibrium, for which another term is jenn-zadagī (spirit possession). The use of gwātī as a musical term arises from the belief that only music is able to rid the possessed body of unclean spirits and restore it to health by means of a trance. Belief in unclean spirits is found both in Baluchistan, in particular in its coastal regions, and on most of the Persian Gulf coast. The most important types of evil spirits are the zārs (for the names of which see Rīāḥī, pp. 4-5), dīvs, gwāts, and jenns, further distinguished by gender and creed (Muslim or non-Muslim). Different instruments are used to exorcise different spirits, e.g., for a zār only drums (lēvā) are used, but gwātī ceremonies (leʿeb) use all of the instruments current in Baluchistan, mainly sorūd and double flute dōnelī performing a specific repertory of songs and instrumental pieces. The word mūkām (maqām: mode) in Baluchistan is attributed to instruments that participate in the customs of gwātī. A kind of dance, or stirring, not unlike that of the dervishes, is an indispensable part of the gwātī ritual. When the participants are men, the dance is called damāl and the leader is always a man, called ḵalīfa. Female gwātī dance may be led by a man or a woman. The generic term for the leader of the ceremonies is gwātīe māt (lit. the mother of gwātī), whether a man or a woman (today most often a man). The most famous gwātīe māt was a woman from Mesqaṭ by the name of Zaynab. In deference to her, the ḵalīfa and the instrumentalists sing the following line at the beginning of each gwātī: Zaynab gwātīe māt-int, ḥalwā na wārta Zaynabā (Zaynab is the mother of gwātī, Zaynab has not eaten ḥalwā). The gwātīe māt first diagnoses the existence of gwāt and then fixes the precise stages of the patient’s convalescence (daraja-ye kopār), choosing the music used in the ceremonies. The ritual is performed every night from three to seven or even fourteen nights, depending on the type and severity of the disease, and ends with a sacrifice. The text of the āvāz of the Gwātī includes praises (madḥ) dedicated to the mystics Laʿl Šahbāz Qalandar, buried in Sehwān (Sind), and ʿAbd-al-Qader Jēlānī (Jeylānī, Gīlānī; qq.v.)

Māled (Mawlūd) pīr-e pataṛ. The ceremonies of māled, which last only two to three hours, are most common in the coastal regions of Baluchistan, but are now gradually being forgotten. In māled the āvāz is accompanied only by the drums called ṭabl and daf (single skin frame drum, called samāʿ or māled); only in exceptional cases is the oboe (sūrnā) also used. The leader of the māled ceremony, who sometimes plays the samāʿ himself, is called ḵalīfa. The ceremonies of māled are in one sense parallel to those performed at the Qāderī meetings of Kurdistan. Reaching ecstatic states during the ḏekr, some participants of māled (called mastān “the drunk ones”) insert swords, knives, and daggers into their bodies.

The following āvāz are used in marriage and childbirth ceremonies:

Nāzēnk. This term means “worship” or “praise” (verb nāzēnag) and in the first place designates praise of the bride, groom, and newborn baby, but also of God. Nāzēnk is sung at the following times: when the groom is taken to the bath, after returning from the bath, when the bride and groom are seated on the “throne,” and during the first six nights after childbirth.

Lāḍō and Hālō. Like Nāzēnk, Lāḍō (Laylō, Layiarī) and Hālō are particular to marriage ceremonies. Both Lāḍō and Hālō are performed before and during the groom’s bath, but in addition Hālō is used during the ḥanā-bandān ceremony on the eve of the wedding day. Lāḍō is named after its refrain: lāḍō lī lāḍō.

Šaptākī (also Sepat). This is an unaccompanied āvāz with poetry praising God, his Prophet, and the great religious figures recited by relatives and friends gathering in the room of the mother during the night after childbirth. The ceremony lasts from six to forty nights, depending upon the family’s finances. The āvāz is usually performed by two groups of singers who alternate singing verses and refrains.

Sepat, Wazbat, and Nāt (Naʿt). Sepat is also sung during childbirth ceremonies in honor of the mother. The text of Sepat or Wazbat is also devoted to the praise of God, saints, and great religious figures. Nāt is performed chorally during Šaptākī ceremonies and like Šaptākī is an āvāz with lyrics that extol and eulogize the Prophet, his descendants, and the other prominent figures of Islam.

Sawt (ṣawt). This term is applied to many melodies in the music of Baluchistan, accompanied by any of the instruments current there. Its lyrics are about love or joy and are called šayyānī sawt. The performers of Sawt, called sawtī, perform in engagement, marriage, and circumcision ceremonies and other celebrations and holidays. (The term is also applied to short poems, not necessarily intended for singing.)


L. Mobaššerī, Āhanghā-ye maḥallī-e manāṭeq-e jonūbī-e Īrān I, Tehran, 1335 Š./1956. ʿA. M. Aḥmadīān, “Mūsīqī dar Balūčestān,” Majalla-ye honar o mardom 183, 1356 Š./1977, pp. 57-65. M. A. Barker and A. K. Mengal, A Course in Baluchi, Montreal, 1969, II, pp. 263-349 (contains samples of poetry and metrical analysis). J. During, Musique d’extase et de guérison du Baloutchistan. Anthologie de la musique traditionelle iranienne, Paris, 1981 (a record with a notice on the gwātīs). Idem, Musique et mystique en Iran, Ph.D. dissertation, Strasbourg, 1985, pp. 166-370. J. Kuckertz and M. T. Massoudieh, Volkgesänge aus Iran, Bässler Archiv 23, 1975. M. T. Massoudieh, “Hochzeitslieder aus Balūčestān,” Jahrbuch für musikalische Volks- und Völkerkunde, Berlin and New York, 1973, pp. 59-69. Idem, Mūsīqī-e Balūčestān, Tehran, 1364 Š./1985. Idem, Tajzīa wa taḥlīl-e 14 tarāna-ye maḥallī-e Īrān, Tehran, 1353 Š./1974. ʿA. Rīāḥī, Zār o bād o balūč, Tehran, 1356 Š./1977. Qureshi and Burckhardt, “Pakistan,” in The New Grove’s Dictionary of Music, London, 1980.