Music of the Bakhshis of Khorasan

Inscribed in 2010 (5.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Country(ies): Iran (Islamic Republic of)



Music of the Bakhshis of Khorasan

In Khorasan Province, the Bakhshis are renowned for their musical skill with the dotār, a two-stringed, long-necked lute. They recount Islamic and Gnostic poems and epics containing mythological, historical or legendary themes. Their music, known as Maghami, consists of instrumental and/or vocal pieces, performed in Turkish, Kurdish, Turkmen and Persian. Navāyī is the most widespread magham: diverse, vocal, rhythmless, accompanied by Gnostic poems. Other examples include the Turkish maghams Tajnīs and Gerāyelī, the religious themes of Shākhatāyī, and Loy, an antique romantic magham, belonging to the Kormanj Kurds of Northern Khorasan. Bakhshis consider one string of the dotār to be male and the other female; the male string remains open, while the female is used to play the main melody. Bakhshi music is passed on through traditional master-pupil training, which is restricted to male family members or neighbours, or modern methods, in which a master trains a wide range of students of both genders from diverse backgrounds. The music transmits history, culture, ethical and religious fundamentals. Therefore, the social role of the Bakhshis exceeds that of mere narrator, and defines them as judges, mediators and healers, as well as guardians of the ethnic and regional cultural heritage of their community.


Decision 5.COM 6.19

The Committee (…) decides that [this element] satisfies the criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, as follows:

  • R.1: The music of the Bakhshis is recognized by the Khorasan community as part of its historical, cultural, ethical and religious foundation, providing it with a feeling of continuity and collective cultural identity;
  • R.2: Its inscription on the Representative List could promote visibility and awareness of intangible cultural heritage, while encouraging mutual respect and regional dialogue among diverse communities that share the Bakhshis tradition;
  • R.3: Recent and future safeguarding measures, including transmission, financial and legal support for practitioners, research and awareness-raising, reflect the combined efforts of governmental and non-governmental organizations and of the practitioner community;
  • R.4: The element has been nominated following the active participation of the bearer communities, whose representatives contributed the necessary information and material, and gave their free, prior and informed consent to the nomination;
  • R.5: The music of the Bakhshis of Khorasan is included in the National Inventory of Iran maintained by the Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization.



© 2009 Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization

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