Music and Poetry from the Pamir Mountains Madoh

play sample

The Madoh (song of praise) consists of different kinds of religious poetry, mostly written in Tajiki or Persian. Madoh is usually performed at solemn occasions, for example at a funeral ceremony, but also as a religious practice. The religious poetry can either be classical Persian mystic poetry or modern poetry devoted to the veneration of Ismaili Imams. The classical mystic poetry is often attributed to Jalal al-Dininfo-icon Rumi, a famous medieval Persian poet, and Nasir Khusraw, an Ismaili poet-philosopher.

The relatively modern poetry is composed by local Ismaili poets of the 19th and 20th centuries. In this type of poetry, the poet’s interpretation of the teachings of Ismaili Islam are more explicitly expressed. The religious character of the madoh, the participation of the community in its performance, and the devotional attitude of the performers of this genre, have given rise to the belief that madoh is meant to lead to a state of spiritual elevation, comparable to the religious ecstasy (wajd) of the Sufis.

The madoh is essentially a vocal composition, accompanied by rubabs and/or tanbur, with rhythmic support of dafs. The main part of madoh is sung by a solo voice with the support of choir singers in refrain. The accompanying instruments are also used for preludes, interludes and postludes. The tradition of madoh singing is very much alive after 70 years of political suppression. In fact, for the Ismailis of Badakhshan, the madoh is the most important means of expressing their rich cultural heritage.

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