New Trends In The Cultural Space Of The Region: Nashid In Dagestan


In this article, we explore one of the phenomena of the modern cultural space of the region, the emergence of which is caused by the active development of religious culture and the actualization of religious cultural practices. The subject of the study was a religious song Nashid. The authentic form of Nashid crystallized in the context of the Muslim ritual of zikr, at present the Nashid is an integral component of the mawlid. The substantive basis of Nashid is the Koranic sacred texts and Hadith. However, there are examples when Nashid acts as an independent musical phenomenon with no regard to a specific ritual. This is partly due to the fact that the trends of globalism turned out to be active. Thus, the stage version of Nashid was formed, demonstrating a kind of border position between the sacred-religious and the mass, everyday, contexts of modern culture. In the article, we analyze the Nashid from two positions: as part of a Muslim ritual and as a new trend in the cultural space of modern Dagestan. Accordingly, at least three types of Nashid can be identified. The basis for this classification are inclusion in the context of the ritual, inclusion in the context of stage music, literary content, etc. We have determined that the emergence of stage Nashid, firstly, indicates the penetration of the processes of globalism into the context of religious culture and, secondly, indicates the real transformations of the regional cultural space.

Keywords: Nashidreligious songcultural spaceDagestan


In the 1990s, the sociocultural space of modern Dagestan was actively transformed due to the widespread penetration of the Muslim component into its context. At the same time, the introduction of new religious practices and the expansion of the familiar space of traditional religious culture took place.

Nowadays mavlid is the most popular religious practice in Dagestan. This is a ritual, the main purpose of which is the glorification of the Prophet Muhammad. The ritual is open, held in the presence of a large number of people and symbolizes the unity of the Muslim Ummah. Therefore, it is natural that the mawlid is held in a mosque, in the presence of parishioners. The main mawlid of the Muslim calendar is Mawlid an-Nabiy, which is dedicated to the birth of the Prophet Muhammad and is one of the most revered Muslim holidays.

The practice of mawlid reflected in the culture of everyday life of modern Muslim Dagestanis. Religious celebrations dedicated to the birthdays of the iconic personalities of the Islamic world (imams, sheikhs, etc.) also became known as mawlids. Depending on the public “status” of the personalia, as well as on the will of the organizers of the celebration, such Mawlids are held either in mosques with a large number of worshipers, or in a narrower circle among invited relatives and members of the community.

One of the results of the expansion of the Muslim component in the sociocultural space of modern Dagestan was the emergence of new forms of musical creativity. It should be noted that the ethnomusical tradition of the Dagestan peoples is quite diverse and includes a wide range of genres - from historical epic to lyrical song. There is no exception and spiritual (religious) song, which makes up a separate - sacred-religious - layer of ethno-musical tradition.

Discourse on the permissibility of music in Islam continues to be relevant (Shiloah, 1997; Fedorova, 2015; Yunusov, 2006) and periodically resumes as adherents who deny any presence of musicality in the daily space of a Muslim, and opponents who argue about the musical intonation component in azan and recitation of the Quran. For example, in studies of scholars, the inseparability of music and intonation content with the ritual complex is justified, a feature of the sound world of Muslim culture is noted, which to some extent answers the question of the “permissibility” of music in Islam (Blum, 2013; Isgandarova, 2015; Shiloah, 2007; Touma, 1996). In general, modern science has accumulated a sufficient amount of knowledge about the history, development of scientific knowledge, the culture of Muslim civilization (Saifullina, 2012; Khismatullin, 2008; Shukurov, 2010). Russian researchers turned their attention to the musical component of the traditional Volga Muslim culture (Imamutdinova, 2010; Sofiiskaia, 2007; Shayakhmetova, 2014), the musical culture of the Muslims of the North Caucasus is currently just beginning to be studied.

We agree with the named researchers, moreover, we have our own experience of observing ritual practitioners and the inclusion of the musical component in their context. In this regard, the object of our ongoing research is all kinds of musical creativity in Dagestan and the place of sacred-religious music in the structure of the musical culture of the region.

Problem Statement

Exploring the structure of the musical culture of Dagestan in one of the earliest publications (Abdulaeva, 2015), we identified in it a separate “layer” functioning within the framework of traditional culture and — at the same time — defining religious, i.e. supra-ethnic content of the spiritual life of the Dagestan peoples. This is a sacred religious music. In comparison with similar content in the culture of the Christian world, the musical content of Muslim worship does not reveal genre and species diversity. First of all, this is due to the severe restriction of the manifestation of musicality within the framework of the ritual, as we mentioned above in connection with the discourse on the compatibility of music and Islam. Exploring the structure of the musical culture of Dagestan in one of the earliest publications (Abdulaeva, 2015), we identified in it a separate “layer” functioning within the framework of traditional culture and — at the same time — defining religious, i.e. supra-ethnic content of the spiritual life of the Dagestan peoples. This is a sacred religious music. In comparison with similar content in the culture of the Christian world, the musical content of Muslim worship does not reveal genre and species diversity. First of all, this is due to the severe restriction of the manifestation of musicality within the framework of the ritual, as we mentioned above in connection with the discourse on the compatibility of music and Islam.

Nevertheless, the ritual practice of Islam is not free from musical intonation content, and the sacred azan based on the musical (vocal) voice of the call to prayer is convincing evidence of this statement. Other examples of the intersection of Muslim religious practice and music are the recitation of Koranic texts, which also contain elements of musical intonation, and religious songs. Graham (2015), a Sufi culture researcher in Eastern countries, noted that “in contrast to Christians and Jews, whose liturgical chants established a sacred canon that could inspire a mystic as much as an ordinary believer, the sacred music of Islam did not penetrate divine service further than the singing of Koran , a five-time call for prayer from minarets and call-up prayers, pronounced publicly on occasion” (p. 27).

In accordance with the above, we identified sacred-religious music as the problematic field of this study and limited ourselves to a typology of modern religious song.

Research Questions

The subject of the study is a religious song Nashid as a new trend in the cultural space of a region. First of all, let us consider the main genre features of Nashid and determine the stability of these features in the context of modern globalization processes.

Universal Nashid is a religious song that exists in the context of ritual, performed by male vocal solo or in an ensemble without instrumental accompaniment, the language of such Nashid is Arabic. Musically versatile Nashid is closely associated with the traditional melos of the Arab East.

The integration of Sufism with traditional culture led to the emergence of a local variety of religious songs, more associated with ethnic culture than the universal Nashid. The local Nashid is performed in the languages of the Dagestan peoples, and its melody reveals a close connection with musical folklore. Thus, if the universal Nashid is supra-ethnic and broadcasts the common culture of the Muslim world, the local Nashid is built into the traditional culture and marks the ethnic identity of the performers of religious songs.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this work is to determine the conditions for the occurrence of a stage variety of a religious song; to justify the typology of a religious song.

Research Methods

The study used the following methods:

1. Typological method, which allows to summarize the empirical material about the ethno-musical tradition of the peoples of Dagestan.

2. Structural and functional method, the effectiveness of which allows to reveal the structure of the Dagestan musical culture, to analyze the nature of the impact of civilizational processes on the culture of the peoples of Dagestan.

3. A method for analyzing the artistic context of a musical work, which allows us to consider how the musical text fits into the cultural-historical context.


An important condition for the performing practice of the universal Nashid is flawless pronunciation in Arabic and knowledge of the Koran texts. Equally important is the skill of solo and ensemble singing. Special training for Nashid singing in Muslim educational institutions is not conducted, therefore, the accumulation of the “repertoire”, the acquisition of vocal skills takes place in the framework of amateur creativity, which is identical to the folk-song tradition. In this regard, the professionalization of religious singing can be spoken rather arbitrarily, since the well-known Nashid performers in the past are pop singers who have musical education, but over time they changed their value priorities and devoted themselves to the practice of religious vocal performance.

As part of the mawlid ritual, religious songs are performed by the most active parishioners with extensive experience in this sector of religious culture. At present, these are ensembles, whose participants know Koranic texts and Hadith, own a corpus of melodies that has developed as a result of a long performing practice.

Participation in mawlid as performers of religious songs is a social form of musical amateurishness. Within the framework of the Muslim ritual, professional traditions of performing religious songs and a professional level of performance have developed. For example, the vocal group "Chirkey" is an association of Nashid performers and Koranic text readers.

The basis of the imaginative structure of a religious song is an even emotional background, moderate dynamics, and overall austere sound.

An important compositional feature of Nashid is the presence of a large number of verses, performed in a constant dynamics, in one character. Repeatability, repeated reproduction of one and that musical material is a feature of ours as a genre included in religious ritual practice.

The musical “content” of the universal Nashid consists of the intonations of the Arab-Muslim melos. Such musicians played by musicians from Egypt, Malaysia and other countries of the Arab world have gained wide popularity due to recordings on video hosting sites. The Arabic language, the musical-intonational basis, perceived as universal Arabic (a kind of macro-dialect Arab-Muslim), brings our Nashid to a supra-ethnic level, brings this song genre closer to the meaning of the symbol of musical culture of the Arab-Muslim world.

The local version of Nashid is adapted to the traditional culture of the Dagestan nationalities - the national song melos became its intonational basis, and the texts (Hadith, spiritual poems) are sung in the languages of the Dagestan peoples. Such Nashid carry a double symbolic load - as an important component of religious practice and the result of the interaction of religious practice with the ethno-musical tradition.

Modal foundation of Nashid is a natural minor, which brings it intonationally to a folk song. The musical content of the local Nashid is fairly restrained: the melody is smooth, the range is not wide. All this speaks of the priority of the verbal text over the musical, emphasizes the sacred meaning of the word and the secondary role of the musical content. It is necessary to add a slow tempo to these typological features, which allows us to perform not only the ensemble of singers, but also all those present on the mawlid.

The fact that the local Nashid is melodically connected with folk song creation confirms the ontological involvement of a religious song in the traditional ethnic culture of the Dagestan nationalities. Based on our own auditory experience, we can note the proximity of the local Nashid to the European ethnotype of musical intonation, since its modal organization is “tied” to the seven-step modal organization of European music. For example, the musical intonational basis, identified with the ethnic type of melody, was recorded by us in the chants performed on mawlid in the Lezghin community.

The noted melodic connection of the local Nashid with the folk musical tradition provided him with an organic presence within the rituals of the family cycle: first of all, in the funeral rite - the memorial mawlid. Thanks to the corpus of musical intonations associated with local folklore, the “microdialect” of the local Nashid expresses ethnic self-consciousness and the inclusion of religious music in the space of the ethnocultural tradition.

Another feature of the local Nashid that distinguishes it from the universal is the wide use of intra-syllable chants, when there are two or more musical sounds for one syllable. This local peculiarity of the Dagestan Nashid is associated with the specificity of the relationship between verbal and musical rhythms in folk songs. Graham (2015) rightly noted

Sufis were destined to create music, so to speak, of the second plan - one that would not be sacred or profane, but something in between. In their work, they followed the same procedure as court musicians and composers, who built music around poetry. The difference was that Sufis filled this process with spiritual meaning. (p. 25)

Agreeing with Graham, we note that any attempt to diversify the melodic pattern, complicate the melody by expanding the range and all sorts of intonation details that, according to the performer, will give our Nashid “beautiful” sound, ultimately leads to an imbalance between the word and music.

As soon as the word, the sacred word, is relegated to the background and the refined melody receives priority, the religious song loses its main message, its symbolic meaning is destroyed. There is a secularization of the genre. In the situation with Nashid, this led to the emergence of a modern, concert variety of the genre.

It is important that in the concert version of Nashid, the features marking the religious song are preserved: the ascetic nature of the performance; lack of a bright emotional background; moderate pace; general tranquility conveyed by the melody and character of the performance. These typological signs are combined with the new ones introduced into Nashid from the sphere of the modern concert stage: instrumental accompaniment arranged with the help of modern computer technologies. Author's Nashid began to appear, created on the basis of original texts and specially written music. The expansion of the theme has taken place: at the concert stage, Nashid, dedicated to human values ​​— motherland, mother, and family — gained popularity. In general, the concert Nashid demonstrates a variety of audio content by singing the text alternately in Arabic and in one of the Dagestan languages.

Nashids are included in multi-genre concert programs, but more often, on the initiative of official religious organizations, special concerts are held, the programs of which are composed exclusively of Nashids. For example, on the eve of the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan, an evening of Nashid was held in Makhachkala, initiated by the Committee on Freedom of Conscience and Interaction with Religious Organizations of the Republic of Dagestan and the Muftiyat of Dagestan. The announcement of the event emphasized that the concert will be held without instrumental accompaniment. Thus, the organizers highlighted the importance of maintaining authentic Nashid performance.

Summing up the preliminary results, we note that it is difficult to determine the future development of the concert Nashid, since there are strict genre restrictions that regulate the permissible limits of the genre's dynamics with regard to verbal content and melodic diversity. At this stage, we celebrate three types of Nashid: 1) universal - a symbol of Muslim culture, 2) local - a component of the ethno-musical tradition, 3) concert - a component of the modern musical culture of the region. If the first two types are rooted in tradition - religious and ethnic, then the third type is the phenomenon of today, which arose at the intersection of religious and popular mass cultures. Certainly, globalization and the trend towards universalization of culture became the impetus for the emergence of a concert Nashid. The transit of a religious song into the space of mass culture demonstrates the real possibilities of globalization to influence even such universal and unshakable forms of social organization as religious culture. Concert Nashid, as a new trend in the cultural space of Dagestan, this fully confirms.


The tradition of the Sufi Muslim ritual, the practice of vocal and instrumental music reflected on the attitude of Dagestanis to music as part of the cultural heritage. This prepared the development of song-instrumental folklore.

A distinctive feature of the concert Nashid is the combination of the stylistic features of a religious song with the laws of popular mass music. The concert Nashid includes melodic revolutions of a supra-ethnic nature and ethnically identifiable associated with the intonation vocabulary of the musician-author. The “new” Nashid is organic in the space of mass musical culture thanks to the instrumental arrangement and use of modern computer technologies for processing musical sound.

A special culture of performance and popularization of Nashid has been formed, the industry of studio recording and distribution of Nashid by means of video hosting has been formed.

So, the Islamic “renaissance” of the 1990s led to the development of religious practices, within which a local form of religious song crystallized. The genre content of the ethno-musical tradition has expanded. In the early 2000s, a religious song, which occupied its rather “close” niche within the framework of the ritual, received a new form of positioning - in the form of a concert Nashid, which became a new trend in both musical culture and regional cultural space.


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28 December 2019

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Abdulaeva*, M. (2019). New Trends In The Cultural Space Of The Region: Nashid In Dagestan. In D. Karim-Sultanovich Bataev, S. Aidievich Gapurov, A. Dogievich Osmaev, V. Khumaidovich Akaev, L. Musaevna Idigova, M. Rukmanovich Ovhadov, A. Ruslanovich Salgiriev, & M. Muslamovna Betilmerzaeva (Eds.), Social and Cultural Transformations in the Context of Modern Globalism, vol 76. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 16-22). Future Academy.