Circassian music

Circassian music

Circassian music refers to music of the Circassians (Cherkess), people from Northern Caucasus, Russia. Their music demonstrates their traditions and habits[citation needed].



Circassian music is characterized by certain instruments, including:

  • Pshina, an accordion which is played in a specific way to produce Circassian tunes
  • Pxachach, 2 sets of "wood blocks", each set containing about six pieces of wood held by hand; when a player strikes them together they produce a pure sound of wood to indicate the beat rhythm of the song.
  • Baraban, a drum known as 'Dhol'; in Adyghe it is called "Shontrip".
  • Pkhetaw, made from wood looks like a small table and it is used for hitting it with sticks for tempo.
  • Apa-pshina, a three string guitar look alike.
  • Qamlapsh, the Circassian flute.


In Circassian music, there are several dances that are performed differently.

Kafa is a piece with (4:4) time signature, and usually this piece demonstrates the relationship between the Challa (male) and the Pshasha (female), this relationship which is built out of love, cooperation and strength. Usually 'Kafa' is the main piece to be played in a 'Djagu' (a Circassian wedding or any Circassian gathering) and there are more than 100 kafas written by different Circassian artists.

Wuig is a piece with (8:4) time signature, and usually this piece is played before Challas are going to war, but nowadays it is played at the end of the Djagu and usually it follows this rhythm each eight time intervals a new musical phrase is introduced, and this piece may be repeated several times since more than ten different Wuigs are available.

Tleperush is a dance which originates from the Black Sea coastal area. It is a piece with (4:4) time signature, and the word "Tleperush" means "leg kick" and usually this piece is faster than Kafa and Widj, almost equal in tempo to known "Lezginka" but different in style and follows this rhythm (1&2..3&4) and this rhythm is produced by Pshina and Pxachach and Pkhetaw (a wood hitting instrument for tempo). Abkhazians have this dance too, and they call it "Apsua Koshara"

Zefauk means "approach to each other". It is a piece with (4:4) time signature, and very similar to Kafa; the word "Zefauk" means (forward and backward) and it defines how it is danced by going 4 steps forward and another four backward exactly as the Kafa but with different musical taste.

Shishan means "horse behaving". The dance is a fast piece with (4:4) time signature; this particular piece is played differently by pulling the Bellows of the Pshina in and out rapidly to create an Off Beat Rhythm which produces a Rhythm two times faster than its time signature, and the word shishan is a Circassian word and it is not linked to Chechen.

Tlepechas is a fast dance and it is an improvisation dance it is considered to be one of the ancient dance of the Circassians, "Tlepechas" means "stick toes in the ground" the dance is based on the Nart sagas legends that used to dance on their toes.

Zighalat means "be the top". The dance is very energetic and fast, and it considered to be the most fastest dance in the Caucasus in its origin, it is danced in pairs, the male dance fast and strong show his skills, and the woman dance gentle but moves fast.

Hakulash means "lame man move". At the beginning it was a joke and comedy dance to make the viewers laugh, but with time it became part of the Circassian repertoire; its leg moves look like lame moves but the dance is a fast dance.

Yislamey was named after the man who first danced it, "Islam". "Yislamey" means belong to Islam. A young man called Islam danced by imitating the moves of an eagle he saw flying in the sky, and the female who danced with him, understood his intention and danced with him as he did, there two kinds of "Yislamey", this one is the "Bjedough Yislamey".

Qamachas is the dagger dance. The dancer shows his skill with the "Qama", the Circassian dagger, it is a fast dance and it is a competition dance between men, and sometimes it is danced as solo.

Oshha ches or Bighris is the mountaineers dance. It is a very fast dance, danced by men showing their skills, the moves are hard and strong moves shows the character of the mountaineers.

Apsni Apsua is the famous Abkhaz dance. Abkhazians are considered part of the Circassians[citation needed]; they are very close in blood, language, culture, traditions with the Adyghe, in time Adyghe adopted their brothers' and neighbors' dance.

Circassian artists

The Adyghe Anathem was originally composed by Iskhak Shumafovich Mashbash and Umar Khatsitsovich Tkhabisimov, but after the diaspora almost all Circassians immigrated to different countries such as Jordan, Syria, Turkey and many more.

Notable artists from Turkey include:

  • Şhaguj Mehmet Can, musician
  • Thazpel Mustafa, musician
  • Oğuz Altay, musician
  • Semih Canbolat, musician

Syria include:

  • Tambi Djemouk, musician

Germany include:

  • Murat Kansat, musician


  • Firas Valntine
  • Ivan Bakij
  • Orhan Bersiqu
  • Rakan Qojas, musician
  • Blan Jalouqa, musician
  • Muhannad Nasip, musician
  • Httoqay [1]


Back in the Kavkas, there are many Pshinawas (Pshina means "player") who produce Circassian music such as:

  • Hapcha Zaodin
  • Hasan Sokov
  • Aslan Leiv
  • Aslan Tlebzu

In other countries, like Syria and Jordan, there are composers not just of Circassian music but also for different musical genres, including:

  • Ahmad Aiy
  • Saeed Bazouqa

See also


  1. ^ (Httoqay Qafa)
  • Bereghwn (Baragunov), V. H. and He’wpe, Zh., Narodnaya instrumentalnaya muzika adigov (cherkesov) [National Instrumental Music of the Circassians], Nalchik: El’-Fa, 2005. [600 pieces]
  • Bereghwn (Baragunov), V. H. and Qardenghwsch’ (Kardangushev), Z. P’. (compilers), Adige Weredxemre Pshinalhexemre, Yape Txilh.
  • Narodnie pesni i instrumentalnie naigrishi adigov, tom 1 [Circassian Songs and Instrumental Folk-Tunes, Vol. 1], Moscow: All-Union Book Publishing House ‘Soviet Composer’, 1980. Online. Available HTTP: <> (accessed 11 November 2007). [Edited by E. V. Gippius. This, and the other volumes in the series, are seminal works on Circassian musical lore. Some of the collected songs and chants are very ancient indeed]
  • Adige Weredxemre Pshinalhexemre, Yet’wane Txilh. Narodnie pesni i instrumentalnie naigrishi adigov, tom 2 [Circassian Songs and Instrumental Folk-Tunes, Vol. 2], Moscow: All-Union Book Publishing House ‘Soviet Composer’, 1981.
  • Adige Weredxemre Pshinalhexemre, Yeschane Txilh. Narodnie pesni i instrumentalnie naigrishi adigov, tom 3 [Circassian Songs and Instrumental Folk-Tunes, Vol. 3, Parts 1 and 2], Moscow: All-Union Book Publishing House ‘Soviet Composer’, 1986, 1990.
  • Beshkok, M., Adigeiski folklorni tanets [Adigean Folkloric Dances], Maikop, 1990.
  • Beshkok, M. I. and Nagaitseva, L. G., Adigeiski narodni tanets [Adigean Folk Dances], Maikop: Adigean Branch of the Krasnodar Book Press, 1982.
  • Jaimoukha, Amjad, The Circassians: A Handbook, London: RoutledgeCurzon (Taylor & Francis); New York: Palgrave and Routledge, 2001.
  • Jaimoukha, Amjad, Circassian Culture and Folklore: Hospitality Traditions, Cuisine, Festivals & Music (Kabardian, Cherkess, Adigean, Shapsugh & Diaspora), Bennett and Bloom, 2010.
  • Jaimoukha, Amjad, 'The Circassian Minstrels'. Online. Available HTTP: <> (accessed 20 July 2008).
  • Sokolova, A. N., ‘Zhanrovaya klassifikatsiya adigskikh narodnikh pesen [Genre-Classification of Circassian National Songs]’, in Kultura i bit adigov [The Culture and Way of Life of the Circassians], The Adigean Science and Research Institute, Maikop, issue 6, 1986.
  • Zhanrovaya klassifikatsiya adigskikh narodnikh pesen [Genre-Classification of Circassian National Songs]’, in Kultura i bit adigov [The Culture and Way of Life of the Circassians], The Adigean Science and Research Institute, Maikop, issue 7, 1988.
  • Diskografiya adigskoi narodnoi muziki [Discography of Circassian National Music], Maikop, 1998. [Reference book on about 400 gramophone records issued in the period from the beginning of the 20th century to the end of the 1980s]
  • Adyghe Traditional Polyphony and Its Transformation in Modern Conditions (accessed 1 February 2008).
  • '‘Music as a Medicine for Adyghs'’, in R. Kopiez, A. C. Lehmann, I. Wolther and C. Wolf (eds), Proceedings of the Fifth Triennial European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music Conference (ESCOM5), Hanover University of *Music and Drama, 8–13 September 2003, pp 160–2. (accessed 9 June 2008).
  • '‘The Caucasian-Scottish Relations through the Prism of the Fiddle and Dance Music’', paper presented at North Atlantic Fiddle Convention, The Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen, July 2006.
  • Thebisim (Tkhabisimov), W., Gwm yi Weredxer [Songs of the Heart], Maikop, 1983.
  • Siy Wered–Xekw: Weredxer [My Song–Country: Songs], Maikop, 1989.
  • Tlekhuch, A. M., ‘Istoki i osobennosti razvitiya adigeiskoi muzikalnoi kulturi [Sources and Features of the Development of the Adigean Music Culture]’, in Kultura i bit adigov [The Culture and Way of Life of the Circassians], The Adigean Science and Research Institute, Maikop, issue 8, 1991.

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