One of the main genres of sung poetry in Tajik Badakhshan is maddoh, performed by so-called maddoh-khwans, who perform religious poetry as an Ismaili ritual on various occasions. This maddoh is built up by different texts of poetry, which are linked together in performance. The texts are almost exclusively in (Tajik) Persian.

The majority of the Badakhshanis are speakers of Pamir languages, but many of them are bilingual and speak Tajik Persian or Russian in addition to their native language. Well-known names may be heard in the poems, being the pen names or takhallus of classical Persian poets. Especially the pen names of Jalal al-Din Rumi (Shams-i Tabrizi) and Nasir Khusraw occur quite often at the end of ghazals. Ghazals form the main type of text sung in this tradition, besides quatrains and longer genres of poetry, such as the qasida. The main themes of the poetry in maddoh are mystical love and praise of the important figures of Badakhshani Ismailism. Maddoh has an educational purpose: the audience is summoned to heed the advice and the admonitions given in maddoh.

A remarkable example of maddoh is a qasida of 32 lines attributed to Nasir Khusraw, in which Safavid shahs are portrayed as warriors and temporary saviours in the turmoil of the approaching apocalypse. In my paper I would like to focus on this poem, thereby illustrating the nature of the oral tradition in Tajik Badakhshan.


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Dr. Gabrielle Van den Berg