Armenian folk music is a rich and diverse genre that has evolved over centuries. Two distinct styles within Armenian folk music are the gusan and ashugh styles. Both styles have distinct musical characteristics and cultural significance, and it is important to understand the difference between them.
Gusan is a term that is used to describe traveling bards in Armenian culture. These bards would sing and play instruments, traveling from town to town and performing for audiences. Gusans were known for their improvisational skills and their ability to entertain audiences with their music and storytelling. The gusan style of music is characterized by its use of the duduk, a double-reed woodwind instrument, and the saz, a lute-like instrument. The songs performed by gusans are typically narrative in nature, and often tell stories about love, war, and historical events.
Ashugh is a term used to describe professional musicians who were trained in the art of music and poetry. Unlike gusans, ashughs were typically settled in one place, and their music was performed in a more formal setting. The ashugh style of music is characterized by its use of the kamancha, a spike fiddle, and the tar, a lute-like instrument. The songs performed by ashughs are typically more complex in structure and are often accompanied by dance. The themes of the songs are diverse and can range from love and nature to politics and social issues.
Both the gusan and ashugh styles of Armenian folk music have been passed down from generation to generation, and both continue to be an important part of Armenian culture today. However, while both styles share some similarities, they are distinct and unique in their own right.
In conclusion, the main difference between gusan and ashugh in Armenian folk music lies in the type of music performed and the context in which it is performed. Gusans were traveling bards who performed improvisational music for audiences, while ashughs were professional musicians who performed more formal and structured music. Both styles have contributed to the rich musical heritage of Armenia and continue to be an important part of Armenian culture today.
Source: “Armenian Music: A Comprehensive Guide” by S. Peter Cowe.