An ashik or Ozan is traditionally a singer-poet and bard who accompanies his song—be it a dastan (traditional epic story, also known as hikaye) or a shorter original composition—with a long-necked lute (usually a bağlama or saz) in Turkic (primarily Turkish and Azerbaijani cultures) and non-Turkic cultures of South Caucasus In Azerbaijan, the modern ashik is a professional musician who usually serves an apprenticeship, masters playing the bağlama, and builds up a varied but individual repertoire of Turkic folk songs.
The ashik tradition in Turkic cultures of Anatolia, Azerbaijan and Iran has its origin in the Shamanistic beliefs of ancient Turkic peoples. The ancient ashiks were called by various names such as bakshy/bakhshi/Baxşı, dede (dədə), and uzan or ozan. Among their various roles, they played a major part in perpetuation of oral tradition, promotion of communal value system and traditional culture of their people. These wandering bards or troubadours are part of current rural and folk culture of Azerbaijan, and Iranian Azerbaijan, Turkey, the Turkmen Sahra (Iran) and Turkmenistan, where they are called bakshy. Thus, ashik, in traditional sense, may be defined as travelling bards who sang and played saz, an eight or ten string plucking instrument in the form of a long-necked lute.
After many years, today, ashiks gather at kahvehane, sing songs, tell stories and play Saz, and attend at wedding ceremonies. However, the younger generation does not know their culture, oral literature and even language. The bridges between their cultures were demolished. The continuity of their cultural history was hampered.
For the very reason, ashiks are not only a living symbol of a nation, but also a symbol of grief and exploitation.