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|Music of Iran|
A 'Persian miniature' painting from Isfahan, Iran, depicting a late Qajar or Zand era banquet.
Music of Iran (Persian:موسیقی در ایران) or Music of Persia, as evidenced by the archaeological records of the Fertile Crescent civilization of Elam, the most ancient culture in southwestern Iran, dates back thousands of years. There is a distinction between the science of Music, or Musicology, which, as a branch of mathematics has always been held in high regards in Persia/Iran; as opposed to music performance (Tarab, Navakhteh, Tasneef, Taraneh or more recently Muzik), which has had an uneasy and often acrimonious relationship with the religious authorities and, in times of religious revival, with the society as a whole.
In ancient Iran musicians held socially respectable positions. We know that the Elamites and the Achaemenid Empire certainly made use of musicians but we do not know what that music was like. During the Parthian era, troubadours or Gosans were highly sought after as entertainers. There are theories in Academia that perhaps the early Dari Poets of Eastern Iran like Roudaki were in fact Gosans.
The history of musical performance in Sassanid Iran is however better documented than earlier periods. This is especially more evident in the context of Zoroastrian ritual. By the time of Khosrau II the Sassanid royal court was the host of prominent musicians such as Ramtin, Bamshad, Nakisa, Azad, Sarkash, and Barbad. Among these survived names, Barbad is remembered in much documents and has been named as remarkably high skilled. He has been credited to have given an organization of musical system consisting of seven "Royal modes" named Xosrovani, thirty derived modes named lahn, and 360 melodies named dastan. These numbers are in accordance with Sassanid's calendar of number of days in a week, month, and year. The theories these modal systems were based on are not known, however the writers of later periods have left a list of these modes and melodies. These names include some of epic forms such as kin-e Iraj (lit. the Vengeance of Iraj), kin-e siavash (lit. the Vengeance of Siavash), and Taxt-e Ardashir (lit. the Throne of Ardashir) and some connected with the glories of Sassanid royal court such as Bagh-e shirin (lit the garden of Shirin), Bagh-e Shahryar (lit. the Sovereign's Garden), and haft Ganj (lit. the seven treasures). There are also some of a descriptive nature like roshan cheragh (lit. bright lights).
In general the period of Khosrau II reign is regarded as an "golden age of Iranian music" and himself is shown in a large relief at Taq-e Bostan among his musicians and himself holding bow and arrows and while standing in a boat amidst a group of harpists. The relief depicts two boats and the whole picture shows these boats at "two successive moments within the same panel".
Barbad may have invented the lute and the musical tradition that was to transform into the Maqam tradition and eventually the Dastgah music.
Even after Islam, Persian musicians did not disappear: Zaryab is often credited with being the greatest influence over Andalusian and Spanish music. Farabi and Avicenna were not only musical theorists but adept at the lute and the Ney, respectively.
The position of a particular work of music often depends on the music genre and its relationship to music theory. The academic Authentic Persian Music (Musiq-i-Asil) is strongly based on the theories of sonic aesthetics as expounded by the likes of Farabi and Shirazi in the early centuries of Islam. It also preserves melodic formula that are often attributed to the musicians of the Persian imperial court of Khosroe Parviz in the Sassanid Period. Dastgah is the music of those who have a greater share of, or affect to be in possession of, refined taste and high culture and as such, in spite of its present popularity, has always been the preserve of the elite. However, the influence of Dastgah cannot be underestimated as it is seen as the reservoir of authenticity that other forms of musical genres derive melodic and performance ideas and inspiration from.
Until the early 20th century, musiqi-e assil was heard almost entirely at the royal courts of the monarchy. After the elitist Qajar dynasty ended in 1925, the Pahlavi dynasty funded and supported traditional Iranian music "Musiqi-e assil" and made it available to the people to enjoy for the next few decades, especially after cassettes were introduced in the 1960s. During the Pahlavi Dynasty from 1925 to 1979, Iran produced the Classic / Dastgahi singing stars Adib, Badie zadeh, Gholam Hossein Banan, Marzeyeh, Hoseyn Ghawami, Taj esfahani, and instrumentalists like Majid Kiani, Haj Ali Akbar khan Shahnazi, Abolhasan Saba, Asghar Bahari, Ahmad Ebadi, Hossein Tehrani, Faramarz Payvar, Ali Tadjvidi, Parviz Yahaghi, Jalil Shahnaz and Hassan Kassai.
The years after the 1979 revolution emerged Islamic Republic approved stars like Parviz Meshkatian, Kayhan Kalhor, Mohammad Reza Lotfi, Hossein Alizadeh, Dariush Talai, Mohsen Nafar, Mohammad-Reza Shajarian, and Shahram Nazeri. The renaissance brought popularity to the genre. Even though the revolution era coincided with the music's popularity, music and Islam have not always meshed well, and many Iranian conservatives disliked even the simple melodies and lyrics of classical music. Women were banned from singing as soloists for male audiences, though they were allowed to perform as soloists for female audiences, as instrumentalists and in choirs. For this reason some female singers, including Maryam Akhondy, left the Islamic Republic to work in exile.
Most notable living Iranian classical vocalists are: Sodeyf, Shajarian, Shahram Nazeri. Among relatively new classical vocalists we can name: Homayoun Shajarian, Hamid Reza Nourbakhsh and Iraj Bastami.
More notable Iranian progressive musicians, whom at their own time have created modern and contemporary popular Persian classical based theories and styles, include the late Ostad Parviz Yahaghi, the late Ostad Asadollah Malek, the late Ostad Mohammad Baharloo, the late Ostad Alinaghi Vaziri,Ali Akbar Shahnazi, the late Ostad Varzandeh, the late Ostad Hossein Tehrani, Ostad Faramarz Payvar and Ostad Bahman Rajabi who have impacted and influenced the classical Iranian traditions with their respective innovative musical approaches.
Sound file samples of classical Iranian music:
Persian Symphonic Music has a long history. In fact Opera originated from Persia much before its emergence in Europe. Iranians traditionally performed Tazeeieh, which in many respects resembles the European Opera. The first serious pieces of Persian symphonic music have been composed by Aminollah Hossein, Parviz Mahmoud and then Houshang Ostovar, Samin Baghtcheban, Morteza Hannaneh, Hossein Nassehi, Hossein Dehlavi, Ahmad Pejman, etc.
There are also some growing attempts to combine Persian classical music and western classical music. Davood Azad, a renowned Iranian musician and vocalist, melded Johann Sebastian Bach's music style and Iranian classical music.
Iran is not alien to western classical music either. Many radio stations in Tehran play Mozart's concertos on a daily basis, and many Iranians even make it to world fame and fortune. The 20th-century classical composer and pianist Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji was of Iranian descent. The best examples of these Iranians are perhaps Shardad Rohani (LA Symphony Orchestra conductor), Lily Afshar (world class classical guitarist and student of Andrés Segovia), Loris Tjeknavorian(principal conductor to the Rudaki Opera House Orchestra in Tehran), and Hormoz Farhat (Composer, Ethnomusicologist, Music Professor). In 2005, Ali Rahbari, the head of Tehran Symphony Orchestra, performed Beethoven's 9th Symphony in Tehran Vahdat Hall.
Also in 2005, Perspolis Orchestra (Melal Orchestra) played a piece that dates back 3000 years. The notes of this piece of music, which are believed to have belonged to Sumerians and ancient Greeks, were discovered among some ancient inscriptions and after being deciphered by archaeologists, was orchestrated by Siavosh Beizaee for Perspolis Orchestra Symphony. However, as it is demonstrated on ancient reliefs of that era, the instrumentations of such pieces probably comprised wind instruments like horn and pipe. Renowned Iranian musician, Peyman Soltani, conducted the Perspolis orchestra.
The modal concepts in Persian folk music are directly linked with that of the classical music. However, improvisation plays a minor role as folk tunes are characterized by relatively clear-cut melodic and rhythmic properties. The function of each folk melody determines its mood. The varying aesthetic requirements of wedding songs, lullabies, love songs, harvest songs, dance pieces, etc., are met with transparent and appropriate simplicity. The majority of the classical instruments are too elaborate and difficult for the folk musicians. Instead, there are literally dozens of musical instruments of various sorts found among the rural people. In fact, each region of the country can boast instruments peculiar to itself. Three types of instruments, however, are common to all parts of the country. They are, a kind of shawm called Surnay (or Sorna ~ Zorna), the various types of Ney (flute), and the Dohol, a doubleheader drum.
Persian music includes a mixed Persian-Western music that functions as popular commercial music. The use of western popular rhythms, an elementary harmonic superimposition, and relatively large ensembles composed of mostly western instruments, characterize this music. The melodic and modal aspects of these compositions maintain basically Persian elements.
Iran is home to several ethnic groups, including Azerbaijanis (the 2nd largest ethnic group), Kurds, Bakhtiari, Gilakis, Mazandaranis, Armenians, Georgians, and Baluchi peoples, amongst others. Turkmen epic poets similar to Central Asian musicians are common in Khorasan, while Kurdish music, especially prevalent in the west and the northwest, is known for its double-reed duduk and an earthy, dance-oriented sound. The most famous personalities in Iranian folk music are Pari Zangeneh and Sima Bina.
The forms of music found in various parts of Kurdistan, all known as Kurdish music, vary depending on the climate and geography of the regions as well as their contact with the neighboring cultures. For example, the melodies found among the people living in the mountains are different from those found among the people living in the meadows. However, the poetry and the rhythms are common to both areas. One regional kurdish instrument for the whole kurdish music culture is a frame drum Kurdish Deffa which is very useful in kurdish music. Deffa has circular shape surrounded by wood with skinn over it, it can also have many metall rings. Deffa is played by the hand reach the skinn. Modern deffas are often printed with a woman and printed with other figures.
Kurdish music, similar to other Eastern music, is monophonic and modal (more specifically, based on the maqam system, which is loosely translated as modal). However, because multiple instruments with varying pitch range, color, and ornamentation capabilities are used to play the same melody, it is also heterophonic. In addition to` specifically Kurdish modes (maqams), Kurdish music also utilizes all the modes and dastgahs found in the traditional music of Iran.
There are two forms of Kurdish music. The first is based on the maqam system. Similar to traditional music of Iran, improvisation plays an important role in Kurdish music. While a maqam is used to designate a certain melodic structure, a musician may improvise within this structure by employing variations on ornamental figures, rhythms, and melodic forms. The maqams of Kurdistan, preserved by oral tradition throughout generations, are based on microtonal tuning systems where one can find intervals of half step, full step, three quarter step, and one and a quarter step. [These intervals are not necessarily in an equal-tempered 24 tone scale.]
The second form of Kurdish music is based on a set of melodies, known as gourani or closed, which have distinct and structured rhythms. The word gourani is derived from gabaran, which literally means "one who worships fire." This word is related to the ancient rituals of fire worship among the Zoroastrians. Through the passage of time gabaran was changed to gouran. Gourani is also the name of a tribe whose members speak Kurdish and are known for their poetry. The members of certain groups of dervishes (Ahle Hagh) in Kermanshah and certain regions of Sanandaj, use this word to refer to the songs performed during their spiritual ceremonies. Because of its distinct rhythm, gourani is often accompanied by other instruments, and in some cases by clapping.
The poems used in most Kurdish music are filled with stories of romance and unrequited love. These poems have often two verses, which are divided in ten, eleven, or twelve syllables, and are based on the Gathas of the Zoroastrians. Kurdish melodies are very simple; their range is usually confined to a few notes. The form of the music is often strophic, and every gourani has a particular melody that is sung with various stanzas. At the end of every stanza the strophe is repeated unchanged throughout the song. Every gourani is characterized by a specific strophe. Similar to a lied or a chanson, gouranis may be accompanied by instrumental sections, which have three parts: prelude, middle section, and the ending. The prelude and the ending are performed by the group, and the middle section is performed in the form of call and response.
Gouranis fall into several categories, each performed with specific melodies for specific occasions. Some examples are work gouranis, shepherd gouranis, romantic gouranis, religious and spiritual gouranis, festive gouranis, Chemari (mourning) gouranis, war gouranis, children gouranis, women gouranis, and Ramadan gouranis.
Before Islam, the "religious and spiritual gouranis" were used by the Kurds in their worship rituals of Ahura Mazda (the wise and supreme god of Zoroastrianism), fire, the sun, and the moon. Within Islam, new gouranis were developed for worship of God and paying tribute to sacred figures. The dervish houre, Azan (special forms of reciting of the Koran), and zekr [also a ritualistic dance performed by the dervishes during devotional ceremonies] are among these types of gouranis. The "festive gouranis," which have strong and exciting rhythms, are used for marriage, circumcision, or holiday celebrations, and are often accompanied by dancing and clapping. The "war gouranis" have moving rhythms, and are often used with poems that induce feelings of nationalism and protection of freedom. "Children gouranis" have simple rhythms and accompany children's poems. "Women gouranis" are sung by women during their everyday chores, such as milking the cows, carrying water from the springs, or picking flowers. "Chemari gouranis," which are sung in the funerals while carrying the dead (especially a young deceased), are accompanied by sorna (a wind instrument) and dohol (a large percussion instrument), and have very sad poems. "Ramadan gouranis" are mostly used during the month of Ramadan to declare the coming of dawn [when people have food before fasting during the day]. Accompanied by sorna and dohol, they are played in elevated regions of cities and villages. (H. Kamkar – master musician www.kereshmeh.com)
Due to its ethnic diversity and the existence of different languages and religious observations (Sunni and Shi'a), the musical tradition of Khorasan is very rich. From the north to the south, the music scene varies greatly. In the north of Khorasan, one can find the bakhshi narrating and singing, among other things, "daastans" (stories in old Persian), although they can also sing in Kurdish about the historical deeds of local figures. They accompany themselves on the dotar. A leading exponent of this type is the late Haj Ghorban Soleimani. One can also find in the north, the Asheq who play "dohol" (double-faced drum), the "sorna" (a kind of oboe-like reed instrument) and the "qoshme" (double clarinet made of the central nervure of the plumage of birds tied together). The Asheq are specifically associated with the Kurds and play at wedding dances and village feasts. In the East of Khorasan, near Torbat Jam, the main instrument is the dotar with some modifications, but there are no Bakhshi and the music is different. Here, the music takes the form of "ghazal khani'" and is performed by singers of quatrains and "ghazals" – lyric poems based on the invocations of mystic poets like Rumi, Attar and Sheikh Ahmad Jami. Purely instrumental pieces also figure in the repertoire.
More towards the south, in the regions of Birjand and Qa'in, the musical culture changes again: the dotar is no longer present (although it seems that in the past, it was played). The songs are called "sotak" and are accompanied on the "dayereh" (tambourine). (Ameneh Yousefzadeh – Musicologist)
In Golestan and Khorasan in Iran as in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, the word bakhshi means instrumentalist, singer, and storyteller. The word bakhshi comes from Turkish, and in turn from a Chinese word, po-shih, meaning erudite. Through the Turkish Ouigours, certain Chinese language elements infiltrated 13th and 14th-century Mongol literature. The word bakhshi appeared in Turkmen, Iranian and Turkish literature with the advent of the Mongols. At the time, the role of the bakhshi seems to have been sometimes that of the healing shaman, and at other times that of a Buddhist priest.
Mazandaran has a diverse folk music culture that includes songs and instrumental and ritual music. Rhythm is usually simple in songs, which include katuli, which is most common around the town of Aliabad-e Katul; the song is sometimes said to be sung when people take a catouli cow out to graze.
This music is a special type of folk music. Maryam Akhondy, a classical singer, collected such songs and published them on her album "Banu – Songs of Persian Women". It had been sung at the cradle, at the housework and work in the fields or on women's celebrations.
Iran developed its own pop music by the 1950s, when Vigen introduced the guitar for the first time and later on using indigenous instruments and forms and adding electric guitar and other imported characteristics. He became the most popular pop singer of this period for his unique voice. Later on in the 1970s, Googoosh, who was Vigen's student became popular. After the Iranian Revolution in 1979, pop music's future seemed dark because of the new Islamic laws and restrictions. Many Iranians migrated to foreign countries, especially Los Angeles in the United States, and Iranian-in-exile pop stars include: Dariush Eghbali, Ebi, Siavash Shams, Siavash Ghomeyshi, Hayedeh, Homeira, Mahasti, Hassan Sattar, Shohreh Solati, Aref, Shahram Shabpareh, Leila Forouhar, Andy, Koros, Morteza Pashaei, Shadmehr Aghili, Mansour, Moein, Bijan Mortazavi, Omid, Faramarz Aslani, Habib, Farhad Mehrad, and more.
Omid Hajili, Farzad Farzin, Ehsan Khajeh Amiri, Sirvan Khosravi, Farman Fathalian, Mohsen Yeganeh, Mohammad Esfahani, Reza Sadeghi, Arian Band, Bahador Kharazmi, Maziar, Afshin Moghadam, Mohsen Chavoshi, Alireza Assar, Ali Lohrasbi, Benyamin Bahadori, Morteza Pashaei and Hamed Baradaran.
Rock music in Iran has been influenced by many traditional forms of Iranian music and popular rock bands such as Pink Floyd, The Doors, Dire Straits, AC/DC, Metallica and Pantera. Iranian rock music first developed in the 1970s, but was largely silent during the 1980s, only to witness a recurrence in the 1990s. One of the notable heavy metal bands is Angband which is the first Iranian metal band to release its work internationally through a European record label.
A 30-second preview of Erfan's "Nemitooni Band Koni Paamo Be Zamin".
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With the introduction of satellite television in Iran in the early 1990s and world-wide recognition of hip hop and its American artists such as Tupac Shakur, NWA and Eminem, hip hop found a following among the Iranian youth (mostly born after the Iranian Revolution of 1979). They started paying attention to the rhythmic beats and lyrics present in hip hop. Soon they turned from rap enthusiasts to poets and rap producers, bringing to light how they saw life as Iranians and what they wanted from the world. Iranian hip hop, in its true form as its own genre emerged by the 2000s, from Tehran, the capital of Iran. Soroush Lashkary, better known as his stage name, Hichkas is known as the pioneer of the genre.
Inspired by some of the most significant artists of the genre Karlheinz Stockhausen, John Cage, David Tudor, Gordon Mumma and Iannis Xenakis who performed in Shiraz Arts Festival, but after the Iranian Revolution in 1979, faced dark future like most of the other genres. Many of the expatriate Iranians in North America and Europe are involved in electronic music. The best known group is the Washington, D.C.-based Deep Dish, which consists of Ali "Dubfire" and Shahram.
Iranian music style has influenced the music of the Caucasus, Central Asia and countries that used to be part of Iran.
Iranian musicians have received numerous awards. Notable ones include: