History of Iranian Music
Designs, masonries and miniatures belonging
to the pre-Islamic history of Iran all indicate Iranians interest and taste in
music. In the post-islamic era, too, despite some opposition which made music lose its
former success, this art survived. The survival of music the Safavid era can be found
inChehel Sotun palac. and the music chamber ofAli Qapu Monumen in Isfahan.
Irans music is an amalgamation of
tunes and melodies which have been created in the course of centuries Iran and have
evolved along with other aspects of the Iranian life. They refelct the moral
characteristics, as well as political, social events and geographical features of a
countly with an ancient history. The subtlety and profundity of Iranian music leads man to
reflection and deep thought and takes him to a celestial world, Iranian music includes the
1-The pre-Islamic music (the music of
ancient Iranian tribes such as, Bakhtyari, Kordi, Lori, etc.)
2-The post-Islamic music:a)Maghaml (mystic)
music; This music includes epic music, tyric music for marriage, birthday and other happy
occasions, and elegiac music for mournful occasions.
b) Radif music which Includes the
Dastgahs(modes) of Traditional music.
In the contemporary era, Iranian music
includes three branches; the two above-mentioned groups in addition to a third one which
is Irans national music. This branch covers the traditional melodies of the two
above groups, but with a classic rendition.
According to the new classifIcation of
Iranian Awaz (songs) and modes, which has been set since a century ago, Irans
traditional singing and music has been divided Into 12 groups. The seven groups which are
wider and more independent are called Dastgah (mode) and the other five groups which are
not independent and have been derived from the Dastgahs or modes are called Awaz (a group
of melodies with the same gamut.) So, Irans present traditional music is only a
remainder of the former 12 Maghams (modes) and what we have today is a very small part of
the Iranian traditional music. The seven main Dastgahs (modes) and the five Awaz groups
have several pieces (gushe) which are now the models of the contemporary musicians and
singers. The number of these pieces (gushes) is said to be 228. The varoius and well-known
Radifi (Iranian classical music) of the masters of the 100-year old Iranian traditional
music such as Agha Hosein GhoMirza Abdollali, Darvish Khan, and Saba follow the same
The Dastgahs (modes) and Awazes
(melodies) in irans Traditional Music.
The seven main Dastgahs or modes
are: Shoor, Mahoor, Homayoon,
Segah, Chahargah, Nava, and Rast Panjgah. The five Awazes or melodies are: Isfahan, Abou
Ate, Bayat-e-Tork, Afsharl and Dashti.
The Components of Dastgah and Awaz
In order to perform a Dastgah or Awaz, a
special order must be followed and that is; prelude, Awaz, Tasnif (song) and Reng (dance
tune). The late Oarvish Kban Innovated and added Plshdaramad (what comes before the
prelude) and Chahar Mezrab to this order.
The late Khaleghi said in this
regard," One of the valuable sources of music in every country is the music and
melodies played and sung by the rural people who live in villages far from the cities. And
since their music and songs have been less influenced by the urban people, they are
more ~iatural and original and are closer
to the countrys ancient and authentic music. Collecting such music not only
preserves It, but also gives us more lnformaUonaboutaco~ntry and theway Its people
live." As Iran has dlffrenttrlbeswlth different cultures, Its folklore musk enjoys a
vast variety, both In the songs and the music. For Instance, the music of Gilan, Azarbal
Jan, Khorasan. Kordestan, Shlraz, and Baluchistan have different melodle~ and accents.
Irans folklore music has two forms: 1)- Local melodies which are sung by one person
or by a group. 2)~ Local dances which are accompanied by nativ. musical instruments.
Irans local melodies are one of the
richest, most beautiful and most various among the folklore melodies in the world. These
melodies reflect the thoughts, lives, and nature of the people who have created them. They
are one of the rich cultural sources of Iran and can be the best inspiration for our
musicians to compose scientific music.
Some Samples Irans folklore Melodies:
Gilan and Talesh Music. Kurdistan Music.
The music of the South Coast of Iran. Lorestan, Bakhtlari & Fars Music. Sistan va
Balouchestan Music. Khorasan Music. Turkmen Music. Azarbaijan Music.
musical instruments have been of immense importance since ancient times.
Around a hundred years ago, Irans
music was gradually separated from songs and followed its own way Iranian musicians and
composers masterted the Iranian musk and made innovations in this regard but, on the
whole, Irans Instrumental music, has two main parts: 1)- solo which is based on
traditional music and improvisation.
2)- Group playing, either small or large
groups with solo or chorus.
Solo Is highly significant in
oriental music and this can be related to the eastern philosophy and mysticism and making
a connection with the spiritual world. The eastern musician, in his own sense, is engaged
in some sort of worship, especially in his soNtude.
playing became more common irlran since the time of Nasereddin Shah the Qajar king. Itwas
both in the form of traditional music and
instruments and martial music and western
instruments which were introduced in Iran by Monsieur Loumer (the French music teacher who
had been invited to Iran to teach at Daroiphonoon school) later, group playing became more
common and with western musical instruments joining the Iranian ones and the playing of
Iranian pieceson western Instruments, It further prospered.
The oldest Iranian musical instruments are
the ney (the Iranian flute) and the tambourine. The following are the different kinds of
Iranian musica instruments generally classified:
The ney is the oldest instrument in this
group. it is a tube made of cane wIth seven joints and six knots. The ney Is among
Irans rural instrumenti and i~ usually played in all parts ollran.
Another Iranian wind instrument is Sorna
(an oboe-like Iranian instrument) which is common all ovElran and is of two
types:Bakhtyari and Azarbaijani. In Iran, the Soma is usually accompanied by the Dohol or
the naghareh (a drum-like Iranian Instrument). This instrument is played at different
occasions according to the particular region of the country. In lranKordestan, the
dohol and the soma are played at mourning ceremonies while in the north, the soma is
played along with the performance of ropewalkers and West Azarbaijari, the villagers play
the Sorna in their marriage ceremonies along with wood dancing.
The Korna is an ancient and historical
instrument which is made and played differently In various provinces Iran. The main types
of the Korna (an Iranian instrument of the sorna family) are those in the north ciran,
Gilan and Mashhad. The Korna is mostly played in Kordestan and Azarbaijan.
The Bagpipe: It is mostly used in the south
oiran. In some parts of Iran, it is called "Khiknai". It is also played in some
parts of Azarbaijan.
One of the oldest string Instruments is
Kamancheh (an Iranian violin-like instrument resting on the ground during the
performance). This instrument can be used well both in solo and in group performance.
Kamancheh isa national musical instrument which is played in all the provinces of Iran,
but Is mostly common among Turkmen and Turk tribes.
- The barbat (a harp-like Iranian
instrument): this is an instrument from the family of limited string instruments. It is
also called AI-e-Oud or Lout. Its body Is like a pear divided lengthwise into two parts.
It has a big body and a short necI~ which, in earlier times, used to have three strings.
The rabab: This instrument has four parts: a melon-shaped body, middle, neck, and head.
The strings of the rabab used to be made of the she-bowel, but now they are made of nylon
threads. Its plectrum is made of chicken feather. This instrument is mainly rural and is
mostly played in Khorasan and also in some parts of Baluchistan and Sistan.
The tar: it is one of the original Iranian
string instruments, It has a multi-part body and six strings. Other musical instruments of
the tar family are the Doter and the Setar. The doter is usually played in Turkmen Sahra
Musical Percussion Instruments
The famous Iranian percussion
instruments are the dohol, the dayereh, the drum and the Tonbak.
Dohol: It is a musical percussion
instrument consisting of a hollow cylindrical body with a diameter of around one meter and
a height of 25 to 30 centimeters. Both ends of the cylinder are covered with a tightly
stretched skin, the dohol is played with two sticks, one of which is like a walking stick
and the other one isa thin twig. The dohol isa rural instrumentwhich usually accompanies
the sorna and is mostly playedFars. Baluchistan andKordestan provinci.
Dayereh(Tambourine): This percussion
instrument consists of a wooden circle on one side of which, there is a tightly strectched
skin, it is struck with fingers of the two hands. The Dayereh Is commonly used in urban
areas rather than rural and usually accompanies another musical instrument Presently, the
Dayereh is mostly played in Azarbaijan.
Drum: It is another percussion instrument
which is smaller than the dohol and is played with two sticks. Inmost parts Iran, it is
usually used in mourning ceremonies.
Tonbak: The tonbak isa percussion
instrument made of wood (usually wainutwood). It consists of two parts: the upper part is
acylindercovered by skin and the lower part is the neck of the tonbak which has a wide,
open mouth. It is played by the fingers and the skillful player performs artistic
subtleties on it.
String Percussion Instruments
The unique Iranian musical instrument in
this group is the santir. It consists of a trapezoid wooden box over which 72 white (high)
and yellow (bass) strings have been stretched. It has two wooden plectrums. The santir is
an instrument which can be played both solo and in group and it ii played in all parts