Developments in Iranian Music Since Qajar Era (I)

At the end of the Qajar era and as Iran entered the power transition period, known as the constitutional era, the Iranian music went through a lot of changes. These changes gained momentum as the students and followers of Ali Naqi Vaziri’s entered the musical scene. These changes greatly influenced designs of instruments, playing methods, singing, composing, etc.
The evolution of Iranian instruments
Tar: Tar is the most important Iranian instrument and the specialized instrument of Shahnazi family, who were the most important narrator of the Radif. Tar used to have 5 strings up until the time of Gholam Hossein Darvish and most likely musicians held it on their chest for playing. Gholam Hossein Darvish, however, held the instrument on his right lap and copying Setar’s 4th string (Hengam string) added another string to it which was always plucked together with the bass string.
Vaziri’s time (who learned to play Tar under Darvish Khan), increased Tar’s range by adding three quatertones frets to the end of the fingerboard. Therefore, the design of the three-octave tar was completed. Today, however, three-octave tar is seldom made. In mid-Qajar era, tar’s silk strings were replaced with metal strings; up to now steel and bronze are used for tar strings.
Setar: Setar was designed copying Tanbur. Approximately 150 years ago, setar’s strings were increased from three four by Mushtaq Ali Shah who was one of dervishes and instrumentalists from Kerman. This fourth string is placed next to the second sting and is plucked together with the bass string. This string is called Mushtaq or Hengam (octave). Setar has not gone through many changes in the contemporary era. Only a few setar makers made three-octave instruments which are not common to use yet. In mid-Qajar era, setar’s silk strings were also replaced with steel and bronze strings.
Oud: Oud has been forgotten in Iran for many years until the Second Pahlavi period when it gradually made its way to the stage in solo performances and Iranian instruments orchestras. Later, Ebrahim Ghanbari Mehr introduced a design of oud which featured a longer fingerboard and a smaller bowl compared to Arabic ouds. Ghanbari Mehr entitled the instrument Barbat which was the oud’s old name in Iran.
Qanun: Like Oud, Qanun was not played in Iran for many years, until the second Pahlavi period when the instrument was gradually recognized as a national Iranian instrument. Qanun was originally made and played exactly like Arabic qanuns; however, little by little Ebrahim Ghanbari Mehr changed the pattern and the mechanism of the bowl and the covering skin. Later on his design became popular among Iranian qanun-makers.

translated by Mahboube Khalvati

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Parviz Meshkatian’s Heart Beat for People (I)

Amidst the popularity of traditionalism in the Iranian music, Parviz Meshkatian (1955- 2009) moved from Neyshabur to Tehran. He learnt to play Santour and became educated in the Radif of Iranian music at the Centre for Preservation and Promotion of Music which was at the forefront of promoting the return to musical traditions. Despite his studies at a centre which promoted the use of the phrase “traditional music” in Iran, Parviz Meshkatian emerged as a creative artist whose innovative and unique ideas attracted the admiration of Iranian artists and people from different walks of life. This article studies the reason behind Meshkatian’s deviation from the wrong approach of traditionalism strongly promoted by the Centre and argues that apart from the issue of theory of Iranian music, he can be considered as Ali Naqi Vaziri’s successor.

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From Past Days…

Farshad Sanjari, Forgotten Iranian Conductor Met His Tragic End

Farshad Sanjari, one of the most renowned Iranian conductors in the 1970s in Iran died after fire broke in his apartment in Vienna on November 22, 2019. Farshad Sanjari was not involved in politics; however, he was one of the victims of the Iranian Islamic Revolution in 1979. After the victory of the Islamic Revolution, his name was never seen as the conductor of any programmes.

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Developments in Iranian Music Since Qajar Era (III)

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