Persian Music

the second part

Persian Music

Persian Art Music, Dastgah, Radif

Aqa Bashi (TonbaK) - Qolam Hosseyn Xan (Persian Tar) - Musa Kalimi (Kamanche) - Mohammad Sadeq Xan (Santur)


Form in Persian Music


In Persian art music, there are two types of music forms in terms of rhythm. Musical pieces with metrical rhythm structure, which are called "Zarbi". "Zarbi" means rhythmic. And musical pieces with non-metrical rhythm structure, which are called "Âvâz". "Avaz" means voice and singing.

non-metrical rhythm

The Vocal pieces here belong to the "Avaz" form of Persian art music. Here the Persian art music means the Persian music, which is performed according to Dastgah sytem. Here I am going to introduce two Persian music vocal virtuosi. A male and female singer. It includes some important lines about their musical life, a picture and an audio sample. I hope that these information are going to be helpful to have an imagination of Persian vocal music in Dastgah system.


Persian Vocal Music, Dastgah, Radif

Reza-Qoli Mirza Zelli

Reza-Qoli Mirza Zelli (circa 1906-1945), the Persian music virtuoso vocalist, became familiar with Aref Qazvini (Poet and Song composer), so that he had the chance to learn about the Persian Art Music (Radif and Dastgah System) and worked under Eqbal Azar (the Persian Singing Virtuoso) as well. The way that he creates the Tahrir or Chah Chahe (Nightingale way of singing) technique is brilliant and unique. He recorded some great musical pieces mainly with Moshir Homayun Shahrdar (Piano player) and also with some other musicians.

Play the Vocal Music!
Persian Vocal Music
Piano Player: Moshir Homayun Shahrdar
Avaz (Modal System): Esfahan


Persian Vocal Music, Dastgah, Radif


Qamar-ol-Moluc Vaziri (1905-1959) known as Xanum-e-Qamar was a great Persian art (Dastgah system) music singer, who was the first woman singer of her era to sing in public wearing a modern cloth, that it was a revolutionary phenomena, both singing for public as a woman and her form of appearance at the podium. Please consider that it was forbidden at that time to sing and appear without wearing a veil as a woman according to the religious and social ruling believes. She learned the Persian music principal repertoire (Radif) from Morteza Xan Neydavud for nearly ten years and they performed many concerts and recorded several recordings.

Play the Vocal Music!
Persian Vocal Music
Persian Tar player: Morteza Neydavud
Dastgah (Modal System): Shur


For instrumental musical pieces with non-metrical rhthym click on the link below!
Persian music principal repertoire (Radif) - Played by Persian Tar


Musical Forms with metrical rhythm

Pish Daramad

"PISH DARÂMAD" is an instrumental music form. It is composed in a slow metre and is played generally as the first piece of a performance. "Pish" means before and here has a function as a prefix for the word "Daramad". As we know "Daramad" is the first and starter piece of a Dastgah, therefore "Pish Daramad" means the piece, which comes or is played before the "Daramad". It gives a musical or modal imagination of the Dastgah or Avaz, which is going to be performed. The modern form of "Pish Daramad" has been developed by Darvish Xan and Rocneddin Xan Moxtari.

Play the Music!
Pish Daramad
Avaz (Modal System): Abuata
Composer & Performer: Ali Acbar Xan Shanazi
Played on Persian Tar as he was 80 years old


Chahar Mezrab

"CHAHÂR MEZRÂB" is an instrumental music form. It is composed in a fast metre and is played generally during a performance and sometimes helps the singer to have more time for resting, specially in pieces with a high base tone and is not accompanied with a drum instrument like Tonbac. "Chahar" means four and "Mezrab" means plectrum and sometimes the action of plucking. It seems that one of the forms of "Chahar Mezrab" had a pricipal pattern consisted of plucking four times. The plucking pattern is played on different tones of a mode or more different tones.

Play the Music!
Chahar Mezrab
Dastgah (Modal System): Rast
Radif - Mirza Hosseyn Qoli
Persian Tar - Ali Acbar Xan Shahnazi



"Reng" is also an instrumental Persian music form. In the past times it was a musical piece accompanied with a dancer or dancers, but nowadays it is played at the end of a performance or sometimes during a performance and at times after performing the Tasnif for finishing the performance. There are some "Rengs", whose composers are unknown like Reng-e Harbi or some Rengs with known composers.

Play the Music!
Dastgah (Modal System): Mahur
Composer: Darvish Xan
Setar: Mohammad Reza Lotfi - TonbaK: Nasser Farhang Far



"TASNIF" is a vocal Persian music form. Tasnif means song or a poem, which is sung. It is a composed song in a generally slow metre. Most of the Tasnifs have been composed by the famous composers, though there are some, which have been created by a person, whom we don't know. Old style Tasnifs have been created by the same person as composer and poet like Ali Acbar Sheyda, Aref Qazvini and Mohammad Ali Amir-Jahed.

Persian Music Singer

Reza Qoli Xan Tajrishi - Aqa Qolam Hosseyn

Play the Song!
An Old Song - Nâdide Roxat
Singer: Reza Qoli Xan
Avaz (Modal System): Esfahan
Organ: Moshir Homayun - Kamanche: Baqer Xan - Flute: Acbar Xan Hang Afarin - Tonbak: Reza Qoli Xan



Any of other musical forms with metrical rhythm is called Zarbi and rhythmic pieces of Radif can be called Zarbi as well like "Kereshme" in Dastgah-e Shur.

Persian Music, Dastgah, Radif

Play the Music!
Santur & TonbaK Duet
Santur: Pooyan Nassehpoor
TonbaK: Peyman Nasehpour
Dastgah (Modal System): Nava
Musical Form: Reng or Zarbi


Some Books about Persian Music

✔ The Dastgah Concept in Persian Music
By Hormoz Farhat

✔ The Radif of Persian Music
By Bruno Nettl


Tetrachord or Dâng

I think Tetrachords are not necessarily the structural part of a Mode (in Persian Mâye) in Persian Music "Dastgâh" System, but I show here how to make different Persian Music Tetrachords. As you see you have only one beginning Tone (C) and one finishing Tone (F) and two groups of Tones, that you can use only one Tone of each group to make a unique Tetrachord, so you will have SIX (2 multiplied by 3) choices. For example C, D Koron, E , F.

Persian Music Tetrachords Structure

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About Persian Music

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Impressions from Iran
Video clips with Persian Tar Music


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