Persian Music

Persian Music is, in my opinion, some of the most beautiful music in the world.  I  personally really enjoy the tribal music because it is raw Persian culture with very few influences, although it is fairly difficult to find.  Persian music has an interesting history and is a very unique sounding art form.

Lets start at the beginning, shall we.

All the way back in 800BCE, Persians started making music.  We do not know much about this music, as the notes were never written down and all we have are the instruments, but we can guess what it sounded like.  A few hundred years later and we have a pretty good understanding of what they played, as they did record some of this music.  The most famous example is Royal Modes.  This has over 350 melodies for each day of the year.  It was created by Khosrau II.

Now the Islamic Age.  What you normal here as “Traditional Persian or Iranian Music” is mostly after this period and was created during this time period as it was much easier to record.  Baghdad was the Center for Persian Music during that time and many of the famous “Arab” Musicians turned out to actually be Persians. Some famous Persian Musicians from this time are Farabi, Ibn Sina, Razi, Ormavi, Zazal, and Ziryab.

This is a Kamanche, a traditional persian instrument.

After this Islamic Age, in the Thirteenth Century, Persian-Arab Music Theory developed.  This was a major step for Persian Music as it had finally been researched and studied.  This means that in this time, people experimented with music like never before.

And then the Mongols invaded.

Mongols besieging Alamut

I have not really talked about this in the past as they kind of let Iran do their own thing, but it definitely affected their music.  Before the invasion, the musical center for Persian Music was in Baghdad, but after, it shifted back into the areas of modern day Iran.  This also made Persian music diverge from Arabic, Tajik and Turkish music.  It solidified the uniqueness of Persian Music.

After the Mongols had left, Persian Music declined.  It was only preform for peasants but the culture of Persian Music was carried on by the Sufis.

In the 19th Century Persian Music went through a massive change, Westernization.  People in Persia were exposed to to whole new types of music, such as overtures, marches, and waltzes.  Slowly the traditional Persian Music went away and was replaced with western music.  By the end of the 19th Century, a music school in Tehran taught only western instruments and music theory.

The first Persian Orchestra was founded in 1925.  Composers in Persia began to study abroad and started to compose nationalistic and modernist styles.  By the mid 1970’s, the Orchestra consisted on 100 performers was much more prominent in Iran.  Radios had also gotten more popular with the average citizens and with it, western styles of music such as pop, rock, jazz, and other genres of music.  The effect this had was that the traditional Persian Instruments and tune would play in combination with western instruments and tunes.  Before the 1979 Revolution, some of the biggest stars in Iran were Delkash, Hassan Kassai, Mahasti, Hengameh Akhaven, and many others.

Hassan Kassai

After the Islamic Revolution, music change. The government banned all western music.  The Tehran Orchestra was dissolved and no music was permitted on the radio.  Many of the musicians fled to Los Angles and had become a hub for Iranian Pop.

The Iranian Government has now lifted the ban on western Music.  Music is taught in private and state run universities.  Music is definitely coming back in Iran and I am exited to see where it goes.


Comment below who your favorite Persian artist is or what your favorite era is!

!خدا حافظ (Goodbye!)


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