From when Radif was compiled to 1979 Islamic revolution

The late 19th and early 20th centuries in Iran were among the most fruitful periods, music-wise:

One of the important events of the time was the compilation of Persian music’s Radif by the Farâhâni family. Furthermore, making use of Western-style musical notations led to advances in collective performances.

Invention of Sori and Koron code signs by Alinaghi Vaziri1 (Musical Theory, Alinaghi Vaziri).

Nâser-Al-Din Shâh’s three trips to Europe (1848-1896 A.D.), during which he witnessed the importance of music in European royal courts, made him introduce courtier and martial music to the Iranian music society with the help of his courtiers.

The French musician Jean-Baptiste Lomer was assigned to teach students and form a musical group in Dār al-Fonūn2 (Darolfonun) School. He started his work by teaching European notation and playing instruments suitable for marches and military ceremonies.

Ali Akbar Farâhâni was one of the most influential musicians of the time. After his death at an early age (35 to 40), his two sons, Mirzâ Abdollâh,  and Âghâ Hossein-Gholi followed in his footsteps, collecting Persian music’s Radif with the help of their cousin Âghâ Gholâm Hossein, a student of their late father’s.

Ali Akbar Farâhâni was a man with Sufi tendencies who made use of music in order to pray. It is said that he fell asleep during prayer and never woke up. He and his sons were considered the pioneers of Târ and Setâr playing (The Story of Persian music, Ruhollâh Khâleghi).

Mirzâ Abdollâh and Âghâ Hossein Gholi trained many students, including Ahmad Ebâdi (Mirzâ Abdullâh’s son), Ali Akbar Shahnâzi (Âghâ Hossein Gholi’s son), Abu’l-Hassan Sabâ, Mehdi Gholi Hedâyat and Esmâʿil Ghahramâni, all of whom considerably helped promote Persian music.

Other musicians and players of that period include Nâyeb Assadollâh, a Ney player who revived this long forgotten instrument, as well as Bâgher Khân Râmeshgar, Hossein Khân and Esmâʿil zâdeh, players of Kamâncheh.

Slowly, Robâb, Harp, Nâqâreh, Sornâ and similar instruments which were previously the common musical instruments, gave way to Târ, Kamâncheh, Ney, Santur and Setâr, which have ever since been used as the main instruments in Persian music.

Based on an article printed in Mâhur (A Music Quarterly), Radif-making was based on the vocal Radif of Isfahani vocalists such as Aghâ Bâbâ Makhmur Isfahâni.

Likewise, the ever-so-important sung music advanced considerably during that period. During the Ghâjâr dynasty, passion plays gained enormous popularity. These plays were imitations of Western opera and were performed adjacent to the royal palace in order to please Nâser-Al-Din Shâh. Passion plays existed before, during the reign of the Safavids, but were not that popular. Among the renowned vocalists of the Ghâjâr period are Seyyed Ahmad Khân, Tâj-e Neyshaburi, Abdul Hossein Sadr (also known as Sadr-ol-Mohaddessin), and Seyyed Rahim Isfahâni.

With the increasing interactions of Iranians with Europe, a new chapter was opened in Persian music in the early 20th Century: The introduction of records and phonographs, esp. around 1916, and the start of recording and selling Persian music records made music accessible to more people, who became familiar with the works of musicians that, until then, only a few had the privilege to listen to (A Perspective on Persian Music, Sâsân Sepantâ).

Attending live music performances was not easy for the majority of the population. During the last years of Mozaffar-e-din-Shâh’s rule, some families gradually began using the phonograph and records, which itself resulted in higher demand for music and new records. From then on, the music and songs of vocalists were no longer limited to a particular elite group: They were accessible to the public. The first music concerts were held in Tehran during the same historical period.

 Introduction of radio in Iran and the expansion of music recording

With the advances in technology, musicians began to put more effort into their productions and rectify their flaws by recording and playing back their works. The positive effects of recording and broadcasting music were multiplied as a result of the widespread use of radio, which played quite a significant role in the advancement of music.

In Iran, Radio was introduced in 1937. In the early years of World War II, countries such as Germany started broadcasting programs in Persian and airing Persian music. The radio transmitter center was inaugurated  in Tehran in 1941. The major part of its broadcast consisted of music and news about Europe.

Flourishing of music academies and the introduction of concerts

After the return of Alinaghi Vaziri as the director of the Music Office and the High Music Academy in September 1942, teaching Persian music was added to the Academy’s courses. Together with Ruhollâh Khâleghi as Vairi’s deputy, they formed an orchestra of seven Academy graduates as well as other musicians. It began performing in December 1942.

The pieces played were based on Persian music and had harmony; they included various instruments, such as tar, bass tar, violin, alto violin, cello, double bass, flute, clarinet and piano. The program was broadcasted from 8:30 to 9:00 PM Mondays and Thursdays. After a while, Persian music broadcasts were performed by artists including Abu’l-Ḥasan Sabâ, Ali Akbar Shahnâzi, Mortezâ Neydâvoud and Javâd Ma’roufi, as well as vocalists such as Tâj Isfahâni, Gholam Hossein Banân and Ruhbakhsh (A Perspective on Persian Music, Sâsân Sepantâ).

As a result of the increased use of radio in the following years, and later broadcasting programs about music, music was once more transformed. Programs such as Colorful Flowers (Gol-hâye Rangârang) brought Persian music to everyone’s homes. During the same time, under the supervision of Vaziri, the High Music Academy was reinvigorated utilizing the knowledge and experience of such renowned scholars as Parviz Mahmud, Mortezâ Hannâneh and Heshmat Sanjari. In 1950, the National Music Academy was founded by Ruhollâh Khâleghi, with the aim of teaching national and traditional music.

With the advancement of music through radio broadcasts and reopening of music academies, institutions gradually began holding concerts. Numerous orchestras with different styles were formed, and different concerts were given.

In the mid and late 20th century, due to the widespread music education and broadcast on the radio, the number of musicians gradually increased and the public’s view towards musicians changed. Through radio, records and some publications, music, which had for years been limited to palaces of kings and mansions of the rich, was put at the disposal of the public who had long been deprived of it.

Founding the Center for Preservation and Promotion of Music

The founding of the Center for Preservation and Promotion of Music (Markaz-e Hefz -o Eshâ’e-ye Musighi) by Dâryush Safvvat was another important event of the time. The center was founded with the purpose of preserving and promoting classical Persian music. Gathering the masters of the time, Safvvat made the proper ground for music research education.

Later on, Houshang Ebtehâj, the renowned contemporary poet, was appointed as the director of music radio broadcasts. He was the producer of the well known program, Golchin-e Hafteh (Weekly Music selections), which at that time directed everyone’s attention towards the classical Persian music. The 1979 revolution put an end to this program.

More Info will be available soon…

  1. (1887- 1979), composer, virtuoso tār player, musical theorist, and educator. See: “Vaziri, ʿAli-Naqi”, Encyclopaedia Iranica:
  2. Among the various measures enacted by Amīr Kabīr, the foundation of the Dār al-Fonūn in Tehran was possibly the most lasting in its effects. The initial purpose of the institution was to train officers and civil servants to pursue the regeneration of the state that Amīr Kabīr had begun, but as the first educational institution giving instruction in modern learning, it had far wider impact. See: “ Amir(-e) Kabir, MirzâTaqi Khân”, Encyclopaedia Iranica: