From Safavid dynasty to when Radif was compiled (20th c.)

Isfahân became the capital during the reign of the Safavids[1]. The Safavid Shâhs made Shiite Islam the official religion in the whole of Iran, one of the numerous outcomes of which has to do with music and other forms of art.

According to Sâsân Sepatâ, “Painting and Metal Fabrication became more and more popular during the reign of the Safavids. There were also notable advances regarding Architecture and new designs were introduced into the field. Unfortunately, music experienced a major lapse, and little or no attention was given to its theoretical aspects. Music was banned for religious reasons and musicians were no longer noticed or appreciated. In India, however, there was a different story: Persian music gained prominence. Persian Literature and Architecture also gained importance, and left a great influence on the literature and architecture of the subcontinent.”

“Due to religious beliefs in the Safavid and Zand eras, music became the only neglected art form while architecture and painting thrived and blossomed. However, there were signs of music surviving in secret, the most significant of which being the invention of an instrument called shesh-tar by Ziâ-od-din Shirâzi, and the addition of a fourth string to Setâr by Moshtâq Esfahâni, who was reputed for playing it.

During his visit to Kermân, Moshtâq Esfahâni held music classes, which were welcomed by those interested in music. However, this enraged the religious people, who finally had him killed.” (A Perspective on Persian Music, Sâsân Sepantâ)

Below is what Sepantâ says about the Zand dynasty:

“The Zand dynasty was founded by Karim Khân-e Zand in the 18th century, and lasted forty six years. The country experienced a calm and quiet it had barely experienced during the reigns of Ashraf and Mahmood Afghan, and Nader Shâh. Battles were no longer fought and art finally found a time to flourish anew. Artists, poets, and Tazia mourners found the grounds to perform. During the same time, an artistic movement began to start in Esfahân, making it the capital of art once more. The same thing also happened in Shirâz. Except for Pari Khân, a Sitar player, there is no evidence of the existence of any notable musicians during that era.” (A Perspective on Persian Music, Sâsân Sepantâ)

[1] The dynasty that took control of Persia in the early 16th century. See: “Safavid dynasty”, Encyclopaedia Iranica: