The word Radif in Persian refers to an organized set of things, for example, a row of trees in a garden, or a set of chairs carefully aligned. Radif in music also refers to a collection of songs and melodies. While these melodies have been passed through one generation to the next, what we refer to as Radif  has been compiled during the Qajar dynasty. Depending on their musical commonalities, these melodies have been organized into 12 different groups divided into 7 Dastgâh and 5 Âvâz. In other words, Radif contains 12 modal systems1 each of which includes several melodies called Gusheh.

The 7 Dastgâhs are: Shur, Navâ, Segâh, Homâyoun, Chahârgâh, Mâhur, and Rast-va Panjgâh
The 5 Âvâzes are: Bayât-e Tork, Abu-atâ, Afshâri, Dashti, and Bayât-e Isfahân

Although these 5 Âvâzes are independent modal systems, they are derived from two of the Dastgâhs, and are known as derived systems (Moshtaghât). Bayât-e Tork, Abu-atâ, Afshâri, and Dashti are derived from Shur, while Bayât-e Isfahân is derived from Homâyoun.

Screen Shot 2020-09-21 at 9.16.00 PM

It must be noted that each Gusheh has also a specific name as they were basically melodic ideas collected and compiled in different Dastgâhs or Âvâzes. Some of the Gushehs are named after cities, regions, or people, and some have proper nouns, while others are named after various poetic forms found in classical Persian poetry. When tracing the reasons behind naming the Gushehs one can see how Radif is historically connected with the Persian culture and literature This is why Radif is considered as an important musical heritage, which connects us to the roots of this culture. Without learning and understanding the Radif, any innovation in classical Persian music would be far from its cultural roots and becomes an exotic work. Practicing and memorizing all the Gushehs is not enough for one to find a deep understanding of this music. Many musicians and educators focus on technical details, while ignoring the creativity that is embedded in both musical and extra-musical concepts found in Radif.

In the next pages we will discuss these musical and extra-musical concepts while providing a comprehensive analysis of the Radif and its components, Gusheh, Âvâz, and Dastgâh. Before moving to the next page we invite you to watch this documentary produced by the Iran House of Music on Radif, which includes interviews with several renowned classical Persian musicians.

 

  1. By using the term ‘modal system’ we refer to a set of pitches that are grouped together and creates a mode.