Aref Qazvini (one of the most famous Tasnif-Composers of the Qajar style)

 Aref Qazvini was born in 1882 in Qazvin. His father was a clegyman and a lawyer. Aref had a pleasant voice and father wished him to be a rowzeh-khan (''religious singer''). In his youth, Aref practiced as a rowzeh-khan and then he migrated to Tehran and sang in aristocratic houses.

These gathering displeased Aref and he eventually joined to free-thinkers of the Iranian Constitutional Movement. He composed political lyrics and patriotic songs and held several exciting concerts which resulted in his fame. His lyrics were distributed widely and people sang his tasnifs on the streets.

Like Sheyda, Aref composed tasnifs only and was not known as an improviser. He composed both lyrics and music, and performed them. His output was popular in different periods. ''Gerye Kon'', ''Az Khun-e Javanan-e Vatan'' and "Eftekhar-e Afaq'' are of his famous tasnifs.

He died at 1933 in dire poverty and total oblivion.

Source:  An Introduction to Iraninan music booklet from Mahoor Institute of Culture and Art



Ali Akbar Sheyda (one of the most famous Tasnif-composers of the Qajar Style)

Sheyda was born in c.1843 in Shiraz. He was a poet, calligrapher, musician and setar player. He was for a while an administartor of the government and migrated to Tehran, Sheyda was spotted out by some distinguished men of his age and was initated in a mystic sect.

He was the first Qajar  musician that composed only tasnifs and he did not refuse to get known as a tasnif-composer. He was , besides, the song writer of his own compositions. ''Ala Saqia'', ''Cheshm-e bi Sorme'' and ''Dush Dush'' are some of his tasnifs. Sheyda's tasnifs were performed in different times and with different settings and styles.

Source:  An Introduction to Iraninan music booklet from Mahoor Institute of Culture and Art



 Tar is a long-necked lute. Its sound-box is 8-shaped made of mulberry wood, covered with a skin parchment functioning as its sound board. 

Tar had three double courses of metal strings tuned in C-G-C. The neck has 25-28 movable frets made of catgut or nylon. Since bridge is positioned on the parchment, the instrument is so sensitive to temperature changes and easily goes out of tune.

A brass pick inserted in a wax and ash ball is used for plucking.

Tar is the most important classical instrument and the most suitable for explaining the theoretical foundations of Persian classical music-its system of intervals and modes.

In this way it is very similar to piano in western classical music. The most important version versions of radif, i.e. Mirza Abdollah and Aqa Hoseyn-Qoli's versions, both were originally conceived on tar, the principal instrument of the Farahani family. Its playing technique has remarkably improved and nowadays there are numerous tar virtuosos.




Source:  An Introduction to Iraninan music booklet from Mahoor Institute of Culture and Art

Compound form

These genres are all used in a compound form also known as dastgah (not to be mixed up ''dastgah'' as related to ''avaz'' as mode). The order of its components (comparable to Nuba, Walsa, Fasil) is like this: 1) Pishdaramad, 2) chaharmezrab, 3) avaz (improvisatory, instrumental or vocal), 4) tasnif, and 5) reng. Occasionally Daramad of dastgah is interested between pishdaramad and chaharmezrab.


Contemporary musicians, however, do not follw this ''compoundform'' and decided over the content and order of their concert components.


Recently pishdaramad has been retained in the order, and tasnif is moved to the end of the program. Between these two, the alternation between improvisatory and composed (instrumental or vocal) pieces could increase the total number of tasnifs to three to four in a concert.


Source:  An Introduction to Iraninan music booklet from Mahoor Institute of Culture and Art



The only fix-metered, composed, non-improvisatory vocal piece is tasnif. Tasnif possesses no remarkable feature other than it is short and light. Its lyric content varies in each case, ranging from romance to socio-political content. Formerly the lyrics were composed either by the composer himself or by his contemporary fellow poet. As a general rule, in more recent examples belonging to a few past decades, the classical poetry was replaced . Tasnif is the most important and most popular of all musical genres (as compared with instrumental genres) and has also developed largely in the course of the past century. Sheyda and Aref are two of classic tasnif-composers.


Source:  An Introduction to Iraninan music booklet from Mahoor Institute of Culture and Art


An instrumental genre dedicated to dance with moderately tempo, reng possesses no other feature. Mostly composed in 6/8 meter, rengs are occasionally composed in other light-hearted measures. rengs in radif are more elaborated and less dance-like in character. Some musicians, like Ali-Akbar Shahnazi, composed numerous rengs.


Source:  An Introduction to Iraninan music booklet from Mahoor Institute of Culture and Art


An instrumental genre with fast tempo, chaharmezrab shows a player's technical dexterity when performing fix-metered pieces. It is characterized by a fundamental motif repeatedly manifesting itself interrupted by melodic figures of music. Chaharmezrab is composed both for a solo instrument and for and ensemble . It is quite possible that while improvising, the player also improvises a chaharmezrab. There are examples of chaharmezrab in radif. Famous examples contain Chaharmezrab-e Mahur, by Darvish Khan.


Source:  An Introduction to Iraninan music booklet from Mahoor Institute of Culture and Art


A recent genre developed in late Qajar years. Pishdaramad is an instrumental piece with slow tempo functioning as a concert overture. When composing pishdaramad, composers try to employ all modal gushes available in a dastgah or avaz; in other words, he tours between every modes of a dastgah or avaz. Pishdaramad is the sole genre without any equivalents in the corpus of radif. Of its famous examples are pishdaramad in Esfahan, by Morteza Neydavud.

Source:  An Introduction to Iraninan music booklet from Mahoor Institute of Culture and Art


Improvisation is the most important of all musical genres in Persian classical music, principally carried out in free meter. Being instrumental or vocal, the genre is usualyy known as avaz (not to be mixed up with ''avaz'' as related to ''dastgah'' as mode). In avaz, instrumentalist or vocalist shows his utmost technical dexterity. A brilliant musician is expected to master all dastgahs and avazs and be able to improvise in them for rather long period of time. The ability to develop gushes and link them together in a proper way, in addition to technical mastery, is a prerequisitw to the art of improvising.


The most sophisticated type of improvisation is called morakkab-navazi or morakkab-khani with modulations between dastgahs. It demands great mastery and artisanship. Instrumentalist and vocalist may also improvise certain sections in fixed meter. In this case , either chaharmezrab (It will be explained) or any undefined fix-metered piece is played and ''zarbi'', a fixed metered vocal piece, is performed in which melodies are applied in an improvisatory manner to poetry in syllabic and metric styles. By the way, both instrumentalists and vocalists could use fix-metered sections of radif and begin to develop them.


Other musical genres are fix-metered and for the most part instrumental.


Source:  An Introduction to Iraninan music booklet from Mahoor Institute of Culture and Art



 Each subsection of dastgah or avaz is called a ''gushe''. Some gushes are free- and some are fix-metered. In addition, a quite number of gushes are only melodically significant and have the capacity to accommodate to different modes, hence their presence in almost all dastgahs and avazes.The remaining ones, those with more importance, have modal significance and create different modal ambience. For example, a certain type of gushe known as Daramad (''introduction'') launches dastgah/avaz and stabilizes the principal mode. Kereshme, Naghme, Baste-Negar, and Majles-Afruz are amongst the first type, and Delkash, Shekaste, Zabol, and Mokhalef amongst the seconde type. 

Dastgah-e Mahur comprises of almost 38 gushes of first (Kereshme, Majles-Afruz, Zangule, etc.) and second types. The latter type secures the modal diversity od dastgah. Of these, Daramad appearing first of all, is in Mahur mode.

Some other gushes are dad, Delkash, Hesar, Shekasteh, Araq and Rak; this mean that in dastgah-e Mahur, music modulates to Delkash, Hesar, Shekaste, Araq and Rak.

Reaching at this point and using the aforementioned concepts, radif is again defined as a model repertoire comprising different gushes (between 250 to 300 in quantity) all classified in seven dastgahs and avazs.

To summarize this, we might regard the Persian classical music as a tree deeply rooted in its long history. The main trunk is radif and to be more pricise, is both instrumental and vocal radif. Out of this trunk, seven branches are drived forming seven dastgahs. Some secondary branches from five types of avazes.

each of these twelve branches possesses different gushes, some are in special modes and others not modally defined. Besides, each dastgah or avaz contains a principal mode as is represented in Daramad. During a performance, gushes all return to this principal mode.

The tree of Persian music is thus formed by its old roots, by radif as its trunk, by dastgahs as its main branches, by avazes as its secondary branches and by gushes as its numerous stems. The leaves and fruits are the pieces composed and improvised. These are nurtured by the latex flowing in its veins. To articulate it better, radif is the main source of composed pieces by musicians.



Source:  An Introduction to Iraninan music booklet from Mahoor Institute of Culture and Art