08/10/2021 by Mr Mohammad Shirkavand and Ms Atieh Jafar Nazari
Master Mohammad Reza Shajarian (1941-2020) sang an evolved form of Persian music as his understanding of Persian songs was deep and distinctive. He collected and integrated the old methods with his expertise and then passed them on to the next generations. Mohammad Reza Shajarian was gifted a voice that has revived traditional Persian music and played a role as influential as Ferdowsi, the Poet whose works preserved the Persian language in literature starting 900 years ago. He was a hero from the art world who elevated the country’s existence with his voice through intertwining literature with sounds and melodies.
The artist’s voice resonates beyond the memories of his peers and the younger generations after him. When talking about Persian traditional music, the voice of Rabbana of Mohammad Reza Shajarian registered as an intangible cultural heritage by the Ministry of Tourism will come to mind. Therefore, his voice is the best example of the phonetic manifestation of Persian Music.
Born into an art, culture, and literature enthusiast family on September 23, 1940 (1359 AH), he began singing at an early age. He started reciting the Qur’an with his father when he entered school in 1948. He recited the Qur’an in political ceremonies and gatherings of that time at the age of 10. His first high school whispers began with the help of his uncle and Mr. Young (a schoolteacher). The first broadcast of young Mohammad Reza Shajarian’s voice was on Khorasan Radio in 1952. Master Shajarian’s art was not limited to singing, as he was also skilled in calligraphy. He had an excellent ability for calligraphy and had even once organized an exhibition of his works for calligraphy enthusiasts.
Mohammad Reza Shajarian was so prominent on the world stage that the largest international organizations and art centers would insert a mention of the titles he received in biographical notices: for instance, he holds the most famous Persian original music artist honor through the Asian Association website, was selected as one of the top 50 voices in the world at the National Public Radio (NPR), and is considered one of the most influential music artists in the world by the Vancouver Sun newspaper.
Mohammad Reza Shajarian was also the greatest master of Persian traditional music. He strove to raise the profile of the music of his land and introduce its culture, feelings, and art beyond its national borders. He did a transcendent service to patriotic music, received numerous awards for his efforts such as the UNESCO Picasso Medal, the UNESCO Honorary Diploma, the Beta from Stanford University, the UNESCO Mozart Prize, the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres honor from France, the High Prize for Art for Peace, and the Aga Khan Foundation Patron’s Award for his “contribution to the musical heritage of humanity”1 . He was perhaps the only artist to inject the essence of Persian music and songs into the world’s heart through his voice.
Master Mohammad Reza Shajarian founded the Delawaz Records company in 1977. Shortly after this date, in 1978, he won first place in Qur’an recitation competitions all over the country. The fascinating albums such as Mahour, Bidad, Nova, and Dastan are the extensive outcomes of Shajarian and Parviz Meshkatian’s collaboration during the 1960s.
Throughout his professional life, Mohammad Reza Shajarian held numerous performances worldwide, including concerts with the Aref Ensemble 2. He also performed in the United States and Europe with the Pirniakan and Andalibi groups starting in 1968. He organized benefit concerts to raise funds for the victims of the Rudbar earthquake in 1969 and the Bam earthquake in 2004.
The marriage of Mohammad Reza Shajarian and Miss Farkhondeh Golafshan in Quchan lasted for thirty years. Together, they had three daughters and a son, Homayoun, who is also an artist as remarkable as his father. They have delivered great performances together over the years.
This beloved artist, who is not only respected in the hearts of the Persians but also praised by the world’s people, has released more than 70 music albums during his professional life. The best of which are Yad Ayam (Memory of the Days), Del Majnoon (The Heart Insanity), Janan Province, Bidad, Dastan, Nova, Bi To Besar Nemishavad (It cannot be without you), Faryad (scream), Dar Khial (in imagination), Sokut-e Shab (Night Silence), and Kavir (Desert).
A well-rounded artist, Mohammed Reza Shajarian also published a book, The Secret of Mana, in 1979.
Shajarian’s Influence on Persian Music:
The history of Persian music is made of the narration of sounds and melodies penetrated by the treasures of the culture of the Persian tribes that have witnessed many changes. These developments have contributed to shaping the overall culture over time, the most significant aspect of which being tradition. Traditions are paramount to modelling the cultural lifestyle of a country. Some of them are transmitted to us through sound, which naturally has its own rules and, ultimately, defines the hearing and oral culture of a population. Mohammad Reza Shajarian was the promoter of the dimension of culture centered around playing music and singing.
Shajarian believed that music gives the power to access a transcendental state, and, in this regard, he said: “My best moments are only the minutes of singing; When in the middle of the song, I am uprooted and become heavenly”.3
He was concerned with thinking about Persian music and its classifications and melodies, which led Shajarian to become a central musical figure in the world.
Professor Shajarian, the flag bearer of Persian Music, was buried in the tomb of Ferdowsi on Thursday, October 10, 2020, in the city of Tous due to a long-term illness. Undoubtedly, no successor as gifted as this legendary man can be imagined for the years to come.
1/ Tehran Times, “Iran’s Mohammadreza Shajarian honored at Aga Khan Music Awards”, 1 April 2019, available at: https://www.tehrantimes.com/news/434302/Iran-s-Mohammadreza-Shajarian-honored-at-Aga-Khan-Music-Awards.
2/ The Aref Ensemble was an Iranian classical music ensemble named after Aref Ghazvini, an 18th century Iranian poet and composer. It was founded by maestro Parviz Meshkatian, Hossein Alizadeh, and Mohammad Reza Lotfi in 1977. Aref was dedicated to the promotion and advancement of Persian classical music.
3/ Interview with Fazel Jamshidi, Moj News Agency, 10 October 2020, available at https://bit.ly/3B6Jyo5