Radif Music of Iran (Persia), Persian Setar

Radif Music of Iran (Persia), Persian Setar

The first written evidence of Persian music is from the Sassanid Period (226-643 CE). Barbod a court musician of the Sassanid Empire, created the first musical system in the Middle East known as the Royal Khosravani dedicated to the king Khosro II. Many of the current forms of Iranian classical music that referred to as Dastgah in local dialect, have survived from that time by oral tradition, although many of them have disappeared as well. A repertoire of more than two hundred series (Radif) are each divided into short melodic movement called Gusheh, which are themselves divided into twelve Dastgah. Each Gusheh and Dastgah has an individual name. Iranian classical music includes seven Dastgah and five vocal Radif. These Dastgahs are Mahoor, Nava, Shur, Segah, Chahargah, Rastpanjgah, and Humayun; the vocal Radifs are Abu-Ata, Dashti, Afshari, Bayat-e- Turk and Bayat-Isfahan.

A typical performance of these Dastgahs and Radifs consists of a Pishdaramad (prelude), Daramad (introduction), Tasnif (song), Chaharmezrab (rhythmic), Reng (dance) and a chosen number of Gusheh. The Gusheh and Daramad are non-metric and rhythm-free, while the Tasnif, Pishdaramad, Reng and Chaharmezrab are rhythmic.

A typical performance of these Radifs consists of a Pishdaramad (prelude), Daramad (introduction), Tasnif (song), Chaharmezrab (rhythmic), Reng (dance) and a chosen number of Gusheh.

Towards the end of the Safavid Empire (1502-1736), more complex movements in 10, 14, and 16 beats stopped being performed. In fact, in the early stages of the Qajar Dynasty, the usual rhythmic cycles were replaced by a meter based on the Ghazal and the Maqam system of classification was altered to the Radif system that is used to this day. Today, rhythmic pieces are performed in beats of 2 to 7 beat. There are also many melodies and modes that are related to the Maqams of Turkish and Arabic music. The performance of music in Iran requires the presence of a singer who is accompanied by wind and string instruments or one type of percussion. The musicians accompany the singer by singing along several verses.

During the years, Iranian classical music has changed a lot, today the most popular music style of Iran is known as fusion that combines Iranian traditional music with other genres. In addition, music is taught in state universities and private institutes as main major. Today the social position of musicians is much higher than it used to be, they are now considered artist that their art can move the soul of the nation and not cheap instrumentalist that played music in ceremonies and parties.