Sunday, May 02, 2004

Persian Music

The most ancient surviving component of Persian Music, with the use of words, is the Gathas of Zarathushtra. It is in the form of poetry that has its own unique rhythm. It is so composed that the rhythm smothes the human mind thus making it easy to remember. The Gatha were memorized for centuries before it was written down fot the first time ( same as Iliad and Odessay in the ancint Greece). Persian music is different in composition compared to western music. The notion of scale or octave is entirely foreign to Persian musical performance. Eastern Music and in particular Indian Music has a commin ancestoral relationship with Persian Music.
Many musical instruments originated in ancient Iran and were introduced to other contries;some maintained their name, other were renamed but are still traceable. while some like the Tar which means "string" in Parsi has carried its name as a suffix to most string instruments that have developed since, like the Guitar, Sitar etc... .
The Persians had a deeper understanding of music and so they systemized and organized it. We do not have much information from the earlier era, but during the Sassanid era there were famous court musicians like Barbad, Nakisa, and Ramtin. Barbad was the most famous among them and he reportedly concieved a musical system consisting of seven royal modes (khosravani), thirty derivative modes (Lahn), and three hundred sixty melodies (Dastan). This was the oldest Middle Eastern Musical system of which some traces still exist. some of the titles of his compositions were "Kin-e Iraj" ( the Vengeance of Iraj), "Takhte Ardeshir" ( the Throne of Ardeshir), these were perhaps epic songs; "baq-e-Sahryar" ( the Sovereign's Garden), "haft ganj" ( the Seven Treasures) and "Mah Abr Kuhan" ( Moon, Cloud, Mountains). We know of these titles from the writings of later historians but the actual compositions were most probably destroyed by the invading Arabs.
With the Arab Invasion of Persia (643-750 ACE), musical activity was suppressed for it was considered as a corrupting frivolous activity. The once again during the reign of the Abbasid Dynasty (750-1258 ACE), music was re-established at the court, and Iranian musicians were scattered throughtout the Muslim world. Iranian court musicsians had to adapt Arabic names and write in Arabic. Abu Nasr Farabi, an Iranian, wrote the "kitab al-musiq al-kabir", which laid the foundations of the musical tradition of the muslim world. Other Iranians like Abu Ali Sina (Avicenna) and Safaiddin Ormavi, who codified the mode intro 12 divisions with six melodies, also livied at this time.
Whenever the forces of Islam had an upper hand, Persian Music was forced undergound where it persisted and whenever it had chance to show itself it came out in the open. For good reasons there is a sadness in the tone of Persian Music today and even the happiest songs have that sadness in their tone.
The modern Dastgah system, codification and re-organazation of the old modes, dates back to the late Qajar Dynasty. ( the content of this writing was taken from a paper by Fariborz Rahnamoon)

Persian music is known to have influenced music all over the vast extent of the Persian Empire and beyond. At the same time it has for its share been influenced by others.

Indian Music:
The influence on Indian music is still to this day evident. Indian music of today is based on two prominent styles; the Hindustani Sangeet and Karnatic Sangeet. The Hindustani style is common in Northern India and is influenced by Persian music. The Indian Sitar is based on the Persian Setar, which has undergone changes to produce the Indian melodies.
The Indian singing style of Ghazal, Tarana and Qavali are rooted in Persian music and the names are also Persian. They are usually sung in Urdu language rather than Hindi.

Chinese Music:
China also played a role in the musical exchanges. Several Persian musical instruments were taken to China and influenced by some characteristics of Chinese music. A good example is the "Sorna" ( persian Oboe), which , is related to some extend to the Indian "Shahnaye" in China it is knowns as "Suona". The "Barbat" (persian Lute) was taken to China and they called it "Pipa" the same instrument found its way into Japan and they called it "Biwa".

Turkish Music:
Turkish music has so much in common with Persian music that it can hardly be considered independent from each other.

Greek Music:
Greek music is said to be rooted in the Orient. The Greek goblet drum known as "Toubeleki", which is from the same family as the Turkish instrument called "Dumbelek", should have been rooted in the Persian goblet drum known as "Dombak". "Dombalak", is a Pahlavi ( middle persian language).

Egyptian Music:
Egyptian music is also impressed by Persian music. The presence of Persian instruments such as Kamanche (spike fiddle), and Santour (hammered dulcimer) as well as various Persian musical modes including Chahargah, Sehgah, Isfahan, Nahavand, Souznak, Rast, Basteh- negar and Souz-e-del, in Egyptian music is the best evidence of this end.

Spanish Music:
The Persian frame drum known as "Dayereh", was taken to Spain and Portugal, and later on to Brasil and became knowns as "Pandeiro".

Pictures of musical Instruments:
SANTUR (dulcimer):
UD (lute):