Mystic World Music


Mohammad Reza Shajarian is one of the most distinguished and internationally recognized musicians of our time. Born on September 23, 1940, in Mashhad, Iran, he is a critically acclaimed singer, composer and Master (Ostad) of Persian music. Called “a superstar, the Pavarotti of Persian classical music” (Toronto Globe & Mail) and named one of the “50 Great Voices” of the World by NPR (2010), Ostad Shajarian is the only person ever to receive both of UNESCO’s prestigious arts awards, the Picasso Medal (1999) and the Mozart Medal (2006).

In Persian classical Dastgah music, singing is the most difficult art to master, and Ostad Shajarian, as the embodiment of the perfect singer, is a major source of inspiration for musicians around the world. He began singing at age 5 under the supervision of his father, and at age 12 he began studying the traditional classical repertoire known as the Radif. He started playing the santour under the instruction of Jalal Akhbari in order to better understand and perform the traditional repertoire, and in 1960 he became the pupil of Faramarz Payvar. He was inspired by the late master vocalist Gholam Hossein Banan, and studied under Abdollah Davami, from whom he learned the most ancient songs. Abdollah Davami also passed on to Ostad Shajarian his own interpretation of the Radif.

Ostad Shajarian launched his singing career in 1959 at Radio Khorasan, rising to prominence in the 1960s with his distinct and authoritative style. Since then, he has led an illustrious career that includes performing concerts inside and outside Iran, organizing national and international music festivals, teaching privately and in the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Tehran (1975-1979), researching Iranian music, and making numerous important recordings.

As a performer, Ostad Shajarian has toured throughout the Middle East, Europe, North America and the Far East, performing at the most prestigious concert halls and festivals, most recently with his own group, the Shahnaz Ensemble. He has also toured North America as a member of the Masters of Persian Classical Music, an ensemble featuring his son, Homayoun.

He has recorded over 450 songs on more than 80 albums and was twice nominated for Grammy Awards in the World Music category (2004, 2006). In 2000 he was named Iran’s “Best Classical Vocalist,” and in 1999 his recording Dastan was named Best Album of Two Decades of Persian music.

In 1970 Ostad Shajarian expanded his activities to include the composition of traditional Iranian music, research and work as a luthier, and the practice of Persian calligraphy, of which he has been recognized as a master.

He has designed and constructed many new instruments, including, most recently, the delo del (2011), parhib (2010), barbad (2009), saboo (2009), saghar (2007) and tondar (2007), as well as two new families of strings, Shabahang (2009) and Sorahi (2007), based on his research into traditional Iranian instruments. He presented papers documenting his work activities at the fifth Conference on Interdisciplinary Musicology in Paris (2009).

Since 2007, Ostad Shajarian has served as Head of the Leading Council of the Iranian Chamber of Music. He has lectured at the top universities in the United States, including Harvard, MIT, UC Berkeley, UCLA and Stanford, where he received the BITA Award (2010).

Among his many other awards are a Certificate of Tribute from the City of Los Angeles and a proclamation from the City of Houston (both 2010), the International Mevlana (Rumi) Foundation Award of Honor (2009), Nushin Medal of Recognition by the Chamber of Iranian Actors (2008), National Radio and Television Golden Cup (1977) and a prize presented by the Speaker of the Turkish Parliament (1976).

His many humanitarian activities include a series of concerts to support the survivors of the Rudbar (1999) and Bam (2003) earthquakes, five nights of concerts in support of the Hashtgerd students (1998) and eight nights of concerts in support of the residents of the southern suburbs of Tehran (1990).

Ostad Shajarian considers himself fortunate to have studied with the great masters Esmaeil Mehrtash and Ahmad Ebadi, and learned the vocal styles of singers from previous generations, including Reza Gholi Mirza Zelli, Fariborz Manouchehri, Ghamar Molouk Vaziri, Eghbal Azar and Taj Isfahani.


© 2012 Mohammad Reza Shajarian