EPISODE 5: Shajariyan maestro, the Bird of Freedom

Greeting and Sar khoshan-e mast

🎵 Tasnif e Sar khoshan-e Mast

Hello, you’re listening to Padena. In Padena we picture Iran through music, literature, and travelogues.

This episode: Shajariyan, the Bird of Freedom.

Introduction of the episode

This episode is dedicated to the man who embodied the timeless beauty of Persian music. Mohammad Reza Shajarian, Persian music grand maestro inspired the new generation by his legendary singing and have transcended history with a powerful voice and profound character.

Shajariyan’s voice is the very definition of home to the Iranians abroad. They carry the quintessence of their homeland in the songs of him through all the borders they cross.

To Iranians inside Iran, Shajarian’s songs grand hope and comfort in the times of severity, and serve as an anchor for their Persian identity.

In the fifth episode of Padena, we are going to tell a concise life story of Ostad Mohammad Reza Shajarian and listen to the golden songs that remained from him as the musical voice of a culture.

You’re listening to Sarkhoshan e Mast. One of the lyric poems of the 14-century celebrated Persian poet, Hafez Shirazi.

Early life

🎵 Balad surah recitation

Shajarian was born in 1940 in the city of Mashhad. His father and grandfather were gifted reciters of the Qu’ran. So beginning at the age of 5, he learned the Quranic recitation from his father as a tradition inherited from his ancestors and called attention to himself.

Despite his longing for practising music art, his religious family considered any music that wasn’t quranic recitation forbidden. So he explored the Persian classical vocals and folk music in secret.

Shajarian’s debut and a path to make everlasting fame

🎵 A piece of Golha radio program

Soon he mastered the Persian classical repertoire that forms Persian music at the age of 12. In 1959 he made his debut on radio Khorasan and rose to fame after performances on radio and state television. He became one of the main stains of the legendary Golha radio programs by the name of Siavash.

He was to give a new life to centuries-old Persian songs with his integral vocal. His lyrics are often drawn from old Persian poems.

In the turbulent days of the revolution

Following the massacre of demonstrators on September 8, 1978, carried on by the last Pahlavi Shah, Mohammad Reza Shajarian quitted radio and television. He released “Shab Navard or Nightcrawler, the only revolutionary anthem of him, in the chaotic days of the 1979 revolution.

🎵 Shab navard (night crawler)

Shab Navard was made based on a poem of Aslan Aslanian in 1969. Mohammad Reza Lotfi composed and recorded its music in his house basement confidentially few days before the revolution of 1979.

After the revolution

🎵 Rabbana prayer recitation

In the workbook of Shajarian, there’s a masterpiece inscribed in the list of national intangible heritages. For 30 years, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, it was among the main programs of Iran’s state TV and radio.

Every Iranian marks the holy month of Ramadan by listening to Rabbana. Millions of Iranians break their fast each day at dusk with Rabbana, even those who have not been fast cherish the power of Shajarian’s prayer of Rabbana.

Iranian-American scholar Abbas Milani- head of Stanford University’s Iranian Studies program says “Rabbana has virtually nothing to do with the words, this is not the voice of a mere mortal — this is the gods speaking to us.”

Occupation and other arts

🎵 Ey Mah e Man

Shajarian has had a life-long passion for different arts. Besides his musical talent, he is considered as an accomplished calligrapher and a great carpenter. He also invented multiple traditional instruments and made them with his hands to introduce in his concerts and performances.

“Ey Mah e Man”, written and composed by Ali Akbar Khan Sheyda, and Mohammad Reza Shajarian’s sing.

World awards and nominations

🎵 Az Eshgh, tiny desk concert

In 2013, Tiny Desk Concert got to welcome one of NPR’s (National Public Radio) 50 Great Voices to its office. Master Shajarian sang the love song titled “Az Eshgh”, with the collaboration of Pournazeri brothers, Sohrab and Tahmoures and Robin Vassy from France

in the following Robin tells Padena about his experience in this performance.

🎙️ Robbin Vassy’s narration

Among many accolades of Shajarian, the Picasso and Mozart medals from UNESCO, are indicators of his musical mastery.  In 2017, Los Angeles Times cited him as the “Greatest living maestro of Persian classical music” while he was nominated for Grammy award in Best World Music for two times in 2004 and 2006.

Az Eshgh is a single piece of music composed of written poems from Simin Behbahani, Saadi Shirazi and Babataher.

In the following, an interview of Golrokh aminian, Iranian singer and songwriter, with Roqe podcast hosting by Jian Ghomeshi in the “special edition a tribute to Shajarian” episode.

🎙️ Golrokh aminian interview

🎵 Gholame Chashme

Political views and positioning besides people

Shajarian was always with his people, and this was his “politics”. There was not a shred of hatred in his character and that’s why he and his music were the quintessence of love.

From the 1979 revolution to the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, through the painful days of the uprising after the 2009 Iranian presidential election, and then now when Iranians are under the pernicious US economic sanctions, he belonged to his nation and home country, not to any government, ruler or religion. He was the musical voice of Iran as he cited “I get my inspiration from the people. I need to be among them. Or else I wouldn’t be able to sing.”

🎵 Zaban-e Atash (lay down your gun)

Language of Fire written by Fereydoun Moshiri and sang by Mohammad Reza Shajarian in 2009

Baroon, the melody of rain

🎵 Baroon (rain)

The collaborative album of Night, Silence, Desert has a masterpiece named Baroon, meaning “Rain” written by Ali Muallem.

Baroon was made based on the North Khorasan’s traditional tone by Iranian musician Keyhan Kalhor and iconic vocal of Shajarian.

Hamid Dabashi, the Professor of Iranian Studies at Columbia University, thinks if you are to listen to just one of Shajarian’s songs let it be him singing Baroon.

It begins with simple modulations: “Rain oh clouds of spring, rain, rain on mountains and plains, rain …” until in the middle of the song where he sings with the real pain of the history of his people in his voice: “Rain on the memories of the lovers of this land, lovers with no graves …”

Cooperation and team performance

Although the master of Persian music was considered as a solo singer, he experimented with music maestros including Kayhan Kalhor and Hossein Alizadeh. Shajarian also held several concerts and world tours composed of his son Homayoun, his daughter Mojgan and music ensembles as Ava, Shahnaz and Persian Music masters ensemble.

🎵 Neshanash Kon fron London concert

Homayoun, his legacy for the Persian Music

The Grand Master Vocalist of Persian Music brought up a phoenix of singing to continue his shining path as a future’s reserve.  Homayoun, the oldest son of Mohammad Reza Shajarian born to embody the wordless beauty of the traditional Iranian vocal. He has been trained in classical instruments at the age of five and alongside his older sisters gained the knowledge of Persian traditional vocal Avaz under their father’s supervision.

Listen to Ze Man Negaram by Mohammad Reza and Homayoun Shajarian. The lyric is written by the renowned Iranian poet, politician, journalist and Professor of Literature Mohammad-Taqi Bahar.

🎵 Ze man Negaram

🎵 Ba Man Sanama by Homayoun Shajariyan

Ba Man Sanama, a melodic piece of lyric from Rumi by Homayoun Shajarian.

The sound of the dawn’s bird

🎵 Morghe Sahar

Shaharian adhered to an obligation which was to end every concert with Morgh e Sahar song. This song used to be the encore at his concerts that could bring the audience to their feet.

The song starts with a call for the bird to begin its lament. And by the end of the song, it is asking the bird to sing, so the night of oppression can come to an end, and the day of liberation can begin.

Translated as Dawn Bird, Morgh e Sahar is an Iranian tasnif written by Mohammad-Taqi Bahar in the early 20th century under the influence of Iranian constitutional revolution. He wrote the poem while he was in prison.  It was later performed by numerous Iranian singers including Ostad Mohammad Reza Shajarian.

The Persian Classical Music’s bird quits the land

It was in March 2016 that Shajarian revealed his fifteen-year challenge of kidney cancer. After four more years eventually, on 8 October 2020, the song of the dawn bird died out. His everlasting voice but remained as an anchor for the Persian identity and provider of hope and solace in troubled times.

The parts that were mortar from Shajarian rested in Mashhad, in the mausoleum of Ferdowsi, the legendary 10th-century Persian poet. His inimitable vocal continues describing the essence of his homeland.

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