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Persian Music

NOTE: IF you wish to listen to this music while you browse the rest of our site, or even the entire web, just leave this page open in the background. Enjoy!

The Music of Iran

The following list shows the dominant characteristics that set Iranian music apart from most other forms of music:

  • Melodies are usually concentrated on a relatively narrow register.

  • Melodic movement occurs by conjunct steps.

  • Emphasis is on cadence, symmetry, and motivic repetition at different pitches.

  • Rhythmic patterns are kept simple.

  • The tempo is often rapid, and the ornamentation is dense.

  • Vocal parts are often decorated with tahrir, a vocal ornamentation similar to yodeling.

  • Iranian music is unique in the Middle Eastern tradition in that the different melodic phrases, or gushes are supposed to model the rhythmic stamp and melodic pattern of poetry.
     Above music courtesy their respective copyright holders. All rights reserved by copyright holders. Not for download or public resale.

Music from our playlist above taken from, among other sources, the following albums




Iran - Qom nuclear enrichment facility


Like most countries, Iran’s music represents the progress of Persian society over the millenia the country has existed. It is composed of elements that reflect not only the history of Persia, but also its people’s moral views and beliefs, as well as those of the people’s politics, social events and the geography of the country.

One thing that strikes most listeners about the music of Persia is the subtlety of the sounds. To westerners it seems to reflect deep thought, a certain warmth, and a pervasive romanticism. To Iranian’s however, their music also reflects what they would tell you is a closeness on their part to a celestial world

As Persian music is classified today, the government has labeled it as falling into one of the following three categories:

1 - Pre-Islamic music (the music of ancient Iranian tribes such as, Bakhtyari, Kordi, Lori, etc.)

2 - Post-Islamic music, including what is often referred to as:

a) Maghaml or mystic music. This music includes epic music, tyric music for marriages, birthdays and other happy occasions, and elegiac music for mournful occasions.

b) Radif music. This form of music includes the Dastgahs or modes of Traditional music.

3 - Contemporary Iranian music, which the government adds as a third “official” category. More generally, young people refer to it as Iranian National Music. This branch covers the traditional melodies of the two above groups, but with a classic rendition.

Strangely, the government seems to have ignored the fact that Iranian Pop music also exists, even though it is far more popular among young people of Iran than any of the above three categories. Listen, for example, to the song Ba Man Mimooni at left, and see if it doesn't remind you of American Pop from the Disco or Club era.

- - - -

As you can see, in our music player we have selected a fair mix of Traditional Iranian/Persian Music, as well as a broad mix of Pop music, as it is listened today by Iranians both within and outside of Iran. We think that if you take the time to listen to the songs in the order we present them, you will find that you gain a good understanding of who the Iranian people are… especially the young people. However, we should caution you that in our music mix we have taken, and are presenting, what classifies as Traditional Persian music out of context. That is, rather than following the traditional format in which this music is normally required to be listened to we are presenting it on the basis of, well, quite simply, songs that we thought you would prefer to hear.

For example, Iran’s traditional singing and music is usually divided Into 12 groups. Seven of these are broad in scope and independent in terms of tenor. They represent what is called the Dastgah (mode). The other 5 groups are called Awaz,  and comprise a group composed of melodies with the same gamut. Generally, in order to play a Dastgah or Awaz a special sequence must be followed in terms of how the musical score is developed and introduced to the listener. Usually the order is: i) prelude, ii) Awaz, iii) Tasnif (song) and iv) Reng (dance tune). The late Oarvish Kban innovated and added Plshdaramad, which is a piece that comes before the prelude, as well as the Chahar Mezrab. In the list we have put together here, we have ignored this entire approachagain, opting instead to simply choose music that we thought would sound good to you.

Iranian NeyOne of the other things you will notice about Iranian music is that the instruments sound different than those used in the west, or even other parts of the middle east. As many know, Iranian people do not think of themselves as Arabs. In fact if you make the mistake of calling them Arabs they will readily and even angrily remind you that they are not Arabs, they are Persians. As to why this is the case, if one reflects on history one will readily see that in the pre-Islam days of Iran’s development it had much in common with not only the Arabs that surround it, as well as Afghans and its oriental neighbors to the East. Over time however, as Iranian’s  began to develop their own culture, one of the things they did was develop a set of musical instruments that, unbeknownst to anyone at the time, caused the music composed and listened to in Iran to begin to differ from that of the Arab countries around Iran. In part then, the root of Iran’s "Persian-ness" comes from the musical instruments they developed, as these fostered a cultural and audible change that forever marked Iranian people as being different from the other cultures living in that region. Iran’s unique musical instruments have been of immense importance in helping the Persians define their culture as different from that of the Arabs, since ancient times.

One of the more unique of these is a wind instrument called the ney. It is the oldest of Iran’s unique wind instruments, and most easy to recognize. A tube made of cane with seven joints and six knots, the ney is what is called a “rural” instrument, being common to all provinces and villages in Iran. Other Iranian wind instruments include the sorna (also, zoornah; similar to an oboe), as well as the bakhtyari and azarbaijani.

Iranian ZoornahThe soma is usually accompanied by the dohol or the naghareh. The naghareh is a drum-like instrument. Most commonly this three-some of instruments are played at mourning ceremonies. Individually, or in twos, they usually can be heard in support of street performers, like the famous Iranian ropewalkers, or in support of marriage ceremonies where they are used along with "wood dancing."

Scottish people may be surprised to find that Iranians have played a bagpipe for as long as Scotland has, and likely even longer. Mostly used in the south  of Iran, it may actually have migrated from Persia to Scotland along with the great westward migration of the early middle ages. Most Iranians refer to the bagpipe as the khiknai.

String instruments include the kamancheh, an Iranian violin-like instrument that rests on the ground when being played. The kamancheh is also common among Turkmen and Turk tribes.

The barbat is a harp-like instrument. Westerners often refer to it as an AI-e-Oud or Lout. Its body is like a pear divided lengthwise into two parts, with a big body and a short neck.

Among the unique Iranian percussion instruments are the dohol, the dayereh, and the tonbak.

Unusually, Iran also has a string percussion instrument called the santir (similar to a dulcimer, but of much older origin). It consists of a trapezoidal wooden box over which 72 white (high) and yellow (bass) strings are stretched.

Enjoy the music we have for you at left. And thank you for visiting our website.


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