Skip to Main Content

International Music Resources by Country: Iran

International Music Resources offers an array of online and physical resources both freely available and/or offered by the George F. DeVine Music Library. The information included in these guides may serve as a starting point for the study and research of

Panoramic photo of Iran

Citation (1)

Map of Iran

Map of Iran

Citation (3)



Music of the Persian Mystics Album Art

Iran: Music of the Qajar Era Album Art

Journey to Persia Album Art

In The Name Of The Red Rose: Iranian Classical Music Album Art

Garland Encyclopedia of World Music-Iran

Garland Encyclopedia of World Music Cover Art


Flag of Iran


Capital: Tehran

Official Language: Farsi

Current Population: 85,028,760 

Area: 1,648,195 sq km.

Climate: Summer temperatures of more than 55°C (131°F) have been recorded, but in the winter the great altitude of much of the country results in temperatures of −18°C (0°F) and below.

Main Religions:  Shi‘a Muslims, Sunni Muslims

Citation (2)

Iranian Ritual and Ceremony Music


Ceremonial uses of voices and instruments vary significantly among the different regions, notably in relation to the functions assigned to specific instruments. Human responsiveness to divine ordinances can be thrown into vivid relief by the absence of instrumental sounds, as in the call to prayer (azān) and recitation or cantillation of the Qur’an. 


The term zekr (literally ‘remembrance’) applies both to whole ceremonies and to short formulae or pieces that are sung or spoken at appropriate points within a ceremony. The sacred instrument of the Ahl-e Haqq order in southern Kurdistan and Lorestan is the ṭanbūr. It accompanies the singing of sacred texts (kalām) in the spiritual assembly (jam‘) using modal entities termed maqām (or, more recently, dastgāh) and often named after important figures in the order’s history. By contrast, the zekr ceremony of the Qāderi order in Kurdistan has two phases, during which participants are first seated and meditative then standing and singing as they move rhythmically. To introduce the entire ceremony, and during the ‘standing’ phase (qiyām or here), hymns and zekrs are sung to the accompaniment of large frame drums (daff). 


Responsorial singing also binds together the members of groups that have no connection with Sufi orders. In villages and some towns, members of a dasteh or hey’at meet regularly to sing verses (nowheh) that express their anguish over the martyrdom of the Shi‘a imāms. The leader sings to a somewhat variable pulse; this contrasts with the group’s short, more metrical responses, which are normally accompanied by rhythmic breast-beating (sinehzani) or by striking the shoulders with small chains (zanjirzani).

 Ta‘ziyeh and Rowzeh.

Sung plays (ta‘ziyeh or shabih) depicting events surrounding the martyrdom of Imām Hossein and members of his family (or, less often, the martyrdom of another imām) are performed in most regions of Iran. The ta‘ziyeh reached its highest point of development in the late 19th century, when foreign dignitaries were regularly invited to witness the elaborate performances sponsored by the Qajar court. Some prominent classical musicians have come from families known for their expertise in ta‘ziyeh performance, and portions of the classical radif may have been adopted from ta‘ziyeh melodies. Rowzeh is an extended poetic narrative about the martyred imāms, performed by a specialized singer (rowzehkhān) at devotional gatherings, which are held at any time of the year in private homes, mosques and other public places. Texts are drawn from a large repertory of printed and manuscript collections dating from the 17th to the 20th centuries. The singer shapes and articulates conventional rhythmic and melodic formulae to elicit highly emotional responses from the listeners, many of whom weep profusely.

Citation (4)

Iranian Musician Highlight: Hossein Alizadeh

Iranian Musician Hossein Alizadeh

Hossein Alizadeh

b. 1951

Iranian tār and setār player, teacher and composer. He studied at the National Music Conservatory in Tehran from the age of 13 and then at the University of Tehran from 1970 to 1974; his teachers included Habibollah Salehi, Ali Akbar Shahnazi, Nur Ali Borumand, Abdollah Davami, Mahmud Karimi, Yusef Forutan, Said Hormozi, Dariush Safvate and Hooshang Zarif. From 1971 Alizadeh studied and taught at the influential Centre for the Preservation and Propagation of Iranian Music in Tehran; he later taught music theory and tār at the University of Tehran. In 1976 he began his association with Iranian National Radio and Television, working as a soloist, a composer and a conductor. He co-founded the Chavosh Cultural Artistic Centre in 1977 and the Aref Ensemble in 1983; he also worked with the Sheyda Ensemble. In the early 1980s he studied musicology and composition at the University of Berlin. In 1997 he served one year as head of the National Music Conservatory in Tehran.

Thoroughly trained as a classical musician, Alizadeh has worked towards finding a contemporary voice for traditional Iranian music. In particular, he has contributed to the development of a more prominent role for instrumental music in the traditionally voice-based classical music; most of his compositions are for instrumental ensembles, some incorporating western instruments. His work with children at the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults in Tehran helped him to develop new ideas concerning music education. At the beginning of the 21st century he remains active as a soloist, a composer and a teacher, regularly performing and recording in Iran and abroad in Europe, the USA and Asia.

Citation: Nooshin, L.  Alizadeh, Hossein. Grove Music Online. Retrieved 17 Nov. 2021, from


(1): "Tehran Panorama" by "Сина" ​

(2): Location, Climate, Language, Religion, Flag, Capital (Iran), in Europa World online. London, Routledge. University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Retrieved 28 October 2021 from


(4):  Lawergren, B., Farhat, H., & Blum, S.  Iran. Grove Music Online. Retrieved 17 Nov. 2021, from