Described as one of the great voices of all times, the melody emperor of Iran, the greatest living maestro of Persian classical music and the voice of Iran, Mohammad-Reza Shajarian, the Iranian singer, poet, calligraphist and humanitarian, passed away at 80 years old in Tehran after a 15 year battle with kidney cancer.
His vocal training began at the age of 5 and he continued to study the ancient songs and rigorously structured traditional Persian music throughout his childhood. 1959 he began recording and rose to prominence in the 1960s. He was a lifelong student of his craft being taught, mentored and influenced by too many legendary master artists to list. These teachers, both living and dead spanned generations and led to the development of his repertoire of songs, perfected his vocal style and even taught him to play the Santour, a complex instrument similar to a dulcimer. He was especially influenced by the Persian tar soloist Jalil Shahnaz.
In return, Shajarian sought to carry on Iranian heritage and appreciation for traditional, ancient Persian music as well as mystical Sufi poetry to his people. They were captivated by the depth, range, power of his voice, and love for his nation.
He pursued this life mission as a professor at Tehran University’s Department of Fine Arts, through his work in National radio and television, as a teacher to many of today’s outstanding Iranian vocalists, his extensive collaborations and performances with notable musicians including the Aref Ensemble, Masters of Persian Music Ensemble the National Iranian Symphony Orchestra and even the Shiraz Arts Festival. He was also a founding member of the Chavosh Culture and Arts Society and is listed in the Wikipedia pages the Music of Iran as well as the List of Iranian musicians.
But Shajarian’s brilliance is not confined to Iran. He contributed to the global arts culture through his numerous recordings and performances around the globe. His favorites must include a world tour with his son Homayoun Shajarian as well as his daughter Mozhgan Shajarian.
His musical gift and life work have been recognized through awards and accolades that span the world stage and include:
Throughout his life, Shajarian was a humanitarian and voice for his beautiful country and it’s people. His most recent recordings departed from his career repertoire of love songs and poetry influenced by such great medieval Persian poets as Rumi and Ferdowsi and more closely resemble the searching, melancholy lyrics of 14th century poet and Sufi mystic, Hafez. Shajarian’s lyrics of sadness speak of a wonderful place of long ago.
Shajarian performing Morgh-e Sahar (“Bird of Dawn”) written by Mohammad-Taqi Bahar in early 20th century.
Upon his death, Shajarian’s son and protégé, the singer and tonbak drum player Homayoun Shajarian, wrote
“The soil of the feet of the Iranian people flew to meet the beloved.”
Shajarian was Born in 1940, exactly 1000 years before the birth in 940 AD of Ferdowsi, one of Persia’s most influential poets and author of Shahanameah. Shajarian died on October 8th 2020. In an amazing resemblance which highlights the symmetry in the lives of these two heroes in reviving Persian culture, his death was exactly 1000 years after the death of Ferdowsi in 1020 AD. Both Shajarian and Ferdowsi lived to be 80 years old. Although Shajarian was heavily influenced by the work of Ferdowsi, he could not, of course, known that his birth and death would be separated by the same 1000 years as Ferdowsi’s when he requested he be buried in the tomb of Ferdowsi.
On October 10th 2020, he was laid to eternal rest in Tus, Mashhad at the Tomb of Ferdowsi.
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