IBNA- Mohammad-Reza Shajarian, an internationally known master vocalist of Iranian traditional music, who preserved Persian classical poets by adapting them for the songs he performed, died of cancer on Thursday. He was 80.
Suffering from cancer for several years, Mohammad-Reza Shajarian passed away at Jam Hospital in Tehran. His son, Homayoun, who is also a traditional music vocalist, announced the demise of the master on his Instagram page: “The dust beneath the feet of the people flew home to meet his love,” he wrote. His death caused a widespread sorrow across Iran.
Based on his will Shajarian who is widely considered one of the greatest Iranian artists of all time, was laid o rest on Saturday at the mausoleum of the eminent epical poet Abul-Qasem Ferdowsi-whose ‘Shahnameh’ (Book of Kings) is regarded a patriotic masterpiece-in Mashhad today. Several thousand people attended his funeral ceremony and due to the outbreak of COVID-19 many more couldn’t attend.
He sang many songs whose lyrics were the poems composed by legendary Iranian classic bards such as Hafez, Sa’di, Rumi, Shams, Attar, Baba Taher and Khayyam. Moreover, he incorporated the poems of modernist Iranian poets including Nima Yushij, Sohrab Sepehri and Mehdi Akhavan-Sales in his songs as well.
Shajarian was also an inventor of traditional music instruments and skillful Persian calligrapher was granted two awards from UNESCO for his contributions to the world of music: the Picasso Medal in 1999 and the Mozart Medal in 2006. NPR named him one of the world’s “50 Great Voices” in 2010, and in 2014 he was awarded the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor from the French government.
In an obituary on him, ‘The Guardian’ wrote: “While adhering to the almost religious norms of Persian musical scales as well as poetic rules of rhyme and meter, Shajarian also opened new paths by introducing fresh elements into Persian music. Although originally a solo performer, he experimented with a number of musical ensembles and invented new stringed instruments that found their way into his concerts.
To Iranians inside Iran, Shajarian’s songs served as an anchor for their Persian identity and provided hope and solace in troubled times. Many Iranians have emotional memories attached to Shajarian – it is hard to find an Iranian who would not mark the holy month of Ramadan by listening to Shajarian’s famous rendition of the Arabic Rabbana prayer on breaking the fast.”
‘The New York Times’ also wrote: “Mr. Shajarian’s appeal crossed generations and political factions, and the news of his death spurred an outpouring of grief from Iranians the world over. In Tehran, thousands of fans packed the streets outside the hospital where he died — people of all ages, wearing masks because of the pandemic, weeping openly and singing some of his most famous songs, derived from Persian poetry.”
Several books have been written on the works and career of Shajarian in Persian. He also trained many students who draw on his heritage as a hardworking and inventive musician and a symbol of original Iranian music and literature which makes him an eternal figure.