Introduction to Khorasani Music
The music of Iran is rich and diverse as in every corner of the country, people in each region have their music. From the local music of Iran, we can mention the Khorasani Music. Khorasan region is currently divided into three Provinces of North Khorasan, South Khorasan, and Razavi Khorasan. Khorasan has become one of the unique regions with tourist spots, where contain several shrines and tombs of prominent figures and poets, inviting the original Persian music enthusiasms to visit there. Since the Khorasan region is the birthplace of a specific genre of music, some have called it Florence of Iran.
The art of Persian music is as old as the history of such an ancient land. In ancient Persia, a group played drums and Sorna at sunrise and sunset. Three types of ritual, festive and martial music were common in historical and national celebrations. According to the facts, the Persians were the first people to invent an alphabet as musical letters called “Vish-Dabireh.” Reports indicate that this script initially had 160 letters, however, during the Sassanid dynasty, the number of the letters increased from 160 to 360. In the classical language of Persian music, each letter and sound had a separate symbol and was so complete and comprehensive that the ancient Persians could record sounds in nature, such as the birds’ sound or the wind’s. Musicology Studies show a large part of Central Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Republic of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey, and Greece that were influenced by Persian music in the distant past.
Persian Music History
Among the musicians in ancient Persia, we can mention “Barbad,” “Nagisa,” and “Ramtin.” Herodotus, the first Greek historian of the Achaemenid court, is also quoted that music played a particular role in the courts during the Persian Empire and was very necessary for the religious worship of God. The great Persian philosopher known as the second teacher (Muallim-i Sani), Al-Farabi, was also a great musician and had treatises on music and its instruments after Islam’s emersion. Indeed there are deep-rooted signs from Persian musical instruments in other regions and Arab countries to Morocco.
Khorasani Music History
Music in Khorasan narrates a long history that dates back to the pre-Islamic period. Music in Khorasan includes North Khorasan, South Khorasan, Maqami, and Neyshaburi music. The region has been a central part of Persian ethnic rule in the past. A land inhabited by Parthian and Scythian satraps has been seen from Alexander the Great to the Parthian revolution, the Parthians, the Achaemenids, and many other histories. All these historical events have had enough impacts on the land’s formation with many diverse cultures. Today, looking at the music of Khorasan, we notice the different cultures and originalities in it.
Music of North Khorasan regions in the style of Khorasani Music
Another original Khorasan music that has been registered in the list of world heritages is Khorasani music in the northern parts of Khorasan. The spiritual value of such music has been so high that UNESCO registered it in 2010 as one of the intangible Persian cultural heritages. Monogamy was less common in the region in the past, consequently, almost the North Khorasan culture is influenced by nomadic migrants. Therefore, North Khorasan music is one of the significant achievements of the people of the region. The northern parts of Khorasan music more refer to the regional historical, religious, and mythological events. Even some parts of Shahnameh are performed in Khorasani Maghami. The main popular music in the northern parts of Khorasan is related to Quchan, Bojnourd, and Shirvan, but the best music type is the Khorasan Maqami.
Maqami music is a relic of the aesthetic manifestations of the ancient culture of Khorasan, which fortunately has been far from any distortion and manipulation. Many of the songs found in Khorasan music narrates a history dating back to ancient Persia. The word Magham means the highest stage of creativity in combining instrument and song. Maqami Music mentioned as Mugham or Magham in the Music Dictionary is a collection of different sounds and scenes defined based on a single tuning and axis. One of the differences between North Khorasan and other neighboring regions of the province is the Maghami as a genuine genre in Khorasan music and traditional Persian music. The exceptional point about Maqami is its preservation method among generations from breast to breast, unlike other music genres, such as Dastgahi music.
Khorasan music has an ancient and long history, but in a general view, Khorasan Maqami music can be divided into four different sections:
- Kormanj Maqami music
- Azeri Maqami music
- Turkmen Maqami music
- Persian music
Khorasani Maghami music classification according to the musicians’ position and rank:
Musicians who, in addition to being artists, are also proficient in playing their instrument besides composing poems. The Bakhshis have been Dutar musicians, singers, and storytellers. Since the word “Bakhshi” is rooted in the word forgiveness in the Persian language meaning “to forgive” or “to give,” people believe that a Bakhshi is a gifted person who is the one that at the same time can tell a story, sing, compose, and perform his poems and songs. So, every musician is not a Bakhshi due to such a definition.
Later, this style found its way into family gatherings, celebrations, even to treat patients.
The Bakhshis are divided into five categories among the Kormanji:
- Epic performer Bakhshis that are historians of their people.
- Religious Bakhshis that read religious stories.
- Bakhshis of the court that served the rulers and governors; they were unable to tell some of the stories and songs – whether epic, Sufi, religious, or ethical, with all their knowledge and awareness of them, reluctant to perform these narrations and anecdotes in the court, composed non-verbal songs.
- People Bakhshis were also called crowds and have emerged since the 1950s are the narrators of average culture in society.
- Therapeutic Bakhshis that do not exist among the people of Kurmanj. Their last generation was the late Hussein Yeganeh, who was familiar with both speech and song therapy and herbal medicine also knew the treatment Maqams well.
Today, the music genre situation is different, and in another style, Maqam music has become one of the cultural heritage of Iran for happy occasions and ceremonies. These days, individuals and bands of all ages sing this type of music. Even famous bands that play music from Khorasan are invited to various concerts to perform such music worldwide. Moreover, the musicians have won valuable titles for their unique and exquisite art.
Musicians who attend happy celebrations, weddings playing a variety of pop music. Ashiqs are the oldest artists who play instruments such as sorna (festive trumpet), Dohol, Qoshmeh, Kamancheh, and Dayere.
Traveler musicians who have caused the spread and promotion of Khorasan music in different regions. The Lutis, the owners of the Dayere (a type of musical instrument), as the society ambassadors of that time, were constantly traveling and narrating stories, incidents, news, and events everywhere in the region.
In the past, artists were the only ones exempt from paying taxes, however, Ashiqs and Lutis also had the right to criticize.
Famous instruments in Khorasani music
Among the most famous musical instruments that are popular among the people of Khorasan are:
- Kamancheh, the original Persian instrument in Khorasani music
Kamancheh is one of the legendary instruments. Among the string instruments that are widely used in North Khorasan and Quchan regions, having a high potential for performing Maghami.
The Kamancheh is played both alone or with the Dutar and is the best possible instrument for performing composition and harmony in Khorasani Maqami. But the remarkable point is that the Kamancheh and Dutar musicians must choose appropriate literature and lyrics to play together.
- Dutar, the most original Persian instrument and a symbol of love in Khorasan music
We can introduce Dotar as one of the most original Persian instruments and, of course, common among all genres of Khorasan music. The interesting point is that there are 12 Pardeh in North Khorasan Dotar, and 13 Pardeh in South Khorasan’s. The musician will tune the instrument according to the type of poem, which can be Persian, Azeri, or Kormanj. Perhaps this is why Dutar has a fundamental role in Khorasan music. The Dutar is a modified form of Khorasani Tanbur, and its invention is attributed to Abu Nasr Farabi. As the name implies, the instrument has only two strings to play as a symbol of a couple.
The musician creates enjoyable melodies that stay in the listener’s memory forever. One of the most famous songs of Khorasan is called “Navayi.” The tone of this genre in the Persian Maqam music Dastgah is astonishing that you should listen to its songs!
Other famous instruments among Khorasan music:
Qoshmeh: It is a kind of wind instrument made of the leg bones of black rams with holes on them.
Sorna: It is a kind of local woodwind instrument like a reed with which all kinds of happy songs can be played by blowing air into it. Of course, among the Quchani musicians, the lip-type and its shepherding style are popular. In addition, it is used in performing Kormanj, Maqami, Azeri and Khorasani music.
Ney or Nay: This instrument is famous enough and is used everywhere in Iran. Additionally, it finds a proper place in Khorasani music.
Dohol: An instrument from the percussion family and played using two wooden stickers, besides Surna consists of a wooden body covered with animal skins on both sides.
Dayereh: It is a percussion instrument that is played on the skin surface by tapping the fingers. Dayereh or Dayere Zangi is common in different parts of Iran.
Music in Neyshabur, the song of happiness in Khorasan music
Neyshaburi music is one of the Khorasan music genres that has historically been more influenced by traditional Sassanid styles and is one of the most prominent parts of Khorasan music. Neyshaburi music is extremely famous, especially in the eastern parts of the country, but it is not as well-known as Maqami music in Khorasan music genres!
When North Khorasan Maghami reached the world record, some research was done on Neyshaburi music, and absorbs great attention to such a genre. The historical development of Neyshabur music is also impressive; Mohammad ibn Mahmoud Neyshaburi is the person who has introduced Neyshaburi music as one of the Khorasan music genres in the past. Among the famous musicians of Khorasan are Ratebeh Neishapuri and Parviz Meshkatian.
East Khorasan Music
The music of the East Khorasan region is also divided into two composition and vocal parts:
Music composition includes non-verbal instruments, however, vocal instruments include songs that are often performed with Dutar and sometimes with a local Nay or Surna. Some play only with Dayereh.
Dotar is seen as the most common instrument in various forms in the region. In the past, such an instrument was smaller than it is now and small jewels of rhombic bone were worked on its handle, in the middle, from bottom to top.
There is a particular variety of singing in this field. Travel music, poetry reading, Do-baytī reading, Qazal reading, Mazamin, Fazilat reading, Shahed reading, and dozens of other styles are some of the singing methods of East Khorasan. What we have today is the result of artists’ efforts who have preserved these lovely songs and ancient melodies from year to year.
By traveling to the Khorasan region, you can visit musical instrument workshops and visit its cities, towns, and villages. On this trip, do not forget to visit the music sections of Khorasan since it is easy to find singers who sing about love, people, religion, and history in the purple saffron plains. Also, double your enjoyment by participating in the sections of Bakhshi musicians and listening to their handmade sounds, connecting your heart and soul to such oriental magic.