From Revolutionary Tasnif to Patriotic Sorud: Music and Nationalism in Pre-World War II Iran

This article explores the contribution of music and music education to nation-building in early twentieth century Iran. In the years following the constitutional revolution of 1906, bards like Aref-e Qazvini composed patriotic and increasingly nationalistic songs, tasnifs, which helped mobilize anti-conservative forces. After the end of World War I, and specially under the reign of Reza Shah, the tasnif was replaced as the main musical carrier of nationalist ideology by the sorud. The values vehicled by the sorud nationalism, often bordering on xenophobia, and loyalty to the Pahlavi monarchy, while the libertarian ideas of the constitutional period were absent.

Musical education in public schools began in earnest in the 1930's and consisted largely of sorud-singing. The aim was not so much to nurture talent and music appreciation but to indoctrinate pupils with the values of official state nationalism. The musical modernists of the 1920's and 1930's, chief among them Ali-Naqi Vaziri, tried to reform Iranian classical music along Western lines, but by the end of the 1930's they were pushed aside and the state began an effort to substitute European music for Iranian music. Reza Shah's departure in 1941 put an end to these policies.

* Abstract prepared by the author.

Houchang E. Chehabi
Current Issue: 
Past Issue