A Short History of Qajar Music

The Qajar period is, by all accounts, an improtant era in the development of Iranian music. It was in this period that, following nearly two centuries of neglect, music, like many other art forms, emerged prominently within the space of the Qajar court. However, little has been written on the subject. Qajar rulers, pursuing the tradition left by their predecessors, made music an integral part of their life style. Musicians and composers, both male and female, were allowed to perform for the king and his guests. Today, what is recognized as classical Iranian national music has changed little since the Qajar era.

Beginning with Nasir al Din-Shah’s reign, passion play [ta’zieh] which had customarily been accompanied by music and poetry, played an important part in preserving and transferring the Iranian traditional music. Towards the end of the Qajar period, emerged a lighter version of Iranian music called tasnif and rapidly gained popular appeal. Poets and composers, such as Ali Akbar Sheida and Aref Qazvini composed pieces of this genre with romantic or patriotic themes that have remained an essential part of Iranian musical heritage.

At the end of the Qajar period, music was popularized and gradually became an important facet of the Iranian culture and used by the ruling elite and various political movements as a potent instrument for the advancement of political and social causes.

Amene Youssefzadeh
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