Iranian music encompasses traditional folk music and classical music. The original Persian music, known as Traditional Persian music, is the context for rapidly increasing aggression because of its artistic art form, which is rich and cherished. It binds Iranians in a shared culture that constitutes the life of the people and that of the country. The traditional music of Iran aims to create a threshold space, a zone of mystery, a psycho-emotional terrain of suffering and melancholy, but also authentic joy, ecstasy, and hope., Music is not only for pleasure in the Persian tradition. It has a transformative purpose. The sound of music affects a change in the listener’s consciousness, bringing them into a spiritual state (hāl). The Persian tradition believes that beautiful music comes from God as per the Pythagorean phrase (“music of the spheres”). 

Iranian music includes different styles like Folk music, traditional music, classical music, popular music, hip hop, jazz and rock. Folk music is mainly based on the traditional cultural music of ethnic groups and specified provincial groups, especially Persian music (Musiqui-ye Mahali, Musiqui-ye Navahi, Musiqui-ye bumi). Popular music mainly deals with the urban style of music produced commercially for the country’s youth. This type of Urban music was banned after the revolution. Still, this music is being marketed through social and mass media, which takes inspiration from European and American pop music, which makes its content electric and varied. The classical type of Iranian music (Musiqui-ye dastaghi) is a systematic approach to music in both practice and theory and institutions for transmitting information and knowledge of the style of music to others. (Music of a Thousand years 2019) The governments curtail western classical music (Musiqui-ye Kelasik) to ban this type of influenced music on TV and radio. This ban mainly targeted Western music and was generally enforced after the revolution. Iran’s classical music consists of themes developed through the country’s medieval and classical eras. Persian music has 12 modal systems known as Dastgah. Each of these Dastgah collects the melodic models, the skeletal frameworks with which the musical performers have to improvise at the moment. As per Shajarian, the core of traditional music is concentration (Tamarkoz), which means the mind and the whole human awareness. It is a piece of contemplative and mystical music. The highly melodic nature of Iranian music also facilitates expressiveness. Unlike Western music, there is a very sparing use of harmony. 

Dastagh has always been the preserve of the elite, which is one of the musical modes of classical music. The main instruments of music which are being used today go back to ancient Iran. The instruments that are used include the six-stringed fretted lute, the tār, the ney, and the vertical reed flute, which are all critical for Rumi’s poetry as it is the emblem of the human soul howling in joy, daf, which is an ancient frame drum significant in Sufi ritual, and a setār, a wooden four-stringed lute. (Darius Sepehri 2019) 

Iranian Folk music, which is the most known and appreciated by masignificantarts of the Iranian society, consists of different themes based on religion, history, and social context. The various traditional specialists of folk music in Iran include storytellers (naqqāl, gōsān Šāhnāme), bakshy (baxši), wandering minstrels and lament singers (rowze-xān).In modern times, symphonic music is based on the country’s folk songs and poems by classical and contemporary Iranian poets. Orchestra and opera were also the music forms performed in the late 2000s based on ancient inscriptions depicted by archaeologists and the tragedy of Iranian poems. (Music of a Thousand years 2019)

Jazz and Pop Music:

In the 1950s, western influences like the use of guitar and western instruments marked a turning point for Iran’s popular music. This kind of pop music was performed by Iranian vocalists accompanied by elaborate ensembles who used a mix of indigenous Iranian and European instruments. But after the 1979 revolution, it faced prohibition where public performances were banned; after 1990, they could perform occasionally. Jazz music came to Iran by some well-known music artists such as Viguen (known as Sultan of Jazz) and Rana Farhan (most famous work- “Drunk with Love” based on a poem by poet Rumi). 

Rock and Hip hop:

Rock music was something which was most popular among the youth. It was introduced in the 1960s, together with the emergence of American and Western European musical genres.  Hip hop came to Iran in the late 2000s from Tehran – The capital of Iran. It was based on underground artists who were influenced by American hip hop. Later it was then combined with Iranian Music forms. 


On the world map, Iran is bounded on the north side by Armenia, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan; on the east by the Gulf of Oman, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Persian Gulf; to the west by Iraq and Turkey. Iranian cultures are one of the world’s most ancient culture.  Nowadays, due to technical innovations, mass media and modern means, the most isolated cultural settings are ready to perform concerts throughout the globe. The best example was in Iran’s different regions back in the 1990s. All the major music and musical concert festivals now include Iranian regional musical traditions. (Nasrollah Nasehpoor 2002 par.2) When we talk about the neighbouring countries, Iran was located between the west and the east, so there were frequent crossings of different tribes that passed through Iran, leaving a great impression on Persian culture. According to historians, the world’s most ancient music ensemble consisted of a drummer and a harpist, and it is also believed that Iranian music was influenced by Indian music indirectly linked to Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh, which is mentioned in a famous book named “Mal-O-Hind” by author Abu Reyhan. 

Indigenous music of Iran (museghi-ye sonnati) is performed and maintained in other Persian-speaking countries such as Afghanistan and Tajikistan. It connects to traditional Indian music and Arabic and Turkish modal music. This is an art that is World-class and not only focuses on the music but also on the theory of sound and music. Iranian music is also influenced by West Asian culture, building up the musical terminology of the neighbouring Arabic and Turkic cultures, and then India by the 16th century through the Persian Mughal Empire. Many famous poets like Rumi, Attar, Hāfez, Saadi and Omar Khayyām, their classical poems were taken as the lyrical basis of traditional Persian music. (Darius Sepehri 2019)

Impact of Iranian music on Neighboring Countries


China played an essential role in the music exchange with Iran. Many Iranian musical instruments were taken to China. They were renamed as the Chinese language like Suona, which was “sorna” (Persian oboe) in Persian, and the Iranian “barbat” (Persian Lute) taken to china was renamed as “pipa” in china which is being used in the Chinese music even today. Later these instruments were brought to Japan and were called “biwa”. (Nasrollah Nasehpoor 2002 par.5) Uyghur Turks were also impressed by the Iranian music and instruments like dap, tar, koshtar, etc.  Uyghurs’ music follows the modal style of music (consists of twelve nodes). (Nasrollah Nasehpoor 2002 par.6)


For centuries, music has crossed geographical boundaries, said to one of the most famous music gurus Laurent Aubert, citing how Indian Hindustani classical has its Persian influence. Currently, Indian music is mainly of two types which are Karnatic sangeet and Hindustani. Hindustani music style, commonly played in northern India, appears under the impression of the Iranian music style. The Indian singing styles like Tarana, Ghazal and Qawwali are deeply rooted in Iran, which is one of India’s musical cultures right now. Usually, these Indian styles are sung in Urdu, which is very similar to Persian as Urdu has been described as a Persianised Standard of Register. Persian language, music and culture have highly impacted Indian music. Setar famously used in India was that of Persian Setar, which had some changes and produced Indian classical music.  Indian tabla also is rooted in mainly three types of Iranian instruments naghareh”, “doholak”, and Indian “pakhavaj”. 

United States of America:

Many Iranians have travelled and settled in the United States. They call themselves the Persians, which refers to them being ethnic.  After the Islamic revolution, many music artists left Iran and created a global centre of Persian music culture. Sama (Sufi) is a listening ceremony meditation on God. It includes singing hymns called Bayt and Qawl. These Sufi styles have impacted non-Persian Americans in the USA, namely Madonna, which was done for interpreting Middle Eastern trance songs. The band Axiom of choice became famous when they performed a contemporary interpretation of the Iranian “radif” which had both modern and traditional instruments. (F. Mahjour 2015) 


According to researchers, the greek music style was initially rooted in the orient. Turkish music and Persian music have a lot of them in common, meaning they might not be considered independent. When we talk about Turkish classical music, it is mainly dominated by the world-famous Persian poet Mohammad Rumi. Turkish artists take their poems to create unique classical music. The Greek Goblet drum “toubeleki” which are from the same family as the Turkish “dumbelek”, which is again profoundly rooted in the Iranian “dombak”. “Dombalak” is a Pahlavi (middle Persian language) name which is a converted form of “dombak”. It should also be noted that once the Islamic Civilization overcame, the use of all types of Greek texts in music became common, which is also taken as one of the theoretical impressions of Greek music on the theoretical music and of the world of Islam.

Middle East: 

When we talk about the Arabian countries like UAE, Kuwait etc., which are deeply rooted in the Islamic civilisation and are also famous for Arabic music worldwide, it is essential to know that Arabic music is rooted back in the music of countries like Egypt Persia and Mesopotamia. In Egypt, the musicians are impressed by Iranian music and have been using Iranian musical instruments from the past. The Iranian instruments like santoor (hammered dulcimer) and kamancheh (spike fiddle) and modes like sehgah, Isfahan, chahargah, Nahavand, basteh-negar, souz-e del and souznak, rast are used commonly in Egypt.(Nasrollah Nasehpoor 2002 par.10)


Iranian instruments are used in most countries like Germany, Hungary, Romania, etc. ‘Tabor’, a French word, is a musical instrument traced back to Iran and derived from the Persian word ‘tabireh’. Western music was adopted widely in Iran, and some musicians went to European countries like Germany to settle there and learn new music styles. (Nasrollah Nasehpoor 2002 par.13) The European musicians are pretty familiar with Iranian music, which includes Persian melodies, and this musical is quite famous and respected all over Europe.  


In the territory of Makran, which is in Balochistan (between Pakistan and Iran), there is a musical tradition which is associated with Sufism. This type of music was played mainly by the caste named Luri; this caste played the Sorudfiddle, a single piece of wood carved out shaped like a skull. The sound of this instrument had a spooky shimmering sound with strings attached. Donali (double ney) and the banjo (keyed zither) damburag (long-necked lute) were also some other local musical instruments. 

Iranian music mostly remains outside that region’s political and social discussions. According to the behaviour of Iranians, music has a broader political and social role as well. Music is used daily in Iran during various family gatherings. Weddings, computers, concert hall, and modern settings of the car. Whether the Iranians are singing to the music, dancing at functions, or banning it from places, music is thus a powerful force that influences the critical aspects of society of the Iranians. Western classical music, also known as Musiqui-ye Kelasik, is curtailed by the government’s decision the enforcement a ban on this type of influenced western music on TV and radio. This ban commonly targeted only the music from the region’s west side and was generally enforced after the Revolution. (Music of a Thousand years 2019)

Persian Music and Western Music

Iran’s ruler, Fathali Shah Qajar (Qajar era), introduced the European system, which included army equipment and Musical instruments. During the two World wars, a thirty-member orchestra from Russia played in Iran; Abbas Mirza, an Iranian musician, hearted the orchestra and gathered all the related information and decided to form his team. This is how Iranian music was impressed by western. After that, a music school, Darol- Fonoun was opened where modern music was taught in western methods to train Iranian musicians. A famous musical instrument, Violin, was introduced in Iran and was then commonly used under the rule of Naseeruddin Shah. Western music was adopted widely in Iran, and some musicians also went to European countries like Germany to settle there and learn new forms of music styles. (Nasrollah Nasehpoor 2002 par.13)

The Muslims mostly took western musical instruments from all over Asia through northern Africa and Byzantine during the Middle Ages. The “barbat”, known as the “Al-Oud”, was an Iranian musical instrument taken to Europe and then called Lute. After some years, it was changed to a Mandolin and Guitar. 


Persian, Arabic, and Turkish music have a long history with each other in the past through which they have carried the influences of the different cultures they encountered back then. This influence can be seen in their scale systems and through the musical instruments they use. But each of these has not fully adopted the style since these three are diverse in religion, language and culture. In general, this music is monophonic, meaning that there is only one melody, several melodies are not proceeding together, and there is no harmony to guide the music. The ensemble musicians play hydroponically (play the same melody at different pitches and volumes with variations or time differences). Apart from giving regional character to the music, solo performance, techniques, and improvisation also play a significant role in Persian, Arabic and Turkish music. In a harmonic system, these three types of music depend on the Modal system, meaning that these modes comprise specific patterns or a set of rules for the composition of the music. Generally, in Middle Eastern music, this mode is termed Maqam/Makam. Arabic, Persian and Turkish music are composed in terms of Maqams/Makam. The traditional music of Iran is based mostly on Dastgahs, which are more comprehensive than the Makam. In Persian music, anonymous melodies called gushehs are performed where every gusheh has a maqam which should be compatible according to the tone of the Dastagh. Radif (group forming 12 Dastgahs) is not used in Turkish and Arabic music. The pitches (interval relations) are also somewhat similar in these three types of music, but the notation process is different. As per Arabic music, the intervals in the piece are divided into quarter tones. Microtones are included in Turkish music, but the notation process changed during its modernisation. Persian has three-quarter notes larger than the five-quarter tones and the western half note. Their main similarity is that they are emotional and create an ecstatic state. These musicians create a unique bond with the listeners, through which they join the mood of the music. (Salamuzik 2018 par. 1-6)


In today’s world, where we are constantly hearing tragic news, it’s excellent and pleasant to see artists from different countries with various backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities collaborating and working together to create unique pieces of music. These cross-cultural collaborations show that people are working peacefully and creating art. Music is a form of art mainly based on emotion and expression. Fusion music is also designed to bring different cultures of people and audiences together where they can connect with the feelings and words of the artist. Similarly, when we talk about Iranian music collaborations, they include many countries like India, Pakistan, Iraq, Israel and other western countries. (Pascale 2009 par.1-5)


Indian music has heavily influenced Persian music. The Indian singing styles like Tarana, Ghazal and Qawwali are deeply rooted in Iran. Setar and Sitar are the classical instruments of Iran and India. This confluence started in the eighteenth century when twelve thousand musicians were sent from India to Iran. Currently, there are still some tribes of Indian musicians who believe they have migrated back from India. Khyal and Tarana were two genres used in the indo-Persian confluence in northern India. The Indian Raga was redeveloped in exciting ways by connecting astrology and Unani Medicine of Mughal India. The Persian language has a significant influence on Indian Sufism and poetry. The Indo-Persian confluence is also based on the classical music of Afghanistan and the cultures of Baluchistan and Kashmir. Indian music was highly impacted by the Persian texts such as the six Avaz, which generated two makams which influenced the Indian six ragas. (Mohsen Mohammadi 2020 par.1-7)

New relationships between countries have created world music and fusion music projects in the modern era. In India and Iran, two famous musicians, Shujaat Khan and Kayhan Kalhor collaborated with Ghazal, which was a huge hit and resulted in more albums and tours. 

Iran and Israel:

Around 100 musicians from all over the middle east have come together to create music albums collected by famous Iranian musician Mehdi Rajabian to promote peace among all nations. The album was named “Middle Eastern” and consists of music and songs by well-known artists from Yemen, Oman, Egypt, Jordon, Lebanon, Bahrain, Iraq, Turkey, Palestine and Syria, Tajikistan and Azerbaijan. The album has around twelve series of songs, starting with a piece from Turkey and ending with a masterpiece written by an Iranian artist. Another Iranian musician, Geffen, collaborated with Iranian musician Shahin Najafi to release a song album, one of the biggest hits of the time. (Aron Heller 2017 par.1-14) 

East-West Pop Music:

In the past, Iranian styles were fused with western music to create a unique music style. This fusion has been happening for decades and is even being done today. Two famous artists, Chris De Burgh and Iranian pop Band Aryan, came together for a musical collaboration. The fusion is between Iran-based groups and western musicians. (Sholeh Johnston 2008 par.1)

Iranian and American:

Currently, at the time of this severe pandemic, a group of American musicians and Iranian musicians came together using the digital platform to create music. Their main motive is to spread happiness and unity at this time and bridge the gap of cultural differences between America and Iran. Members of the Solidarity Chamber Orchestra of Tehran and singers from Washington, DC-based opera company IN Series released a video together on digital media. The music video was based on the poems of the famous Persian poet and philosopher Rumi. Around nineteen artists were in the video who performed musical compositions in Tehran, and Seven American opera singers sang to the music in Washington. Famous artists who collaborated on the music came up with this idea: Timothy Nelson, Fatemah Keshavarz and Vahid Abideh. (Artemis Moshtaaghian 2020 par.1-10) 

Tehrangeles (Iranian Pop music): 

Tehrangeles is a portmanteau which combines Tehran and Los Angeles. Los Angeles is the most significant concentration of Iranians. This group was formed by professional musicians who fled Iran during the Iranian era ban on immoral music. Tehrangeles is mainly based on the principle of “giving the Iranian people what they want”, which they cannot get from their officially approved versions of the Iranian culture like social dance and singing voices of women. (Tehrangeles Dreaming 2020) 





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