Rezagholi Mirza Zelli and Moshir Homayoon – Hesar Mokhalef

mirza-zelliIran is the first of several upcoming countries and regions that are new to Excavated Shellac, and today’s post, for those who might be unfamiliar, is a fine example of Persian Musiqi-e assil, or Persian classical music. I realize it might come as a shock to some regular followers of this site to actually hear the refined sounds of a modern piano, but the musical and vocal traditions in Persian classical music are positively ancient. Not only that, but the hammered strings of a piano seem an almost logical progression from the traditional hammered dulcimer of Persia, the santur. This recording was made in June of 1933 by engineer Horace Frank Chown, and released in Iran on a 12″ disc – it was the last time a gramophone company would record in Tehran until after World War II.

I can claim no expertise in Persian classical music, but I’ll attempt a humble and basic rundown, particularly as it pertains to today’s track. The body of traditional melodies in Persian music is known as the radīf. The radīf, which some say was developed between the 3rd and 7th centuries CE, is organized into a musical framework called the dastgāh – in fact, quite literally, as dastgāh itself means ‘system’ or ‘framework’ in English. Radīf is memorized entirely by ear, with a student learning the repetoire of his teacher, the ostād. The twelve dastgāh structure organizes the radīf into groups of individual pieces, and those pieces are known as gūshe. The gūshe are modal progressions by which the singer can build his improvisation around, in a similar fashion to the maqam in Arabic music, or the raga in India.  The rhythms are often based on poetry – the rhythm of the human voice. And the human voice, in Persian music, is most often metaphorically linked to the nightingale. This piece is performed in the Chāhār Gāh dastgāh, and as the title implies, it features two gūshe, Hesar and Mokhalef.

Rezagholi Mirza Zelli was born in 1906 and was considered a masterful singer during his career, which ended with his early death in 1945. His teacher was the famous singer and poet Abolqassem Aref Ghazvini (1882-1934). Moshir Homayoon, the pianist, accompanies him.

Rezagholi Mirza Zelli and Moshir Homayoon Shahrdar – Hesar Mokhalef

Technical Notes
Label: Columbia
Issue Number: G.P.X. 5
Matrix Number: WOX-26-2

Thank you to Martik Martirossian for help with translation and to Amir Mansour for information.

11 thoughts on “Rezagholi Mirza Zelli and Moshir Homayoon – Hesar Mokhalef

  1. I agree about the natural link from santur to piano. The resulting sound of combining traditional and modern instruments is unusual enough to make you sit up and take notice, but it works beautifully – and what a singer!

  2. Wonderful–thanks for this. I was thinking that just as “Erlkönig” requires the singer to portray four distinct characters through changing tone color, so this singer has multiple vocal timbres in his repertoire. Amazing technical command.

  3. Its wonderful how reminiscent the singing style is to Azeri Muğam, or rather, how similar Azeri music is to this descendant of ancient Persian music. That singing style always makes me go nutz, check on for Alim Qasimov and Khan Shushinsky if anyone isn’t familiar.

  4. The Mahoor Institute Of Culture And Art has a few 78 reissue CDs for sale over at – including ones by Reza Gholi Mirza Zelli, Rokneddin Mokhtari, Seyyed Hoseyn Taherzade & Abdollah Davami.

  5. Fantastic collection of important music, Dax – but have you ordered from them? Their prices are listed in Iran Rials, and you have to give them your phone number to create a profile…anyone?

  6. I’ve never ordered from the Mahoor website- I bought the Reza Gholi Mirza Zelli CD a couple years ago in a store in California. For your resources page, it would be good to ask them exactly which CDs are from 78 transfers, since it’s hard to tell just from the covers and artists’ birthdates. Just because someone was born in the late 1800s or early 1900s doesn’t necessarily mean he recorded on 78s, like Ed Haley or Fred McDowell.

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