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Broadcast – Classical Persian Music


Karna, an Iranian musical instrument from the 6th century BC, kept at the Persepolis Museum.

This week, a political listening exercise.

Too often when we discuss Iran today or even the Persian Empire that preceded it, homegrown classical music does not come to mind. But for how many years before the first notes were written down in Europe, were the Mesopotamians and their neighbours stringing the early versions of the santoor?


The chang flourished in Persia in many forms from its introduction, about 4000 BC, until the 17th century. Taq-e Bostan carving, Women playing the Chang while the king stands in a boat holding his bow and arrows, from C6th Sassanid Iran.

Cultures that still learn by heart (or by ear), such as classical Indian ragasa, are still playing tunes derived from forms in use in perhaps the 4th to the 2nd century BC.

“Due to the exchange of musical science throughout history, many of Iran’s classical melodies and modes are related to those of its neighbouring cultures.

The history of musical development in Iran dates to thousands of years before year 0. Archaeological records attributed to “pre-Iranian” civilizations, such as those of Elam in the southwest and of Oxus in the northeast of the region, demonstrate musical traditions in prehistoric times.”