Iran’s iconic singer and composer dies, aged 80

TEHRAN: Singer, instrumentalist and composer Mohammad-Reza Shajarian, who died on Thursday aged 80, embodied traditional and classical Iranian music for more than half a century both at home and abroad.
A national treasure in his homeland, Shajarian nevertheless maintained difficult relations throughout his career.
The “Ostad” — master in Persian — who had been battling cancer for several years, “flew to meet his beloved (God)”, his son Homayoun Shajarian, himself a famous singer, wrote on Instagram.
Soon after the announcement, several hundred fans converged on the Jam hospital in Tehran where he had been admitted a few days ago in a critical condition, correspondents reported.
News of his death sparked an outpouring of grief on social media.
Shajarian had been persona non grata on state broadcaster IRIB since 2009, but that did not stop Iranians from listening to his tenor voice.
Born on September 23, 1940, into a religious family in Mashhad, a holy city in northeastern Iran, Shajarian was initiated at the age of five to psalmody by his father, a reciter of the Quran.
At 12, he began his initiation — in secret from his parents — to the santur, a percussion-stringed instrument whose roots date back to pre-Islamic Persia.
He was trained to perform the “radif” — the traditional repertoire that forms the basis of Persian secular music that every artist is expected to master before moving on to improvisation, typical in Iranian classical music.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Shajarian first performed as a reciter of the Quran.
In 1959, he made his debut on radio and his voice quickly carried him to fame. Shajarian quit Iranian radio and television a few days after “Black Friday” — September 8, 1978.
The influential artist declared that his songs are always related to situation in Iran, even when he sings the lyrical poems of Hafez or Rumi.
Although he was never arrested, IRIB banned his music from its airwaves and he was barred from performing in the country.
Already accustomed to international tours, he continued to perform abroad, especially in the United States, where his daughter Mojgan lives. — AFP