Arab Music in Khuzestan Province of Iran

Arabic Music in Khuzestan

A Note by Dr. Peyman Nasehpour

Though there is no doubt about the antiquity of music in Khuzestan province of Iran (Persia), but it is very unfortunate that its history is still in dispute. There is a stonecutting piece in the very ancient city Shush (the capital of Elamis) that shows three musicians playing a kind of frame drum and two harps. Also there is a pre-Christianity clay statue belonging to Khuzestan showing a semi-naked long necked lute player. 

And the name of an ancient melody, i.e. Hoveyzavi attributed to Hoveyzeh, the capital of Moshashaians shows the existence of a genre of music in that period of Khuzestan. In the period of Sheikh Khazal, not only he was used to hire local musicians, but also he has been inviting Arab musicians from Iraq, Lebanon and Egypt to play in his palace. 

After the revolution in 1979 and with the help of some researchers of regional music in Iran, different genres of folk music of Iran have been promoted and gradually people have been acquainted with folk music of Iran. But the folk music of Khuzestan is still unknown and I hope this short article will help to the promotion of this important and special genre of music among those people who are interested in oriental music. 

Music of Khuzestan can be divided into three different genres. 

Magham Music: This is a genre of music played in cities and is very much related to Iraqi Magham music. The antiquity of this genre of music goes back to Abbasid period and the existence of Persian names such as Esfahan and Nahavand shows the impact of Persian music on this genre of Arabic music in Iraq and Khuzestan province of Iran. The instruments used in this genre of music are: 

Santoor: This is a kind of hammered dulcimer that is played in Iran, Iraq, Egypt and India. 

Kamancheh: This is a kind of spike fiddle of Persian origin. Rubab and violin are the bowed instruments that are used in Khuzestani music too. 

Kasoureh: This is a very special goblet shaped drum and smaller than ordinary tonbak (Persian goblet drum). For fast tempo pieces of compositions, kasoureh is used, while for slow tempo pieces, the tonbak is used. Sometimes they are used both. 

Zanjari: This is a frame drum that its jingles are metallic plates (called tashtak). 

Two famous maghams in Khuzestani magham music are: Maval and Fasih. 

Radif Music (Not to be confused with Persian Radif Music): A genre of music played in villages. And every kind of this music is called "tor" and every "tor" may have its own accent and poems. The instruments played in this genre of music are: 

Rubab: A kind of bowed instrument 

Almatbag: A kind of short double reed that is used accompanying chubiyeh vocal music. Chubiyeh music is in fact a kind of dance music that tonbak and a big drum are used too. Chubiyeh vocal/dance music is also popular in Iraq, Syria and Jordan. 

Alvaniyeh Music: This is the music of Arabs of Khuzestan. It is a special genre of music played by a singer/musician that sings using ethic and heroic poems and plays rubab. Alvaniyeh music founded in the end of 1950s by a very famous singer Alvan in Khuzestan was promoted by Alvan in many villages. Since in Alvaniyeh music, the singer mentions to the poets of the poems, therefore the name of many unknown poets have not been forgotten, particularly in villages that poor poets have not been able to publish their books of their works. Therefore not only Alvaniyeh music helped to the richness of the Khuzestani music, but also it helped to the promotion of the folk literature of the area. This genre of music has become popular in Southern parts of Iraq too. 

Remark: The main reference of this article is a short but informative article written by Mr. Sayed Mohammad Mavali in Hamshahri Newspaper, Feb. 15th, 2000.