Maestro Ali Akbar Shahnazi

Ostad Ali Akbar Shahnazi on the Tar

Maestro Ali Akbar Shahnazi

A Great Master of Tar and Instrumental Radif Repertoire

by Peyman Nasehpour

A very great master of tar (Persian six-stringed long-necked lute), Ostad Ali Akbar Shahnazi was born in Tehran, Iran, in 1897. 

His father, Mirza Hossein Gholi, the great master of tar named him Ali Akbar according to a very old tradition​ in which​ the grandson should be given the same name as his grandfather. His grandfather Ali Akbar Khan (c. 1820-1826 - c. 1861-1862) of the Farahan region (today, in the Markazi province of Iran) was a great master of "tar تار". There is a sad story about Ali Akbar Farahani: One day after a quarrel with his neighbor, he went on the roof to play with his tar named "Qalandar قلندر". After some hours, they found him dead on the roof.

He started learning tar from his respected father at the age of 7. After five yearshe reached the level that he was able to teach some of his father's students. At the age of 14 recorded two gramophone disks by playing tar in famous Persian melodies, Avaz-e-Afshari and Avaz-e-Bayat-e-Tork accompanying the great vocalist Jenab Damavandi.

At the age of 18, after the demise of his father, he was responsible for his father's class and started teaching his father's students. He established the Shahnazi Music School in 1929. He recorded many pieces with the great vocalists of his time such as Eghbal Azar, Nakisa, and so on. Also, he has collaborated with other great masters of his time such as Reza Mahjubi (violinist) and Hossein Tehrani (father of modern tonbak). Not only he taught his students his father's radif, but also he composed a very beautiful radif and called it radif-e-dore-ye-ali ردیف دوره عالی (master course radif) and taught it to his students as well.

He comes from a musical family called in Persian "Khandan-e-Honar خاندان هنر" which literally means art dynasty. His younger brother Abdolhossein was a very good tar player also. Their uncle Mirza Abdollah was a very great teacher of setar. Ali Akbar Khan's nephew Gholam Hossein Khan was another great tar player. 

Ostad Shahnazi recorded his radif in 1977. He had recorded his father's radif in 1962. He passed away in 1986 at the age of 88.