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Mohammad Reza Shajarian

A special Patron’s Award is to be conferred on Mohammad Reza Shajarian in recognition of his enduring contribution to the musical heritage of humanity, his peerless musical mastery, and his sustained social impact as a performer and teacher, both within Iran and beyond its borders.

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Quick Facts

  • Country of origin:
    Iran
    Domain of expertise:
    Patron's award
    AKMA Cycle Year:
    Status:
    Laureate

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About the Artist

Both within Iran and worldwide, Mohammad Reza Shajarian is widely considered the foremost living exponent of Persian classical music (dastgah). A vocalist of extraordinary power and finesse who embodies both the musical and moral qualities of a traditional master, or ostad, Mohammad Reza Shajarian exemplifies the mission of the Aga Khan Music Awards to ensure the historical continuity of musical heritage while contributing to its revitalisation and renewal.

Born in 1940 in Mashhad, Iran, Mohammad Reza Shajarian began learning Qur’an recitation from his father at the age of five. At the age of 12 he started studying the melodic corpus (radif) of Persian classical music while simultaneously learning to play the santur (struck zither) in order to gain a deeper understanding of the traditional repertoire. Ostad Shajarian began his career as a singer in 1959 at Radio Khorasan and rose to prominence in the 1960s with his distinct vocal style shaped by great singers of earlier generations, in particular, Qamar, Eqbal Soltan, Taher-zade and Esma’il Mehrtash. From these masters, Ostad Shajarian gained a deep understanding of avaz, the classical style of unmetered singing in the melodic modes of the classical dastgah system that has become his hallmark, as well as a broad knowledge of Persian poetry.

In his multifacted career Ostad Shajarian has been a prolific recording artist, and taught in Tehran University’s Department of Fine Arts. He is also a fine calligrapher, and has done humanitarian work, including the organisation of a benefit concert and aid project for the ancient city of Bam in South Iran when it was hit with a devastating earth- quake in 2003. Ostad Shajarian has won numerous awards in Iran and abroad, including the French National Order of Chevalier des Arts, and UNESCO’s Picasso Medal, whose winners include such figures as Dmitri Shostakovich, Yehudi Menuhin, and Leonard Bernstein.

Mohammad Reza Shajarian’s enduring contribution to the musical heritage of humanity is perhaps nowhere more evident than in the transmission of his musical craft and sensibility to his son Homayoun Shajarian, and his daughter Mojgan Shajarian, as well as to scores of students who have become distinguished performers in their own right.

Ostad Shajarian’s own words best summarise the values of cultural pluralism and cosmopolitanism that have informed and inspired his creative journey: “When music, which is the language of humanity, comes out of the disposition of an artist who lives for humankind, the hearts of any nation will accept it.”

Mohammad Reza Shajarian

A special Patron’s Award is to be conferred on Mohammad Reza Shajarian in recognition of his enduring contribution to the musical heritage of humanity, his peerless musical mastery, and his sustained social impact as a performer and teacher, both within Iran and beyond its borders.