Dastgāh (Persian: دستگاه‎‎) is a musical modal system in traditional Persian art music. Persian art music consists of twelve principal musical modal systems or dastgāhs; in spite of 50 or more extant dastgāhs, theorists generally refer to a set of twelve principal ones. A dastgāh is a melody type on the basis of which a performer produces extemporised pieces.


  • Short summary 1
  • The terminology 2
  • Persian Music Theory: Radif, Dastgah and Gushe 3
  • Modal Structure 4
    • Shahed 4.1
    • Ist 4.2
    • Motaghayer 4.3
    • Forud 4.4
    • Modulations 4.5
  • Dastgah and Avaz 5
  • Structures and etics of single 'dastgahs' 6
    • Shur 6.1
    • Abu 'Ata 6.2
    • Dashti 6.3
    • Afshari 6.4
    • Bayat e Tork 6.5
    • Nava 6.6
    • Segah 6.7
    • Chahargah 6.8
    • Homayun 6.9
    • Isfahan 6.10
    • Mahur 6.11
    • Rastpanjgah 6.12
    • Notes on Gushe Names 6.13
    • Gushe from Four Main Masters 6.14
  • Definitions of Gushe, Dastgah and Terms (alphabetic listing) 7
  • Notes 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • Further reading 11
  • External links 12

Short summary

Each dastgāh consists of seven basic notes, plus several variable notes used for ornamentation and modulation. Each dastgāh is a certain modal variety subject to a course of development (sayr) that is determined by the pre-established order of sequences, and revolves around 365 central nuclear melodies known as gushehs (each of these melodies being a gusheh) which the individual musician comes to know through experience and absorption. This process of centonization is personal, and it is a tradition of great subtlety and depth. The full collection of gushehs in all dastgāhs is referred to as the radif. During the meeting of The Inter-governmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage of the United Nations, held between 28 September – 2 October 2009 in Abu Dhabi, radifs were officially registered on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.[1][2][3][4]

The dastgāh system has been a major influence in the maqam system in the Arabic music, both of which are deeply rooted in the Sassanid Persia's melodies which entered into the Islamic world following the Arab conquest of Iran in the 7th century.

The system of twelve dastgāhs and gushehs has remained nearly the same as it was codified by the music masters of the nineteenth century, in particular Mîrzā Abdollāh Farāhāni (1843–1918). No new dastgāh or large gusheh has been devised since that codification. When in the modern times an āvāz or dastgāh has been developed, it has almost always been through borrowings from the extant dastgāhs and gushehs, rather than through unqualified invention. From this remarkable stability one may infer that the system must have achieved "canonical" status in Iran.

The terminology

The term dastgāh has often been compared to the musical mode in Western musicology. This however does not reflect the correct meaning of the term. The term can be described by noting that a dastgāh is usually the name of the initial mode of a piece of music being played which is referred to again and again and moreover a dastgāh identifies a group of modes which are grouped together according to tradition. In short, a dastgāh is both the collective title of a grouping of modes as well as the initial mode of each group.[5]

According to musicians themselves, the etymology of the term dastgāh is associated with “the position (gāh) of the hand (dast) [on the neck of the instrument],” The Persian term dastgah can be translated as "system," and dastgāh is then "first and foremost a collection of discrete and heterogeneous elements organized into a hierarchy that is entirely coherent though nevertheless flexible."[6]

In conventional classifications of Persian music, Abū ʿAṭā, Daštī, Afšārī, and Bayāt-e Tork are considered to be sub-classes of Šur dastgāh. Likewise, Bayāt-e Esfahān is defined as a sub-class of Homāyun, reducing the number of principal dastgahs to a total of seven. A sub-class in the conventional system is referred to as āvāz.

Details about the Radif from Dr. Lloyd Miller and Dr. Daryush Safvat

Because authentic traditional Iranian music which had been passed down over the centuries, by the 1970s was in danger of being destroyed by westernization and aggressive pop counterfeits, the National Irananian Radio and Television set up the Center for Preservation and Propagation of Iranian Music under the directorship of Grand Master Dr. Daryush Safvat, a skilled santur and setar expert and author of the detailed book Iran, les traditions musicales. During the 1970s, the Center gathered the best young traditional performers and put them together with the best old masters to guarantee the continuation of the correct musical traditions. Affiliate western scholars of the Center included Dr. Jean During who has published excellent works on Iranian music and Dr. Lloyd Miller author of Music and Song in Persia. Dr. During and Dr. Miller, along with their teacher Dr. Safvat are considered authorized scholars in the field who are also skilled instrumentalists. The following information is supplied by Dr. Lloyd Miller relying on the expertise of Grand Master Dr. Daryush Safvat.

Persian Music Theory: Radif, Dastgah and Gushe

There are twelve modal systems in the traditional Persian music system. The twelve modes or dastgah comprising the radif constitute the complete collection of modes as passed down by masters according to their sources. The dastgah are composed of many melodic sections of various lengths which are called gushe. The radif of twelve modes consists of some five hundred gushe in five main modal scales. The gushe can be from less than a half minute to several minutes long and are either free rhythm, semi-metered or in 3/4, 6/8, 4/4 or, very rarely, 7/8. A free rhythm gushe is called avaz or has many diverse names which designate certain melodic segments of various structures. The metered gushe can be termed chahar mezrab meaning “four beat” which generally defines the four unequal beats of a 6/8 meter counted - - . . (long long short short). Other terms for a metered gushe are zarbi (rhythmic), do zarbi (two beat) do mezrab (two beat), reng (metered finale designed as a dance) and tasnif (medium or slow sung melody with meter). Another type of metered gushe is called kereshme (flirtation) characterized by the pattern . - . - . . - - (short long, short long, short short long long). Kereshme starts with a metered pattern then can resolve in free-rhythm.

The following are descriptions of some free rhythm gushe. The common introductory section of the dastgah is known as daramad (prelude) that sets forth the mood of the mode. One gushe which is found in the modes Homayun, Isfahan and Nava is bayat e raje' (bayat melody, raje' returning, referring) which brings into play the second main degree of the mode on its way climbing up the modal scale. The oj is the section in which the high point of the mode is attained and in Segah or Chahargah the gushe called mokhalef (contrary) is at the high point. Another common section of the mode, near, or at the end of it is called masnavi (rhyming couplet) and is a slow section accompanied by poetry in the masnavi meter often written by Molavi (westerners incorrectly refer to him as Rumi (from Rome) but he was really from Balkh). Other gushe carry names which express the character of the music and poetry they present, for instance jame daran (garment rending), suz o godaz (burning and melting), maghlub (overcome), raz o niaz (secret and need: actually confiding and supplication), 'oshshaq (lovers), pahlavi (heroic), etc.

The dastgah are as follows: (b = flat and p = semiflat; the tonic is underlined)

   Shur:            G Ap Bb C Dp Eb F G  
        Abu 'Ata:        G Ap Bb C D  Eb F G 
        Bayat e Tork:           F G Ap Bb C D Eb F
        Afshari:                F G Ap Bb C D(p)Eb F 
        Dashti:          G Ap Bb C D(p)Eb F G
        Homayun:         G Ap B C D  Eb F G
        Isfahan:         G Ap B C D  Eb F G
        Segah:                  F G Ap Bb C Dp Ep G
        Chahargah:       C Dp E F G Ap B C
        Mahur:           C D E F G A B C
        Rastpanjgah:            F G A Bb C D E F
        Nava:            D Ep F G A Bb C D
                    (Safvat 1966, 59-100)  

Each dastgah has three or four main notes and a reference note. As the mode develops, these main notes are emphasized, progressively climbing upward in the scale until the whole scale is developed. Developing a mode is like climbing a staircase; the steps are the main notes or degrees. The artist works from step to step, concentrating on the main note of each degree by passages meant to emphasize it so as to eventually reach the top note of emphasis. From there the steps are quickly retraced back to the starting point. Figure 4 shows the structure of the mode Segah. The dot represents the reference or springboard note, 1 is the first degree of the mode, 2 the second, etc. Intermediate notes that are sometimes partially emphasized are numbered with 1/2. The mode may also be divided into groups containing 2 to 4 notes.

In order to better understand the theory and structure of the complex modal systems, we turn now to Daryush Safvat's detailed description of the dastgah system found in his book Iran, les traditions musicales. He outlines the twelve modes, five basic scales and melodic segments or gushe, and observes that Iran, as an Indo-European country, is part of the world of modal music. He also defines avaz, dastgah and radif noting that the gushe (micro melodies) in the modal systems can reappear more than once, particularly towards the end. Safvat says:

“Comme la plupart de pays de langues indo européennes, l'Iran appartient au monde de la musique modale. Sa musique compte douze systèms modaux essen-tiels, les douze Avâz, répartis en sept systèms principaux, les Dastgâh s (qui comprennent les cinque échelles de base) et cinque systèms dérivés, qui gardent le seul nom d'Avâz. Un Avâz ou un Dastgâh se compose d'un nombre variable de séquences mélodiques plus ou moins brèves, les Gushé s qui se succèdent dans un certain ordre applé le Radif. Les Gushé s qui constituent un Avâz ne demeurent pas immuablement dans l'échelle fondamentale de cet Avâz: ils peuvent s'en évader à plusieurs reprise, mais y reviennent en particular pour conclure.” (Ibid., 17).

Dr. Safvat explains that a mode is made up of a modal scale, a succession of melodic segments (gushe) and a particular expressive character. He also affirms that Persian music is “rich in finesses of execution and expression which only the isolated melodic line can attain.” (Ibid., 18). Since the advent of Islam, as Safvat points out, it is fairly certain that Persian traditional music has been monodic with occasional pedal tones, with melodic segments played in loose unison or echoed by close following. The occidental concept of tonic does not apply in the modal system which centers instead around certain predominant degrees. Accelerating and retarding the tempo is not acceptable in the tradition (Ibid., 19). Playing in unison is most effective when exact unison is eschewed and each instrumentalist interprets the melody with their own ornamentation according to the characteristics of their particular instruments. This results in an exciting spontaneous polyphonic effect which varies each time a melody is performed. Safvat notes that the metered sections of the dastgah may have been ancient dances or folk songs which former masters judged worthy of introducing into the radif. He explains that the most important part of the classical tradition is the free-rhythm melodic interpretation which “presents a character of meditation and mystic exaltation” (Ibid., 22).

Safvat used a little verse to help beginning students remember the names of the 7 main modes. It goes “shur o mahur o homayun o nava, pas segah vo chahargah vo panjgah.” The 12 modes are arranged in a slightly different order according to the various masters who passed them down. Masters have arranged the modes in categories of scale types such as Shur and its derivatives, Mahur and Rastpanjgah due to similar modal scales, Homayun and Isfahan for the same reason, then Chahargah and Segah due to similar construction and performance characteristics. Safvat cautions that one must remember that such apparent similarities can be deceiving. For instance, although Shur and Nava share the same modal scale, the predominant notes of Nava are not the same as those of Shur. The modal structures of Mahur and Rastpanjgah are not the same although they may appear similar at first glance. He lists the modes and submodes as follows: Shur, Abu 'Ata, Dashti, Afshari, Tork, Nava, Segah, Chahargah, Homayun, Isfahan, Mahur and Rastpanjgah. Safvat indicates that the twelve systems are constructed on the modal scales of Shur, Segah, Chahargah, Homayun and Mahur. He mentions that all the scales are heptatonic with the same notes in ascending and descending patterns, except during a performance. Although, theoretically speaking, Chahargah is an important mode partly due to the similarity in its two tetrachords, according to the tradition, the 'mother of modes' is Shur with its more equal intervals. It is the mode most well known among the majority of the people. Each of the degrees of Shur can become a key note with melodic segments built around it. Shur has the most number of gushe and needs no modulations (Ibid., 39-41).

Modal Structure

Safvat provides a detailed description of the modal structure of the dastgah system while warning that it is always dangerous to transfer the principles of Persian music into European theory and vice versa. He notes that some modal systems are concentrated in a tetrachord whereas others extend beyond an octave (Ibid., 49). He defines and describes the key notes of the modal systems as follows:

SHAHED: witness note, the most important note possessing the notion of tonic MOTAGHAYER: variable note IST: rest or stopping note FORUD: temporary conclusion, descent FORUD E KAMEL: finale conclusion note (Ibid, 42-6)


The shahed (witness note) is the center around which the melody evolves, the note to which melodic passages constantly return. The witness note of Nava is on the 4th degree of the Shur modal scale with temporary stops on the 2nd degree of the Shur modal scale but always ending on the witness note. In Mahur the witness note is on the 1st degree of the scale, then it shifts to the 2nd temporarily, furtively on the 3rd and 4th, with strong emphasis on the 5th, very brief on the 6th but never on the 7th (Ibid., 42). In Chahargah, the tonic is the 1st predominant degree whereas the 2nd is never used as a main degree; the 3rd is important, the 4th is only mildly emphasized whereas the 5th and 6th are strong. In Chahargah, for instance, Zabol is centered on the 3rd degree; Hesar is based on the 5th, Mokhalef is on the 6th but the 7th is never an emphasized degree (Ibid., 44). Safvat compares the notes and their strengths as witness notes in Mahur and Chahargah as follows:

           MAHUR             CHAHARGAH
            1   strong        1   strong
         2   strong        2   never strong
         3   weak          3   strong
         4   semi strong           4   weak
         5   strong        5   strong
         6   very weak             6   strong
         7   never strong   7   never strong (Ibid., 44).


The ist (rest) is a note, other than the witness note on which the melodic segment comes to rest. As a general rule, before using the rest note, the witness note must first be accentuated. Also of importance besides the concluding note is the ist e mova'qat (provisionary stop) (Ibid., 45).


The motaghayer (variable) is a note that is susceptible to alteration during the course of the gushe. As in most Indo Iranian musical systems, in the ascending patterns the variable note tends to be natural, but is flatted in descending patterns. In the Persian mode Dashti, the 2nd note is variable (Ibid., 45) as it is in the North Indian raga Sind Bhairavi.


The word forud has various connotations, including the concluding note of a melodic segment, the concluding phrase or cadencial formula, the concluding gushe, or the action of concluding a melodic segment (gushe), or a part of the avaz. The forud (final note) can be on the 1st degree of the scale such as in Mahur, or on a special note different from the 1st degree, such as in the mode Afshari. In such a case, it is the note heard after the melody is concluded on the ist (rest note). The term forud is also used to describe the action of concluding a gushe or the concluding gushe of a dastgah. (Ibid., 46 & 50).


Modulation is an important factor in modal construction. There are two types of gushe: those that remain in the initial modal scale and those that are modulatory. The modulations can be obtained either by transposition to, for instance, the 4th or 5th, etc., or by introducing one of the four other modal scales. In Mahur, the gushe Delkash could be considered as Shur within Mahur, but with characteristics that are noncompatible with Shur, such as a rest note on the 7th, and an altered 6th. Delkash is considered a main segment or shah gushe of Mahur. It assumes the atmosphere of Shur while remaining under the influence of Mahur. Modulation is not limited merely to a simple transposition or alteration of the scale but it also encompasses changes of expressive character as well. The modulation 'Araq is a mixture of two scales resulting in a type of original scale; in Mahur, Hesar is a modulation to the 4th degree but a modulation to the 5th in Chahargah. In the modulated gushe Isfahanak (little Isfahan) the character of the Isfahan modal scale is represented in the name as well (Ibid., 47-50). Further discussion on modulations will follow.

Dastgah and Avaz

Safvat also offers a detailed discussion of the modes and their melodic segments, noting in reference to modal scales, that the concept of absolute pitch does not exist among Persian musicians. The first note of a mode is designated by the corresponding fret according to the tuning of the instrument. There are two types of tuning. Rast kuk (right tuning) is the most common system and corresponds to the male voice. Chap kuk (left tuning) corresponds to the female voice range, which constitutes a transposition of a fourth or fifth below the rast kuk tuning. For purposes of standardization, in this work the dastgah are notated with C as the tonic although Safvat notates Mahur in G and Rastpanjgah in F.

The fingerboard of the setar reveals the total possibilities of notes in the scale from which the notes of the modal scales are chosen. Safvat includes a sketch of the fingerboard. (Ibid., 54-5).

As for the modes, Safvat defines the word dastgah as “apparatus,” “fortune,” “pomp,” or “the complete services of an institution,” such as dastgah e radio va television (the radio and television institution). It also means “modal system,” or “modal scale.” avaz is defined by Safvat as “sound,” “voice,” “the art of singing” or “nonrhythmic” portions of a performance.” The term is also used to signify secondary or derived modal systems, in which case it shares with the word dastgah the connotation of “modal scale.” (Ibid., 49-51). Thus one says dastgah e Shur but avaz e Dashti and avaz e Abu 'Ata, dastgah e Homayun but avaz e Isfahan. Many gushe use different notes when they pass the first octave and enter the second. Similarly, in Greek music, like all modal music, the complete mode encompassed two octaves. For instance, various gushe of Rak have the following scale:

        Octave 1: C  D  E  F  G  Ap B
        Octave 2: C  D  Ep F  G

Another example are gushe in the higher echelons of Homayun such as 'Oshshaq and Zabol:

           D Ep F G Ap B C D Eb(p) F (Ibid., 57-8).

Structures and etics of single 'dastgahs'


The mode Shur is characterized by burning and pining and portray the emotional intensity of separation from the beloved. According to Safvat, Shur is of ancient origin and the basis of many folk songs and tribal music. He defines old and modern Shur as follows; the witness note is G:

           Old Shur: G Ap Bb C D(p) Eb(p) F G
        New Shur: G Ap Bb C D  Eb (Ibid., 40-1 & 49).

Dr. During prefers the terms Shur 1 and Shur 2. In Shur and the old version of the gushe Shahnaz, the witness note is on the 1st degree, while the 2nd, 5th and 6th are variables. Traditionally Shahnaz is obtained by lowering the 2nd and 5th degrees of Shur a quarter tone. The most important part of Shur is played in the Shahnaz sectional modal scale. In modern Shur the D is always natural except in the Shahnaz modulation where it is a semiflat (koron). Because of this, modern Shur seems to have been deprived of its basic character (Ibid., 19).

           Shanaz scale: G A(b)p Bb C D(p)b E F G

The section near the end of Shur called Bayat e Kord or Kordi Bayat resembles the Shur submode Dashti except without the variable D/Dp. While some masters categorize Kord as a separate mode, this theory is not widely accepted. Only traditional musicians know how to play this avaz (Ibid., 62). Kord is very similar in structure to the majority of Herati chaharbaiti improvisations on the dutar which are often in the Shur modal scale (Miller, 1976).

           Kord scale: G A(b)p Bb C D(p)b E F

Shur derivatives might be determined by the note of the Shur modal scale around which melodic segments are constructed. Safvat offers the following:

           2nd   Ap   Abu 'Ata
        3rd   Bp   Tork
        4th   C    Afshari
        5th   D    Dashti (Safvat 1966, 63).

Abu 'Ata

Abu 'Ata is melancholy and moving. Abu 'Ata employs the same modal scale as Shur but the rest note is on the 4th and 2nd degree. This endows Abu 'Ata with a particular expression. Thus Abu 'Ata presents a first witness note on the 4th degree of Shur and a second witness note on the 2nd degree of Shur. The 2nd degree plays both the role of witness and rest note but it could be considered more of a second witness note. The 2nd degree of Shur has been designated as the shahed of Abu 'Ata. Predominant notes of Abu 'Ata are: 4th – witness, 2nd second witness, 2nd – rest and 6th – variable.

Originally, there was no modulation in Abu 'Ata but recently 'Oshshaq has been introduced into the mode. 'Oshshaq is obtained by raising the 6th by a quarter tone. The witness note of 'Oshshaq is the 1st degree of Shur. The scale does not change in Hejaz which is not usually considered a modulation of Abu 'Ata. But it is the main gushe of Abu 'Ata and the several sub gushe assigned to it endows Hejaz with a certain independence. The witness note of Hejaz is on the 5th degree of Shur, the rest note is on the 4th and the final is on the 1st. Koranic verses and certain prayers are sung in Hejaz (Ibid., 63-6).

           Abu 'Ata scale: G Ap Bb C D E(p)b F G


Dashti is harrowing and plaintive. Many of the folksongs of the northern area, the Caspian coast in particular, are in Dashti (as is the gushe Deilaman at the end of Dashti). The name of the gushe Gilaki refers to the western Caspian province of Gilan. The 2nd note above the tonic shifts from natural to semiflat, natural usually when melodic passages go upwards and semiflat when they descend. This gives the mode Dashti a special plaintive tinge.

Dashti has the same modal scale as Shur but with the witness note on the 5th. The 2nd is natural but it can also become a semiflat when it is the variable. To obtain 'Oshshaq in Dashti as it is played today, the 1st degree is the witness note, the 4th is the rest, the 5th is the final and both the 5th and 6th are variable. Generally all the gushe of Dashti are on the 1st degree (Ibid., 66-7).

           Dashti scale: G Ap Bb C D(p) Eb F G


Afshari expresses sorrow, separation and metaphysical depth. The 1st note of the Afshari modal scale is the 7th note of Shur. The witness note is on the 5th, the rest note on the 3rd, variable on the 6th and final on the 1st. The variable semiflat is important in the introductory daramad after which is becomes a natural. Traditionally, Afshari ends on the final but it is theoretically possible to end on the rest note, or the first degree of the scale.

        Afshari scale: F G Ap Bb C D(p) Eb F G

Qarai is obtained by raising the 7th a quarter tone. The witness note is transferred to the 1st and the rest on the 5th. The variable of Qarai is sometimes played in its original condition and sometimes lowered a quarter tone. 'Araq requires raising the 7th note of Afshari a half tone and the witness remains on the 1st.

           'Araq scale: F G Ap Bb C D E(b) F G (Ibid., 68-70).

Bayat e Tork

Bayat e Tork is nostalgic, meditative and religious. Certain gushe of Tork are used for Islamic religious chants such as the azan. The song text for the masnavi section at the end of Tork, which is sung in the masnavi section of other modes as well, exemplifies the philosophy of Sufism. It is the story of the reed called nei nameh, in which the reed represents man and the wind is the spirit emanating from a divine source. The reed is also the flute whose sorrowful song tells of man's longing to be reunited with his divine source.

Tork is not played today as it was formerly. Old Tork begins on its final note, while modern Tork begins on the witness note. Tork is played today as a major mode with the 7th lowered a quarter tone and always ending on the witness note. The witness note is very polarizing which is a cause of the modern method of performing Tork. The 2nd degree of old Tork (6th degree of modern Tork and 6th degree of Shur) does not therefore play any special role unless it is at the end of a gushe such as masnavi.

           Old Tork: G A B(pb) C D E  F G
        Modern Tork: C D E(p) F G A Bp C

Old Tork is like Afshari. In old Tork, the semiflat B was a full flat but not in perfect tune with the F which was somewhat disagreeable to the ear. This may be the reason the flat was eventually raised a quarter tone. But the modern version looses somewhat the expressive character of Tork. In old Tork the witness note was on the 4th (3rd degree of Shur), the rest and variable notes were both on the 3rd (2nd degree of Shur) and the final note was on the 1st. In modern Tork, the witness and final are on the first (7th degree of Shur) and the variable on the 3rd (2nd degree of Shur).

The modulation called Shekaste is obtained by lowering the 2nd and 5th of old Tork a quarter tone (in modern Tork the 7th and 3rd). The witness note is on the 5th (7th of Shur), the rest note on the 3rd (5th of Shur) and the final is on the first (3rd of Shur). Shekaste resembles Afshari but with characteristics of its own. Nowadays Shekaste is borrowed from Mahur (Ibid., 70-4).


Nava uses the same scale as Shur but cannot be considered a Shur derivative because its predominant notes are not the same as Shur. Although rarely performed, Nava holds an eminent position in Persian music. A good number of the melodies which express the character of Nava have remained identical to the way they were at the time of Hosein Qoli and Mirza 'Abdollah. One of the modulations of Nava, Nahoft, goes back to the Sasanian period in name. The witness note of Nava is on the 1st (4th degree of Shur) and the rest note is on the 6th (2nd degree of Shur).

           Shur scale: F G Ab Bb C D Ep F G

There are five modulations in Nava: 'Araq, Nahoft, Gavesht, Neishaburak, Khojaste and Majosli. 'Araq is obtained by raising the 3rd (6th degree of the scale) and lowering the 6th (2nd degree) a quarter tone. The witness note is on the 4th (7th degree); the 1st and second rest notes are on the 2nd and 1st (4th and 5th degrees) and the variable is on the 3rd (6th degree of the scale).

           'Araq scale: C D E(b) F G Ab Bb C

To obtain Nahoft the 6th note of Nava is lowered a quarter tone and the witness is on the 5th. This modulation has a notable position in Nava.

           Nahoft scale: C D Eb F G Ab Bb C

Gavesht is a small gushe limited to a tetrachord which is obtained by lowering the 2nd and 6th of Nava a quarter tone.

           Gavesht scale: C Dp Eb F G Ab Bb C

For Neishaburak, the 6th note of Nava becomes the 4th degree of a Mahur which begins on Bb.

           Neishaburak scale: C D Eb F G Ab Bb C

To obtain Khojaste and Majosli, the 2nd and 6th notes are lowered a quarter tone. These gushe are endowed with a comparatively independent character.

           Khojaste/Majosli scale: G Ap Bb C D Ab Bb C 
            (Ibid., 74-8).


Segah expounds pain, chagrin and sorrow culminating in hope. All the melodies of Chahargah can be played in Segah. Although Segah could be considered as having the semiflat 3rd as the beginning note of the modal scale, it is less confusing if one calculates the scale as if the tonic is the 6th below the semiflat. This would place the witness note on the 3rd and the variable on the 7th.

           Segah scale: C D Ep F G Ap B(p)b C

The two principal modulations in Segah are Hesar and Mokhalef. Hesar is obtained by raising the 6th and 7th a quarter tone, the witness note is transferred to the 6th. Hesar, as always, has the same scale as its parent dastgah but transposes up a fifth altering the character of the mode.

           Hesar scale: C D Ep F( ) G A Bp C

Mokhalef is obtained by lowering the 3rd a quarter tone (from semiflat to full flat) and the 7th is raised from a flat to a semiflat. At the end of Mokhalef, the scale returns to the original Segah. Since Mokhalef is the shah-gushe or main gushe of Segah, there are several gushe played in Mokhalef. Mokhalef has the same scale as Old Isfahan although the melodic features are different.

           Mokhalef scale: C D Ep F  G Ap Bp C

Segah is identified by its pattern of 3p 1 3p pattern. (Ibid., 79-82).


Chahargah is powerful, heroic, festive, exciting, wise, philosophical, profoundly moving and patriotic. Chahargah is used to accompany the recitation of the heroic epic, the Shahname. According to Safvat, Chahargah is “very old and very original,” imbued with many changes in nuance and rhythms. It has been of interest to theorists because of its two similar tetrachords. Chahargah is the only scale in which no gushe evokes the expressive character of Shur. The witness note is on the 1st degree. In Hesar the 2nd is raised a quarter tone, the 3rd the same amount and the 4th is raised a half tone. The witness note is transferred to the 5th.

           Hesar scale: C D Ep F( ) G A Bp

It is interesting to compare the scales of Segah and Chahargah:

           Chahargah: C Dp E F G A  B C
        Segah:     C D Ep F G Ap Bb C (Ibid., 82-85).

Chahargah and Segah are similar in structure but with different scales. The 1st degree in Segah is the 3rd with tonic reference; in Chahargah, it is on the tonic with 6th reference.


Homayun is stately, dignified, mobile, ecstatic, joyous and melancholic and can create a royal atmosphere. The scale of Homayun is similar to Shur, except that the 3rd degree of Homayun is raised a half tone. One special characteristic of Homayun is that the witness note is not on the 1st degree but on the 2nd degree. The rest note is on the 7th in the lower octave while the 6th is variable.

           Homayun scale: G Ap B C D E(p)b F G

The modulations 'Oshshaq and Ozzal are obtained by lowering the 3rd degree of the scale a half tone and raising the 6th a quarter tone. The witness note is on the 1st, the rest note on the 4th and the variable on the 2nd, with another on the 6th. The final is on the 5th.

           'Oshshaq/Ozzal scale: G(b)p A Bb C D(b)p E F G

In Mansuri, which is near the end of Homayun, the 5th is lowered a quarter tone and the 6th raised a half tone. The witness note is transferred to the 5th creating a type of Chahargah.

           Mansuri scale: G Ap B C Dp E F G

Two other modulations that are infrequently played by modern musicians should be mentioned. The one is another Chahargah modulation at the beginning of Homayun which is actually called Chahargah. The other is Zabol which is in Segah. The gushe called jame daran (garment rending) which is primarily in Homayun is also found in the modes Isfahan, Tork and Afshari. Shared gushe and modulations will be discussed later.

Near the end of Homayun, Saqiname (epistle to or story of the Cup bearer) is played in a slow and purposeful 2/4 or 4/4. This melody in another form is played also in Mahur. The shah gushe of Homayun is Shushtari which is composed of several gushe and a modulation. Some masters have even considered Shushtari as a separate submode (Ibid., 85-88).


Isfahan is mystic, metaphysical, spiritual, profound, wise, reflective, nostalgic and meditative. There are two types of Isfahan, modern and old Isfahan. The scales are as follows:

           Modern Isfahan:         C D Eb F G Ap B C
        Old Isfahan:     C D Eb F G Ap Bp C

Although Isfahan is deemed a submode of Homayun, the gushe in Isfahan are different from those in Homayun and possess a particular character of their own. Isfahan depends more on the Shur and Segah scales than the Homayun scale. One can consider old Isfahan as independent from Homayun. The rest is on the 5th which can ultimately be considered as the first degree. In old Isfahan, the witness is on the 1st and the rest note on the 6th. Final is on the 4th and the 5th is the 1st degree. In modern Isfahan the witness is on the 1st note and the 1st degree on the 5th.

    In the modulations 'Oshshaq and Shah Khatai the 7th is flat and the 3rd semi-flat representing the Shur scale: C D Ep F G Ap Bp C (Ibid., 88-90).


Mahur is happy, cheerful, majestic and noble. Although Mahur resembles the occidental major scale with altered notes in certain modulations, it must be remembered that the intervals are not tempered and that the manner in which it is played is different from the occidental concept (Ibid., 91). As noted in the introductory remarks of Radif e Musiqi ye Iran, Mahur is cited by Safiyoddin in the thirteenth century which attests to the antiquity of its origin.

The witness is on the first degree, while the witness note of the different gushe of Mahur progresses degree by degree (except for the 7th) until the 12th. The six main modulations of Mahur are: Delkash, Hesar, Shekaste, 'Araq, Rak and Sufiname. The name Rak likely comes from the Indian “raga.” In theory, Delkash is a so-called 'Shur of the left.'

           Delkash scale: C D E F G Ap Bb C

The witness note is on the 5th degree of Mahur (the first degree of Shur on D) and a rest note appears on the 4th (7th of Shur). According to Safvat, the effect of this last item is given particular value by the Bb which precedes it (Safvat, 92).

Hesar is a Mahur transposed to the 4th or a 'Mahur left' on D, but, as always, with a particular character.

           Hesar scale: C D E(p) F G A Bb C

Shekaste is obtained by lowering the 3rd degree of Mahur a quarter tone and the 7th a half tone. The 5th degree is the witness, the temporary rest note is on the 3rd and the final is on the 1st degree. In theory, Shekaste is the Afshari scale derived from Shur.

           Shekaste: C D Ep F G A Bb C

In 'Araq the witness note is the 1st degree and the final either on the 5th or the 6th.

           'Araq: C D E(p) F G Ap B C (Safvat,  93)

In Rak, the 3rd is lowered a half step in the second octave ascending scale which renders a scale resembling Homayun of the left.

           Rak: C D E(b) F G Ap B C

As for Saqiname and Sufiname, the Sufiname is a modulation in Isfahan which is heard in Mahur. But in Saqiname, which is situated at the end of Mahur, this modulation of Isfahan is developed quite lengthily under the name Sufiname. The 3rd degree of Mahur is lowered a quarter tone, the 4th raised a half tone and the 7th lowered a half. The witness note is assigned to the 5th degree, a rest note finds its place on the 3rd and the final is on the 1st.

           Sufiname: C D Ep F# G A Bb C

Certain gushe of Mahur such as Khavaran are still sung in religious ceremonies and a number of melodies in this dastgah must originate in the ta'zie coming from northwest Iran where Turkish is spoken. This possibly explains the mild Turkish influence that seems to manifest itself here and there in the various gushe of Mahur (Safvat, 93-4).


The Rastpanjgah scale, like Mahur, is essentially the Western major scale. Although Rastpangah shares a scale with Mahur, these dastgah differ in several points. First of all, Rastpanjgah presents a second witness note on the 2nd degree which plays an important role in the initial gushe and it is this that gives Rastpanjgah its expressive character and distinguishes it from Mahur. Added to this fact, the melodies of Rastpanjgah are quite distinct from those of Mahur. In addition one finds modulations representing all the other dastgah except Chahargah (Safvat, 95).

Rastpanjgah is rarely performed, because it lacks zarbi, tasnif, reng and chahar mezrab. Also it is the last mode taught and its complexity renders it less accessible than Mahur, Shur or Segah. As mentioned above the intervals are the same as Mahur. The first witness note is on the 1st and the second witness on the 2nd. The five principal modulations are Panjgah, Sepehr and 'Oshshaq, Qarache, 'Araq and Rak.

For Panjgah, which Safvat calls an escape in Nava, the 3rd note of Rastpanjgah is lowered a quarter tone and the 7th a half. The witness note is on the 5th and the rest note on the 1st. In this scale one plays another gushe, Neyriz, but its witness and rest notes are different.

           Panjgah scale: C D Ep F G A Bb C (Ibid., 96).

Modulations Zabol and 'Ajam are Segah in Rastpanjgah. Other than the alterations brought to the scale for the precedent modulation, the 6th note is lowered a quarter tone.

           Zabol scale: C D Ep F G Ap Bb C

Qarache consists of modulation in Shur for which the 3rd and the 6th notes of Rastpanjgah are lowered a quarter tone and the 7th a half tone. The witness note is on the 7th note of Rastpanjgah and the final note on the 5th.

           Qarache scale: C D Ep F G Ap Bb C

The characteristics of 'Araq are the same as in Mahur. The 3rd note is lowered a half tone, the 7th is natural during the melody and flat in the conclusion and the witness note is on the 1st. The first rest note is on the 6th, the 2nd rest note on the 5th and the variable is the 7th.

           'Araq scale: C D Eb F G A B(b) C (Ibid., 97-8).

This modulation in a Homayun on G lowers the 3rd note of Rastpanjgah a halftone and the 6th a quarter tone. The witness note is situated on the 1st note, the rest note on the 4th and the variable on the 3rd. In Rastpanjgah one plays a portion of Homayun like the three different Nowruz, but the scales of those sections are not presented here since they employ essentially the same scale as Rak.

           Rak scale: C D E(b) F G Ap B C (Ibid., 98).

Certain Modulations and Gushe

'Oshshaq makes allusions to the Shur mode and is therefore considered a modulation in Shur with certain reservations. In theory and according to its scale, it is plausible to suppose that 'Oshshaq is a modulation of Shur, but if one considers its expressive character, it is more difficult to sustain the opinion that it is exactly Shur. Formerly 'Oshshaq was not played in Abu 'Ata or in Dashti but only in Nava, Isfahan, Rastpanjgah and occasionally in Homayun according to certain radif. 'Oshshaq in Nava and Rastpanjgah are different from 'Oshshaq in Isfahan and Homayun.

'Araq is found in Afshari, Nava, Mahur and Rastpanjgah. At first glance it appears that 'Araq in Nava does not use the same intervals that the three other do because the witness note does not fall on the first degree as it does in the others. It should be remembered that 'Araq is like a blend of Mahur and Isfahan and thus has characteristics of both. It does not correspond to any of the five modal scales and it cannot be attributed with a first degree (Ibid., 103-5).

           'Araq scale: G A B(p) C D Eb F G

The first tetrachord of 'Araq is the first tetrachord of Mahur and the second tetrachord is the first tetrachord of Isfahan with the witness on the 8th. According to Safvat, 'Araq is evasive yet captivating, beginning by brusquely bursting the climate then becoming gentle and appeasing. It is said that 'Araq dissipates fatigue. Even though 'Araq is considered simply a gushe, it presents enough independent characteristics that certain masters have chosen to elevate it to the rank of avaz. Among the accompanying gushe that are common in the three dastgah Nava, Mahur and Rastpanjgah are Mohayer, Ashur, Isfahanak and Qarai, etc.

Another very important gushe is called Nahib which is quite similar to 'Araq in scale but different in expressive character. Since the five last notes predominant in 'Araq resemble the five first notes of Isfahan, it is impregnated with the spirit of Isfahan. Nahib is developed in the four first notes which gives it the character of Mahur.

The avaz in 'Araq or avaz e 'Araq is too scholarly for certain performers since it has no first degree and the final conclusion is very difficult.

           Avaz e 'Araq scale: G A B(bp) C D E(p)b F G

Qarai presents the same particularity as 'Araq (a mixture of two dastgah). Qarai is a combination of the first tetrachord of old Tork and the second tetrachord of Isfahan. To compare the first tetrachord with the old Tork scale, it is necessary to place a Bb at the beginning of the scale. This renders exactly the four first intervals of old Tork.

As already mentioned, Hesar always has the scale of its dastgah but transposed, in Segah and Chahargah to the fifth and in Mahur to the fourth.

           Qarai scale: F G A B(b)p C G Ab Bb C (Ibid., 105).

The above descriptions of various theoretical aspects of the Persian traditional music system follow the system set forth by Safvat. There are, of course, more recent speculations on these matters by Safvat, his colleagues and his disciples, but the basic concepts set forth above are helpful in comprehending the theory and structure of Persian traditional music which influenced and dominated the areas that were part of the original Achaemenian and later extended Persian empires.

Notes on Gushe Names

The geographic, ethnic and religious connotations in the names of the gushe indicate the vast area from which various musical concepts were drawn. Eastwards: the lands of Cathay, India, Kashmir, Khwarazm and cities of Bokhara, Tus, Nishapur and the Jaghtai Turkic tribe are represented. In the west, the Franks, Christians, Nestorians, Arabs, Assyrians, Kurds, Bakhtiaris, and the city of Baghdad and Hejaz in Arabia are represented. To the north, Azarbaijan, Gilan, the Laz people and Deilaman, the seat of a former dynasty are represented. Reference to Zoroastrians, Sufis, Qajars, the cities of Isfahan, Shiraz, Shushtar, Dezful and Marvdasht indicate central Iran. The gushe as they are now played, however, do not necessarily reflect the origin of their names. Nafir and Farang may perhaps bring to mind a Frankish trump for some, but Rak e Hindi does not sound like an Indian raga nor does Rak e Kashmir have the sound or spirit of Kashmiri music. Shah Khatai does not bring to mind the king of ancient Cathay nor does it represent Chinese music although it could have some spiritual link with Shah Ismael who is also referred to by the title 'Shah Khatai.' Lazgi as played on the tapes that accompany Ma'rufi's book on the radif does not have the fury and fervor of the Caucasian dance Lazginka or the Turkish Lazbar or the Khwarazmi Lazgi. Likewise Shalakhu, a gushe in the mode Chahargah, the mode often used for festive occasions, is not exactly the popular Caucasian dance tune of that name. On the other hand, Azerbaijani and Tork, might qualify as representing that particular geographic or ethnic area. Gilaki, Deilaman and the mode Dashti itself are said to be representative of music associated with the Caspian coast. Sufiname as a poem does reflect the Sufi tale of the moth and candle and the Saqiname is definitely centered around the theme of the cup bearer. Zang e Shotor, Zangule and Naqus could be somewhat reminiscent of bells especially when played on the santur. Musical terms such as Daramad, Moqaddame, Gushayesh, Khateme, Chahar Mezrab, Zarbi, etc. definitely do describe performance activities. Likewise Raje', during which the emphasis shifts to the 2nd note above the tonic, does have the haunting aspect of referring or returning to something. Mokhalef is 'contrary' or 'opposite' the main structure or main initial degree of the modal scale and Hesar is 'walled' off or separated from the main modal scale. The emotional connotations generally seem to define the manner in which a gushe could be interpreted and other meanings such as Kereshme, Golriz, Sorush, Safa, Kuchebaghi, Jame daran, etc. could conceivably represent the feelings of those gushe.

As for why gushe such as Rak e Hindi, Rak e Kashmir, Shah Khatai and Masihi do not necessarily represent Indian, Chinese or Christian music, Dr. Safvat offers the following explanation, noting that ancient masters accepted imported musical forms not to be imitated but for inspiration:

“Soulignons toutefois que les musiciens anciens n'acceptaient jamais une mélodie étrangère dans une esprit d'imitation: ils s'en inspiraient simplement pour de nouvelles creations.” (Safvat, 110).

What can be concluded is that the sequencing and occurrence of the gushe, according to the main sources who inherited the system passed down from master Farahani, represent a pattern of practice which has been accepted by a consensus of key masters of the tradition. Whether in past centuries more gushe, or fewer, were assigned to the various dastgah, or whether they were assigned in a different manner, must be left for conjecture and to be discovered at some later date.

It should be remembered that one reason certain gushe or performance categories such as chahar mezrab and avaz do not occur in all the radif is that the vocal radif does not have percussive metered gushe whereas percussion instruments such as the santur represented in Saba's radif thrives on percussive sections. Thus, the occurrence of chahar or se mezrab, zarbi and reng gushe in Saba will be high, but nonexistent in Karimi. From five years attendance in Karimi's classes at the Honaristan and the Center, this author can testify that Karimi knew and played many chahar mezrab and reng. From extensive and intensive study of instrumental radif and constant association with Borumand, Safvat and other masters, it is clear that Borumand, Saba and Ma'rufi were fully cognizant of versions of the vocal radif. Thus, if the total knowledge of all the sources were to be tapped, nearly all the gushe would be shared by all masters. But since personal choice and vocal or instrumental characteristics come into play, certain gushe or performance categories are preferred by certain masters.

For instance, the gushe in Mahur, which is in 7/8 and commonly known as Chaharpare, is also called Chaharbagh. Ma'rufi lists it as Chaharpare just before Azarbaijani, Borumand calls it Chaharpare or Moradkhani, Davami terms it Tusi and Karimi lists it as Nasirkhani. Moradkhani or Azarbaijani in Karimi's radif has a melody which resembles certain aspects of Chaharpare but is rhythm free and he assigns to it a poem by Hafez which starts “zahed e khalvat neshin,” Naserkhani in Ma'rufi's radif occurs just before Chaharpare and is a version of the melodic segment which Karimi names Moradkhani or azarbaijani. But Nasirkhani in Borumand's radif comes just before Chaharpare and bears a resemblance to Karimi's Moradkhani/Azarbaijani as does Saba's Azarbaijani which also shares the text of zahed e khalvat neshin. The feel of Chaharpare or Chaharbagh reminds one of the Kereshme beat of . . . . ( . = short; - = long) although the meter is actually a . . - . - . . - . - pattern. Another version of this same gushe is found in Abu 'Ata where it does not have the 7/8 meter but is rhythm free, flowing forth in waves which might be considered 6/8 in nature. In this case, Ma'rufi calls it Chaharbagh as do Saba and Karimi, who call it Chaharpare or Chaharbagh.

So in different radif, one can expect to find some of the names assigned differently although certain gushe, such as Shekaste, Sufiname or Saqiname and Mokhalef in Segah, always have the same character in all radif. But this does not indicate that musicians, even masters, have the authority to alter the music they learned carefully as passed down from master to disciple. Doing so could have and actually has resulted in the loss of much of the tradition which has been replaced by what was termed as “a malignant mélange” of the worst of East and West by an outspoken Tehran art critic during the 1970s.

Another point is that Karimi often stated (and Borumand agreed) that the section of Shur called Bayat e Kord or, in his preference, Kordi Bayat, was actually a separate submode of Shur which would bring the total of dastgah and avaz to 13 (Karimi interviews, 1971-3). Karimi's master Davami taped Kordi Bayat as a separate avaz and Borumand also taped Bayat e Kord as a separate performance. The gushe in Borumand's performance are not unlike those in Bayat e Tork. They include Daramad, Baste Negar, Haji Hasani, Qatar and Qarai. The gushe in Davami's performance are Daramad e Avval, Daramad e Dovvom, Hazin, whereas Ma'rufi lists four forms of Kord. Safvat says:

"Kord in appearance resembles Dashti, after which it should be placed, because they have nearly the same scale (although it does not have the semiflat second) and it has the same witness note and final note. But in Dashti, the witness note is variable, sometimes lowered and sometimes raised a quarter tone . . . Bayat e Kord, as an independent Avaz, is not very well known; only traditional musicians know how to play it." (Ibid., 62).

Kord shares several structural features in common with the majority of Herati chaharbaiti performances on the dutar which are in the Shur modal scale. Although the general consensus of musicians points to the Kord section of Shur as a separate short modal system, for our purposes we will include Kord as part of Shur in keeping with the established practice.

Gushe from Four Main Masters

In the Gushe from the radif of four main masters (Ma'rufi, Borumand, Saba and Karimi), commonly reoccurring gushe can be identified, but this does not mean that a gushe submitted by only one master is not worthy of attention. Certain gushe retain their particular characters even if they are found in different dastgah with varying scales (major, minor, etc.). For instance, Bayat-e Raje' maintains its character whether played in Homayun, Isfahan or Nava and it brings into emphasis the next degree of the modal scale a whole step above the tonic. Of course, it is obvious that chahar mezrab will always be rhythmic, avaz will always be nonrhythmic, kereshme will always begin with the metric pattern . - . - . . - - , etc. The full lists of the gushe according to the four radif divulge gushe found in more than one dastgah thar are shared by various dastgah.

From the information presented above, it is apparent that there are 12 modal systems (dastgah and avaz) in Persian music which comprise the radif or collection of modes as passed down by masters from their various sources. The seven primary modes are: Shur, Homayun, Segah, Chahargah, Mahur, Rastpanjgah, and Nava. The five secondary modes are: Abu 'Ata, Bayat e Tork, Afshar, Dashti and Isfahan. The dastgah are composed of many melodic segments from half a minute to several minutes long which are called gushe. There are some 500 gushe in five main modal scales which are found in the modes Shur, Segah, Chahargah, Homayun and Mahur. The gushe can be either free rhythm or semimetered. A free rhythm gushe is called avaz or referred to by other names. The 185 gushe names represent musical terms and emotions, they may be descriptive or indicate geographic areas, cities, peoples, races, religions and individuals from which the gushe were derived.

A few common gushe are: chahar mezrab (4 beat), daramad (prelude), kereshme (flirtation), bayat e raje' (returning melody), oj (high point), jame daran (garment rending), suz o godaz (burning and melting), raz o niyaz (secret and need), 'Oshshaq (lovers), forud (descent), masnavi (rhyming couplets). Certain of the gushe which are of prime importance are called shah gushe (master modes). Others are modulations obtained either by transposition or by introducing one of the four other modal scales.

Each dastgah has three or four main notes or modal degrees around which the gushe are built as well as a reference note which functions as a jumping off point or a springboard upward to the first main note which is the first degree of emphasis of the mode. As the mode develops, the emphasis moves from one of these main degrees of the mode upward until the high point is attained after which the emphasis quickly retraces its steps back to the original tonal center. Certain notes are defined according to their roles in the modal development. The main ones are shahed (witness note, tonic), motaghayer (variable note), ist (rest of stopping note) and forud (descent, conclusion).

By comparing the choices of gushe used in versions of the radif by various masters, one might suppose that the common occurrence in two, three or four out of these four versions might indicate a consensus of choices between them. One must be careful, however, in imposing such a First-World scientific analysis on Persian music which is primarily considered a metaphysical art. Just because a certain gushe appears in several cases, this does not necessarily imply that it is vital to that dastgah; or if it appears only once, one need not suppose that it is any less important. It is important to remember that the radif has been passed down over the centuries and probably millennia from when the ancient Israelite prophet David received instructions on music and instruments through revelation from God according to the Bible. Thus as this musical system was passed down over the millennia, it has varied slightly from master to master resulting in versions that at first do not seem to be related.

Furthermore, the gushe common to several masters demonstrate that the following are among the most widely occurring shared gushe in order of commonality: Daramad (33), Naghme (14), Neiriz (12), Avaz (9), Masnavi (9), 'Oshshaq (8), Nahib (8), Zabol (8), Hazin (7), Zangule (6), Chahar Mezrab (6), Kereshme (6), and Forud (6). There is somewhat of a variance in the sequential order of the gushe as they occur in the four radif. Considering the existence of placement variance and other differences in these four radif, all of which originated from a common source, it is easy to understand how the music systems of different cities in the geographic area which was once the Persian Empire are now initially unintelligible as representatives of a common ancestor. Thus, the traditions of Tehran, Herat, Tabriz, Yerevan, Baghdad, Damascus and Istanbul and other centers of former Persian empires no longer obviously appear to be related although they have a common origin. Even more of a gap has developed between the musical systems of these cities and the music of India and East Turkistan in China, even though all developed from a common origin centuries or millennia ago. Thus it is totally logical that there would be a variance in the way the Persian dastgah system would be represented in cultural centers of the ancient Persian Empire such as Herat where the Persian modal tradition is obvious in performances of chaharbaiti artists. According to Safvat:

Certain gushe go back to the Sasanian epoc, namely Chekavak, Noruz, Khosravani, Jame Daran, Nahoft among others. (Ibid., 110).

The tar recording of Ostad (master) Borumand from the archives of the Tehran Center for Preservation and Propagation of Iranian Music divulges a version of the gushe Greili in dastgah Afshari wherein can be found nearly the exact melodic pattern used by Herati dutar and vocal artist Salam Zuri for one of his songs. This will be analyzed in Chapter 10. Many melodies and melodic patterns in Herati and Khorasani music can be traced to the parent dastgah system of Persia since until recently Herat was part of and sometimes the center of the Persian culture sphere.

Definitions of Gushe, Dastgah and Terms (alphabetic listing)

(A few definitions are uncertain)

'Ajam - Persia, Iran
'Araq - Iraq, province in Hamadan region
'Asheq kosh - lover destroying
'Ashiran - companions, kinfolk
'Oshshaq - lovers
Abol Chap - father of the left
Abol - father of (proper name)
Abu 'Ata - father of giving or benevolence
Afshari - of the Afshar Turkic tribe (or dynasty)
Ashur - Assyria
Avaz - voice, song
Azarbaijani - from Azerbaijan in the north
Baghdadi - from Baghdad (city name means given by God)
Bahr-e Nur - sea of light
Bakhtiari - of the south west Bakhtiari tribe
Bal-e Kabutaran - pigeons' wing
Baqiye - remainder
Baste Negar - sweetheart(s) bound
Bayat - melody
Bayat e Shiraz - melody of Shiraz
Bayat e Kord - Kurdish melody
Behbahani - from Behbahan
Bidad - unjust
Bidekani - of the willows?, place name?
Bozorg - great
Busalik - (from the proper name Abu Salik)
Chahar Mezrab - four beat
Chaharbagh - four gardens (verses) 
Chahargah - 4th position (of the scale)
Chaharpare - four parts (verses)
Chakavak - lark
Chupani - of the shepherd(s)
Dad - shout, justice, cry for justice
Danaseri - from Danaser
Daramad - prelude
Dashtestani - of Dashtestan ('plains') in Fars
Dashti - of the plain(s)
Deilaman - from Deilaman, a city in the north
Delgosha - heart-conquering, heart-opening
Delkash - heart drawing or bewitching
Dezfuli - from Dezful, a city in the south
Do mezrab - two beat(s)
Dobeiti - two verses, two couplets
Dogah - 2nd position (of the scale)
Dotayeki - two one (rhythm)
Farah - joy
Farahangiz - joy provoking
Farang - Frankish, European
Feili - Island in the Gulf
Forud - descent
Gabri or Gauri - Zoroastrian
Gardanie - return
Gavesht - return
Gereili - from Koroghli or gerye(crying) Leili
Ghamangiz - sorrow provoking
Gilaki - from Gilan northern province
Golriz - flower flowing or pouring
Gushayesh - opening
Gushe - corner, angle
Haji Hasani - of or by Haji Hasan
Hajiani - of the Haji(s)
Harbi - warlike
Hashie - marginal note, postscript
Hashetari - from Hashtar (eight doors)
Hazin - sorrowful, sad
Hejaz - from Hejaz in Arabia
Hesar - wall, fortress
Hodi - Song to lead camels to water
Homayun - royal, regal
Hozan - sadnesses (plural of hazin)
Isfahan - Isfahan city, former capital
Jaghatai - a Turkic tribe
Jame daran - garment rending
Kabir - great, large
Kereshme - flirtations
Khara - granite
Kharazmi - northeastern province
Khaste - wounded
Khateme - conclusion
Khavaran - the east (lands)
Khosravani - of Khosro
Khosro(o) Shirin - Khosro and Shirin
Kohkiluye - from Kohkiluye south west tribal area
Kord(i) - Kurdish (western tribe)
Koroghli - Turkic folk tale, son of Kor
Koshte - killed, slain
Kuchebaghi - garden lane
Lazgi - of the former northern Laz people
Leili(o) Majnun - famous story of star-crossed lovers
Maghlub - overcome
Mahur - name of a flower
Majles afruz - assembly kindling
Majosli - Zoroastrian or Hindu (Turkish mecus)
Malek Hoseini - of king Hossein
Mansuri - of Mansur
Marvdashti - from Marvdasht city
Masihi - Christian
Masnavi - poetic meter
Matn – text
Mavalian - of the lord; affiliated with companions of the Prophet
Mavara' on-Nahr - Transoxiania
Mehdi Zarabi - proper name   
Mehrabani - kindness, affection
Meigoli - wine flower, place name?
Mirzai - of Mirza (prince)       
Mo'arbad - quarrelsome, riotess
Moalef - friendly, composed
Mobarqa' - veiled
Mohammad Sadeqkhani – proper name
Mohayer - wonderful, astonishing
Mokhalef - opposite, contrary 
Mollah nazi (or -niazi) - Mollah's favor; (or -niazi - need)
Moqaddame - introduction
Mure - lamentation
Muye - lamentation
Nafir - trump
Naghme - melody
Nahib - fearful voice, clammor
Nahoft - secret, concealed 
Naqus - bell, gong
Nasirkhani - vocalization by Nasir
Nastari - Nestorian
Nava - melody
Nei ye Davud - the flute of David
Neiriz - flute flowing or pouring
Neishaburak - from Neishabur city
Noruz - New Year (on March 21)
Noruz e 'Arab - Arab New Year
Oqde gosha - complex conquering
Osul - basic element
Ozal - defenseless, separate
Pahlavi - heroic
Pain daste - bottom of the hand
Panje - hand, five fingers
Panjgah - 5th position (of the scale)
Par e Parastu - swallow feather
Qajar - Turkic tribe, also a political dynasty
Qarache - gypsy (maybe deer: Turkish karaca)
Qarai - dark or northern (Turkish kara)
Qatar - row, suite
Qesmat e Bala - high portion
Rah e Ruh - spirit joy
Rahavi - monkish
Rajaz - poetic meter
Raje' - returning, referring
Rak - raga, modal system
Rak-e 'Abdollah - 'Abdollah's raga
Rak-e Hindi - Indian raga
Rak e Kashmir - Kashmiri raga
Ramkali - from Ramkal
Rast - straight, correct
Ravandi - from Ravand
Raz o Niyaz - secret and need (confiding and beseeching)
Razavi - proper name
Rohab - monk
Ruh al arvah - spirit of spirits, Supreme Spirit
Ruhafza – spirit increasing
Saba- morning breeze, Zephyr
Sadri - from proper name
Safa - purity, enjoyment
Safir - whistle, cry
Saghir - small, minor
Salmak - from a proper name
Saqiname - cupbearer book, letter to or story of the cupbearer
Sayakhi - steady
Se mezrab - three beats
Segah - 3rd position (of the scale)
Sepehr - heavens, celestial sphere
Shah Khatai - King of Cathay, or Shah Ismael
Shahabi - meteor or firebrand like, bright
Shahnaz - king's favor, elegance
Shahr ashub - city agitating
Shalakhu - dance of the Caucasus
Shasti - of the thumb
Shekaste - broken(hearted)
Shomali  - northern
Shur - fervor, burning, emotion, anxiety
Shushtari - from Shushtar city
Sorush - inspiration, angel
Sufiname - Sufi book (Sufi's epistle or tale)
Suz o Godaz - burning and melting (in passion)
Takht e Taqdis - throne of Taqdis
Takht e Kavus - throne of Kavus
Tarabangiz - joy inciting
Tarz - manner, method
Tork - Turkic
Tusi - from Tus (near Mashhad)
Zang-e Shotor - camel bell(s)
Zangule   little bell 
Zarbi  -rhythmic
Zirafkand-  omitting zir (higher string)
Zirkesh – extending

In regrds to yekgah, dogah, etc., research has revealed that the word 'gah' comes from 'gatha' or the Zoroastrian chanted prayer, very similar to the Islamic azan which was influenced by the chanted gathas. There were 5 prayers a day just as in Islam and each one was named by number: yekgah, dogah segah, chahargah and panjgah which are now the names of the modal systems in which those particular gathas were chanted.



  1. ^ The Radif of Iranian music: Inscribed in 2009 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, UNESCO.
  2. ^ Noruz and Iranian radifs registered on UNESCO list, Tehran Times, 1 October 2009, [4].
  3. ^ Persian music, Nowruz make it into UN heritage list, Press TV, 1 October 2009, [5].
  4. ^ Nowruz became international, in Persian, BBC Persian, Wednesday, 30 September 2009, [6].
  5. ^ (Farhat 2004) p.19.
  6. ^ (During 1994)
  7. ^ Dr. Lloyd Miller, Music and Song in Persia, Rutledge Curzon, 1999
  8. ^ Daryush Safvat and Nelly Caron, Iran, les traditions musicales, Paris: Editions Buchet/chastel, 1966
  9. ^ Mohammad Massoudieh, Radif Vocal de la Musique Traditionelle de L'Iran de Mahmud Karimi, Tehran: Sorush, 1978
  10. ^ facts from native informants during 7 years of intense research in Tehran 1970-1977

See also


  • Farhat, Hormoz (2004). The Dastgah Concept in Persian Music. Cambridge University Press.  
  • During, Jean. "Dastgāh". Encyclopaedia Iranica. 
  • Nettle, Bruno. "Čahārgāh". Encyclopaedia Iranica. 
  • Caton, Margaret. "Bayāt-e Tork". Encyclopaedia Iranica. 
  • Tsuge, Gen'ichi. "Abū ʿAṭā". Encyclopaedia Iranica. 
  • During, Jean. "Daštī". Encyclopaedia Iranica. 
  • Farhat, Hormoz. "Afšārī". Encyclopaedia Iranica. 
  • Caton, Margaret. "Bayāt-e Kord". Encyclopaedia Iranica. 
  • During, Jean. "Homāyun". Encyclopaedia Iranica. 
  • Caton, Margaret. "Bayāt-e Eṣfahān". Encyclopaedia Iranica. 

Further reading

  • Hormoz Farhat, The Dastgāh Concept in Persian Music (Cambridge University Press, 1990). ISBN 0-521-30542-X, ISBN 0-521-54206-5 (first paperback edition, 2004). For a review of this book see: Stephen Blum, Ethnomusicology, Vol. 36, No. 3, Special Issue: Music and the Public Interest, pp. 422–425 (1992): JSTOR.
  • Ella Zonis, Classical Persian Music: An Introduction (Harvard University Press, 1973)
  • Lloyd Clifton Miller. 1995. Persian Music: A Study of Form and Content of Persian Avaz, Dastgah & Radif Dissertation. University of Utah.
  • Bruno Nettl, The Radif of Persian Music: Studies of Structure and Cultural Context (Elephant & Cat, Champaign, 1987)
  • Ella Zonis, Contemporary Art Music in Persia, The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 51, No. 4, pp. 636–648 (1965). JSTOR
  • DURING, JEAN. "DASTGĀH". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 2012-08-21. 

External links

  • The Dastgah system
  • A sample of solo music on Setār by Master Ahmad Ebadi in the following Dastgahs: Segāh, Chahārgāh, Homāyoun, Esfahān, Afshāri.