Music of Iran

Morteza Neydavoud


Morteza Neydavoud, 1926
Morteza Neydavoud was born in 1900 into a Iranian Jewish music-loving family during the reign of Mozaffar o-din Shah of the Qajar dynasty. His father played the tonbak, and the sound of instruments of the musicians of the time echoed in their household. As a child Neydavoud used to play the tar by himself. His father recognized Neydavoud's talent in music and took the seven-year old Morteza to the great master, Agha Mirza Hosseingholi, for apprenticeship.

In Agha Hosseingholi's school, Morteza practiced the Radif of the traditional music of Iran. After Mirza Hosseingholi's death, Neydavoud continued his musical education with Mirza's best student and successor, Darvish Khan. With Darvish Khan, he completed the study of Radif and proceeded to learn other musical forms such as "Pish-Daramad" (similar to overtures in western classical music), "Zarbi" (rhythmic and more popular pieces), and "Tasnif" (similar in spirit, if not in exact form, to "lieder" or art songs of the romantic period of western classical music).

Neydavoud became Darveesh Khan's best student and, as it was customary in those days, was given the title of the "Caliph" of the class.

Several years later, Neydavoud started to associate with the distinguished musicians of his time and participated in concerts along with his brothers Mousa and Soleyman, and other notables such as Abolhassan Saba, Reza Mahjoobi, Morteza Mahjoobi, Arsalan Dargahi, Reza Ravanbakhsh, and others. He also discovered and advanced many talented instrumentalists and vocalists who later became the shining stars of the traditional music of Iran; of those, one can mention the great virtuoso vocalist, Gholamhossein Banan.

In addition to his concerts and recordings, Neydavoud established a school for music named "Darvish", and for a long time ardently taught and educated his students with the culture of Iranian traditional music. During this period, he earned his living from the proceeds of his concerts and recordings.

In 1940, he was invited along with a group of other well known musicians, to join the staff of the Iranian radio organization; then, at least for a while, his fans could listen to his masterly performances on the radio. However, the bureaucratic administration of the radio made it impossible for Neydavoud to maintain free and productive careers in the organization. For Neydavoud, there was no choice but to leave the radio. Moreover, the political and economical climates of the time led to a sharp decline in the production of records and live performances. Therefore, Neydavoud at the height of his creativity and technical mastery was forced to become reclusive.

He continued his involvement with music only through a small circle of close friends, acquaintances, and private students.

Neydavoud did not go back to the radio until some thirty years later when he finally accepted their invitation to record his version of the Radif of the Iranian traditional music; perhaps his most important and lasting contribution to the tradition of music in his country.

Within a period of about a year and a half, he meticulously recorded the instrumental Radif of the Iranian traditional music as he -remembered it. Neydavoud was able to record all the details of the Radif as conveyed to him by the previous generation of the grand masters of music. The bulk of that work consisted of nearly 300 audiocassettes.

Neydavoud, besides his love and mastery over the Tar, was in love with singing and his discovery of Ghamar's talent was just a reward for him.

A few years later in 1977, Neydavoud's family immigrated to the United States of America and took along the seventy-seven year old master with them. This separation from his birthplace and the environment in which he had grown up and experienced the best years of his life had an adverse effect on the old master's well being. Maestro Morteza Neydavoud, one of the most distinguished musicians of Iranian Classical Music, a kind and generous teacher, and an able composer died in California in 1990, thousands of miles away from home, at the age of ninety.