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Persian Music Master Shajarian Who Backed Iran Protests Dies

FILE - In this Nov. 11, 2009 file photo, legendary Iranian singer Mohammad Reza Shajarian, delivers a speech, at a ceremony commemorating the late musician Parviz Meshkatian in Tehran, Iran. Shajarian, whose distinctive voice quavered to traditional Persian music on state radio for years before supporting protesters following Irans contested 2009 election, has died, state TV reported Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. He was 80. (AP Photo/Fars News Agency, Ali Shaigan, File)

FILE - In this Nov. 11, 2009 file photo, legendary Iranian singer Mohammad Reza Shajarian, delivers a speech, at a ceremony commemorating the late musician Parviz Meshkatian in Tehran, Iran. Shajarian, whose distinctive voice quavered to traditional Persian music on state radio for years before supporting protesters following Irans contested 2009 election, has died, state TV reported Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. He was 80. (AP Photo/Fars News Agency, Ali Shaigan, File)

Mohammad Reza Shajarian, whose distinctive voice quavered to traditional Persian music on state radio for years before supporting protesters following Irans contested 2009 election, has died, state TV reported Thursday. He was 80.

TEHRAN, Iran: Mohammad Reza Shajarian, whose distinctive voice quavered to traditional Persian music on state radio for years before supporting protesters following Irans contested 2009 election, has died, state TV reported Thursday. He was 80.

Shajarian enlivened Irans traditional music with his singing style, which soared, swooped and trilled over long-known poetry set to song. But the later years of his life saw him forced to only perform abroad, after he backed those who challenged the disputed re-election of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by telling state radio to stop using his songs.

After what happened, I said no way and threatened to file a complaint against them if they continued to use my music, Shajarian told The Associated Press in 2009.

The TV report said he died from cancer.

In March 2016, Shajarian revealed to fans he had been receiving treatment for kidney cancer for some 15 years, both inside and outside of Iran. Highlighting his importance even then, Irans culture and health ministers announced they would follow his case.

Shajarians political stand surprised many in Iran, especially among the young who considered him a crooner of a past age. Though he once changed his name to avoid his conservative fathers opposition to his singing, Shajarian supported Irans movement against the American-backed shah. He resigned his position with Iranian state radio ahead of Irans 1979 Islamic Revolution.

After the revolution, it was Shajarians powerful voice on the radio that sang a prayer before sunset during the holy month of Ramadan, when observant Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. He sang it a cappella, like a call coming from a mosque minaret, with teeming emotion that raised goosebumps even through scratchy radio broadcasts. In sold-out concerts, fans pelted him with roses.

Supported by the apparatus of Irans cleric-run system, no one expected to hear his voice rise to support the opposition in the unrest surrounding the 2009 balloting. At the time, Ahmadinejad won a contested vote count that sparked massive protests and a security force crackdown that saw thousands detained, dozens killed and others tortured.

In September 2009, just months after the election, Shajarian sang Zaban e Atash o Ahan, which translates from Farsi as The Language of Fire and Iron.

In it, the singer pleaded: Lay down your gun. Come, sit down, talk, hear. Perhaps the light of humanity will get through to your heart too.

Shajarian then told state radio to stop using his songs, which they did. Suppression of artists had been common following the Islamic Revolution, though the 2009 crisis brought on a crackdown unseen in years.

Its much greater now because of the stand most of the artists have taken against them, Shajarian told the AP in 2009. For now, theyre moving very calmly. But in the future, I know there will be a confrontation between the artists and this government.

In the years that followed, Shajarian performed traditional music for Iranians abroad and later returned to Iran to teach singing to many of his adoring fans.

Shajarian was born in 1940 in the religious city of Mashhad in northwest Iran, some 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) east of the capital, Tehran. During his childhood, he got his start in singing through reciting the Muslim holy book, the Quran.

Throughout his life, he received a series of accolades, including awards from the United Nations’ cultural agency, UNESCO. In 1999, the agency gave him the Picasso Award and in 2006, he received its Mozart Medal in honor of his contributions to the world of music. Shajarian also worked to create new instruments, similar to those played in historic Persia.

Even near the end of his life, Shajarian kept a sense of humor, appearing in an online video marking the Iranian New Year of Nowruz sporting a shaved head and referring to his cancer as a guest in his life.

I am familiar with this guest for the past 15 years. We are friends and I cut my hair based on its order to reach an understanding, he said. After that, I will come back and will continue my artistic works.

The TV report said Shajarian will be buried in the northeastern town of Toos, about 750 kilometers (470 miles) northeast of the capital, Tehran, near his birthplace, the city of Mashhad in Khorasan Razavi province.

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Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.

Disclaimer: This post has been auto-published from an agency feed without any modifications to the text and has not been reviewed by an editor


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