To most people in Iran, Mohammad-Reza Shajarian is a superstar – but the authorities loathe him and his music and have made it difficult for him to perform in his homeland. So difficult that he hasn’t played a concert there in three years. Undaunted, he’s now touring Europe for the second time, starting in Istanbul.
He said: “My concerts are always sold out in Iran but the authorities don’t approve because my music is against their politics, against the regime, and all that. So they don’t want to see me on stage.”
Shajarian’s band, Shahnaz, includes some of the best young musicians from Iran today. They play traditional Iranian instruments, as well as two which Shajarian invented himself: “I felt there were gaps in our music. There were some sounds missing and I wanted to fill these gaps with new sounds, especially in the bass. So that’s the most recent instrument I invented. It’s called a Del-O-Del.”
Despite the difficulties of travelling, and the price of the tickets, many Iranian people were at the concerts in Istanbul.
In Iran, women aren’t allowed to sing in front of men but in Turkey Shajarian’s daughter Mojgan performed with her father’s group. He said: “Part of our music has ben silenced. Look at thsi instrument, it has four strings. If you remove one of them, it plays like that. To play properly, we need that sound, the voice of a woman.”