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Iran

Ta'zieh


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- Ta'zieh Horr (Tehran, Tek-ye Niavaran, 1998).


Ta'zieh is a type of religious and national dramatic musical performance with several elements such as music (vocal and instrumental), recitation, poetry, narration and drama. Literally, the term ta'zieh means mourning rituals held in commemoration of deceased dear ones, but it refers specifically to a type of religious performance with particular rituals and traditions.


Reasons for selection

Ta'zieh (Iranian national and religious dramatic musical performances)is the best example of folk and traditional performing arts in Iran. These embody various arts, including music, scenic representation and poetry or prose.


Area where performed

Central Part of Iran (Arak, Tafresh, Qom, Isfahan)and some provinces such as: Fars, Khorasan, Gilan, Azerbayejan, Mazandaran.


Essential elements of the performing art

Music, Theatre


Detailed explanation

Traditional and folkloric performing arts in Iran

Popular Performances:
Generally speaking, all manifestations of popular culture somehow involved in theatrical representation rank among popular performing arts. It is also notable that all popular performing arts fall in the category of popular arts, even if some of them may have also found their way into aristocratic arts and elements from aristocratic arts may have been included in them. Consequently, except in rare cases, popular performing arts have seldom been recorded in the category of official culture. The most significant common features of popular performing arts are the following:
1. The scene is located amidst the people;
2. Their origins lie in the beliefs and perceptible factors of the people's lives;
3. The actors are not professional, in the sense that they do not earn a living from these performances;
4. The performances are simple and unostentatious;
5. They reflect new problems arising in the society in simple terms;
6. The performances do not follow written texts, although they fall within determined general frameworks. In other words, the overall framework of the performances is determined, but the dialogues, as well as some secondary scenes, are improvised (with the exception of ritual declamations);
7. The actors come from the lower strata of the society;
8. The actors do not consider themselves apart from the audience and communicate with it in simple terms, even addressing it and requesting its acquiescence in some scenes.

Iranian performing arts embody a wide spectrum of representations. Of course, because of particular conditions, many popular performances may take place in open air, but this does not constitute a dividing criterion. The criteria determining the categories of popular performing arts depend on the elements involved in the plays themselves. These are:
1. Ritual performances; 2. Religious performances; 3. Puppet performances; 4. Rural performances; 5. Merry, humorous performances; 6. Single-player performances; 7. Acrobatic performances; 8. Female audience performances; 9. Animal performances; 10. Masked performances; and 11. Simulated animal performances.

All these forms of popular and folkloric performances are preserved and disseminated mainly by local populations. Of course, such factors as cultural and artistic policies, economic and social changes, mass media, etc. can contribute to the preservation or the annihilation of these arts.
*Selected from Bandbazi in Gilan and Mazandaran, Mohammad Mirshokraei, in Farsi, 1985.

Ta'zieh (Iranian national and religious dramatic musical performances): Literally, the term ta'zieh means mourning rituals held in commemoration of deceased dear ones, but it refers specifically to a type of religious performance with particular rituals and traditions. These embody various arts, including music, scenic representation (with all its theatrical aspects)and poetry or prose. Rather than a simple, determined cultural phenomenon originated in any particular historic period, the Ta'zieh came into being along centuries, in result of various social, religious, cultural, artistic and philosophical factors. It is the outcome of a gradual evolution, rather than the product of the creative genius of a determined individual. The Ta'zieh is the upshot of the evolution of other types of mourning ceremonies known under such appellations as Nowheh-sara'i, Rowzeh-khani, Shabih-sazi, Shamayel-gardani, Dasteh-gardani, Naqqali, etc.

Music of the Ta'zieh : Music, poetry (text)and scenic representation are the main, inseparable components of the Ta'zieh. The music of the Ta'zieh can be evaluated in two distinct, instrumental and vocal, domains. Both are intimately related with the textual contents and the scenic elements and fulfill different functions. The main element of the music of the Ta'zieh is its vocal performances, which is based on the songs and modes established in the course of centuries.

Several musical elements can be distinguished in the music of the Ta'zieh. The most important among these lies in the modes of traditional Iranian music, which constitute its fundamental structure. The presence of various figures with different roles and characters, as well as the changing scenes and images in accordance with the context of the narrative, cause the traditional music of the Ta'zieh to benefit from ample latitude and possibilities in expressing varied and occasionally contrasting moods and wide-ranging modulations in the characters' vocal dialogues.

The presence of folkloric melodies and songs in some Ta'zieh cannot be disregarded. Besides Ta'zieh performed in the central regions of Iran in the past and the present, the performance of Ta'zieh in Fars, Azerbayjan, Gilan, Mazandaran and other regions was, and still is, accompanied with local songs and melodies alongside codified music. Folkloric music is also found both in the framework of Ta'zieh songs and performed with such instruments as the sorna, the karna and various types of dohol and naqareh in the framework of instrumental music.

Recitation: Another category of Ta'zieh music consists of musical recitation, which dates back to ancient times and is derived from such performances as Qavvali, musical narration, Avesta-khani and Rowzeh-khani.

Naqqali : This is another category of singing used in vocal Ta'zieh music. In this type of performance, the naqqal addresses the audience either in the recitative manner or in the declamatory mode. It is interesting that both religious ( mazlum-khani )and epic ( mokhalef-khani )narrative manners are discernible in Ta'zieh.

Instrumental music in Ta'zieh : Instrumental music constitutes another part of Ta'zieh music and fulfills particular functions entirely different from those of its vocal music. The instrumental music of Ta'zieh is little related to pure music, because theatrical music is essentially separated from pure music and serves a different purpose. It can, perhaps, be divided into two groups. The first group, which is rather related to past gubernatorial music, is quite stately and often irrelevant with the contents of Ta'zieh. This music was performed during military parades, before and after the Ta'zieh, by various martial music bands disposed around the Ta'zieh stage, and its repertoire included mainly military marches. The second group constitutes an inseparable part of the Ta'zieh ceremonial and involves such instruments as the horn, sorna, karna, flute, koos, dohol, naqareh, cymbals, various drums and occasionally oboes and trumpets. The repertoire does not consist of determined melodies performed in any of the modes of Iranian music. Rather, the sound produced by this musical group is mixture of tones creating a vibrant atmosphere intended to accompany the various scenes performed.

In order to preserve an overall balance between its constituent elements, the Ta'zieh had to either continue existing in its ancient traditional form, which its inner and outer conditions did not allow, or conduce its elements toward a harmonious development, which it could not afford in musical terms. Consequently, Ta'zieh music began declining and, by upsetting the balance between its principal elements, paved the ground for the decline of the entire Ta'zieh (as a composite art).
*Behrooz Vojdani, Director, Department of Social Anthropology


Publication and textual documentation

MASSOUDIEH, Mohammad tagi
1978 The religious music of Iran, Volume 1 (The Music of Ta'zieh).
Tehran: Sorosh Publishing.

n.d. Faslname-ye honar The Art Quarterly .
The Centre for Research and Studies of Art, Directorate of Art Affairs, Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.


Audio documentation

not yet available


Visual documentation

not yet available


Institution/organisation involved in preservation and promotion

Research: Anthropological Research Centre (ICHO).
Performance: the Centre for Research and Studies of Art, Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.


Data provider

Mr. Mohammad Mirshokraei
General Director of Anthropological Research Centre
Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization (ICHO)
Address: Azadi ave., Zanjan jenubi, Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization, Tehran, Iran