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Middle Eastern Dance & Music Information
Persian (Iranian) Dance & Music  |   Afghan Dance & Music   |
Central Asian Dance & Music  |   Caucasus Dance & Music  |
Dance East & West  |   Dance, Music & Culture Bibliography  |


       Please out of respect for traditional dance and the Persian people, we ask that these facts about Persian dance be for information only and not to be misrepresented by night club or show dancing but only to be further studied to be possibly eventually performed by very serious folk and ethnic dancers in a respectful egoless manner. No part of this copyrighted material which is drawn from publications by Eastern Arts may be used in any way without written permission from Eastern Arts, Thank you.


ARYAN - ancient Indo-Iranians, Indo-European speaking people
DASTGAH - mode in Persian music system
GUSHE - section of a mode
MINIATURE - Persian art after which some dance has been created
DARYUSH SAFVAT - Persian music master, ethnomusicologist
RADIF - collection of music sequences
BELOVED - the divine as referred in Persian poetry
SANTUR - Persian hammered dulcimer
TAR - six stringed plucked instrument
SETAR - 4 stringed pluckd instrument
NEI - end blown Persian flute
KAMANCHE - Persian bowed instrument
SHAH NAMEH - ancient Persian epic by Ferdosi, (Book of Kings)
PESHKAN - method of snapping fingers
KEMIZ - long shirt
VASKOT - vest
KOLA - hat
SHALITEH - Qajar style short skirt or dress


       Iran is one of the most important countries in the Middle East in the realm of music and dance. The Persian music of the Sassanian period 224-652 A.D., was the basis for present day Persian music and for the music of the entire Moslem world. In the first millennium B.C., an Aryan people invaded the Iranian plateau in waves coming over the same Caucasus and Transoxiana routes as they had before; but this time they were not entirely absorbed by the Asiatic culture or by the inhabitants of the day. After several centuries, these Aryan people gained mastery of the area and became two powerful civilizations, the Persians and the Medes. Parthians lived near the Caspian gate and Harawa, the Herat oasis. Other wilder, more destructive Aryan tribes, the Cimmerians and the Scythians, moved from the north towards Asia Minor. Cimmerians took over the Southern Black Sea area, and the Scythians most of modern Azerbaijan.
       From their arrival until the end of the Achaemenian reign which lasted from 550-330 B.C., the Persians had a far reaching influence in most of the civilized world. It is no doubt that with all the political and religious influence they had, as well as the vast trade network, early Persian music could easily have become the standard for a large part of the known world and certainly of the Achaemenian empire. Ancient ties existed between India and what is now Iran, strengthened by common traditions and influenced by each other's language. Indian literature cast it's influence on the Iranian people as early as the Sassanian period when the Panchatantra, an outstanding Sanskrit fable, was brought to Iran and later translated by Iranian scholars into Arabic and Persian prose and poetry. The Moslem culture in India also found it's way to the subcontinent through Iran. Many Moslem rulers of India had patronized Sanskrit literature by granting special facilities to the pundits and encouraging translation of the best Sanskrit works into Persian.
       Two schools of music developed from the Persian derived tradition; one was the school of Baghdad and the other was the Cordoba school which later became the North African and Flamenco system. Persian music master Zaryab and his children traveled from Persia to Spain and taught their instrumental, vocal and dance techniques which strongly influenced the local populace. Along with the spread of Persian musical influence to the West and East, was the Persian lute formerly known as the barbat, and later called the 'oud or al'oud by the Arabs. This instrument was adopted in Europe where it's name was pronounced lute, and on the other front, was carried by the Mongols to China where it's name barbat was pronounced pipa by the Chinese and biwa by the Japanese.
       After the Aryan tribes moved into India and greater Persia, their cultures began to diverge and two different yet related musical systems developed. The Persian system became the basis for music of Middle Eastern countries and was also influential in Eastern Europe, Spain, France and Italy. During the Greek period in ancient Persia, the Indo-Persian system influenced Greek music and thus found it's way into Rome. During the Sassanian era, instrumentalists were invited to Persia from India and it was the later Perso-Afghan master, Amir Khosrow who brought Persian musical concepts and the setar to India. It was the music of the Sassanian period which was the foundation for the systems of much of the Islamic world today. When the Arabs came to Persia and encountered a superior musical culture, they quickly absorbed and adopted what they had discovered. Persian musicians propagated their art in Arab capitals where they were welcomed by people eager for refinement. Arab artists travelled to Persia to study, and after returning to their home cities began teaching. Even though Islam resulted in limiting the use of music in public to only special events such as weddings and family gatherings, music was quietly practiced and taught, thus passing down the ancient tradition over the ages. Actually Islam helped music to rise to a high metaphysical level Eschewing commercialism and pop forms in favor of spirituality. In former eras an artist was often skilled as an instrumentalist, vocalist, poet and composer at the same time.


       The 12 modes, known as dastgah, comprise the radif, or total official collection of modes. The dastgah are composed of many melodic sequences of various lengths which are called gushe. The radif of 12 modes consists of some 500 gushe in 5 main modal scales. The gushe can be from less than a minute to several minutes long and are either free-rhythm, semi-rhythm or in 3/4, 6/8, or very rarely, 7/8. A free-rhythm gushe is called avaz, or has many various names which designate certain melodic sequences of various structures and the rhythmic gushe can be termed chahar-mezrab, which means "four beat". Another rhythmic type of gushe is called kereshme, which translates loosely as "flirtation" and is characterized by the rhythmic pattern of: . - . - . . - - (short-long, short-long, short short, long long). Kereshme starts out with a general rhythmic pattern which may last for a while or resolve in a rhythm-free continuation.
       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 has been 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 until he reaches the top note of emphasis. From there he quickly retraces his steps to the starting point. Although the gushe, or melodic sequences, are learned exactly from master to disciple, after many years of training a student becomes familiar enough with the material to be able to improvise by interpreting the melodic sequences he has learned. It is similar to the way that American jazz was originally passed from musician to musician, each artist learning the solos and patterns of the master and then finally adding their own interpretation during improvisation. Persian music and other Eastern musical systems have changed very slowly because the original system was so perfected that there has been little need for improvement by the masters who have emerged over the years. In Persian music and other Eastern performing arts, mood is always far more important than technique, even though amazing and intricate technical skills are associated with the performing arts of the East. But these skills are always subservient to the emotion of the performer whose role is that of a channel bringing expressions from a higher realm to the audience.


       The santur is a trapezoid-shaped hammered dulcimer with strings passing from one end to the other over small bridges. There are two types of strings, brass and steel. The steel wires which pass over the bridges at the left are the high notes and the brass wires which pass over the bridges at the right are the low notes. A group of four strings tuned together make up the tonal units. The wires are struck by two long, thin, delicate mallets called mezrab, which in Persian means striker. This instrument is known throughout the Middle East, India and Afghanistan, but it's influence does not stop there. The santur was taken to China by Jesuit missionaries and is now found in Indo-China and Korea as well. The instrument is also common in Eastern Europe and was played in medieval Europe where some say it was the forerunner of the piano the way the harp was the prototype of the harpsichord.
       The tar is a six-stringed, plucked instrument with a skin-covered soundbox. The six strings are tuned in pairs, the high-pitched and central pairs in unison and the bottom pair in octave. Adjustable string frets are wound and tied around the neck providing a scale which includes the 12 Western notes plus several semi-flats or quarter tones. All the notes are never used in a mode, but seven or eight pitches are chosen from among 17 possibilities. A small brass plectrum, or mezrab, inserted in a lump of wax is held in the right hand. The fourth finger of the left hand is also used to pluck the strings for ornaments. Notes may be raised or ornamented by sliding the strings over the frets with a sort of squeezing motion of the left hand. The setar is a more recent development of the ancient tambur of Khorasan, which is credited with being the ancestral form of nearly all lutes now known in the East. The setar is a long-necked four-stringed instrument which has a soundbox covered with thin wood. It originally had only three strings, the fourth was added by the great mystic Moshtaq Ali Shah. Adjustable string frets are wound around the neck as on the tar, and the left hand techniques are like those of the tar except, instead of a plectrum, the fingernail of the index finger is used. This technique, as well as many other aspects of the setar, including the shape of the instrument and the peg arrangement, were adopted in India when the setar was brought to the subcontinent by master Amir Khosrow, eventually to develop into the Indian sitar.
       The kamanche is a bowed violin type instrument with a round soundbox, either made from steam bent strips of wood, or hollowed from one piece. The soundbox is covered with skin and produces a very warm tone. The bow strings used to play the kamanche are attached at one end by a loose leather strip which is held either tightly or loosely in the right hand, enabling the tension of the bow to be varied while playing. The origin of the kamanche, which is more recent than the santur and setar, is uncertain. Some scholars have credited the Kurds, an ancient Iranian people, with the invention of bowed instruments, while others claim that bowed instruments originated with nomads from further north, perhaps of the Mongol race. Originally, the kamanche had only three strings, two silk and one brass, but recently the fourth was added and the strings changed to metal under the influence of the violin.
       The nei, a type of flute, is made from a long piece of bamboo in which finger holes are drilled. Sound is produced by the player blowing across the open top of the instrument, a very difficult technique to master.
       The zarb or donbak, is a single headed drum worked and chiseled from a piece of mulberry wood. A wet skin is stretched over the large end and glued with a string wound several times around the rim to hold the head while it dries. The instrument is played with the fingers of both hands. The right hand is used for deep sounds in the center and also high sounds near the rim, while the left hand concentrates on high sounds and snaps. A roll is produced by throwing the limp fingers of each hand alternately against the head. Other special techniques are employed to obtain various sounds such as snapping the third and fourth fingers against the skin near the rim, or depressing the skin to raise the pitch. Other than the zarb, the dayere or frame drum is also used, but it is more common to folk or regional music.


       Dr. Daryush Safvat, internationally renown and respected Persian music master and ethnomusicologist, describes aspects of Persian music in various books he has written. Concerning freedom in rhythm such as present in the avaz type gushe, he says that these melodic sequences, "allow the performers to reflect their inner feelings in the music through the use of free rhythms." He writes that "it is a tool, that in the hands of a master, enables him to reflect his and the audience's feelings in the music or to create changes in them." "The performer can manipulate the rhythms of a certain gushe to make them sad or nostalgic. He can gradually introduce undetectable changes to alter the moods and turn all that sorrow into a meditative mood or even happiness." Concerning improvisation, Safvat writes, "Improvisation is one of the most important characteristics of Iranian music." He clarifies that improvisation is a tool to be used by those who have completely grasped the tradition. "Improvisation was a technique that enabled the master musician to make spontaneous changes in the melodies according to his feelings." According to the tradition the disciple needed to study the complete radif, which usually took some 10 years. When he could correctly render all the melodic sequences correctly, he was authorized to interpret the dastgah system and eventually, after a lifetime of perfecting his skills, add some input of his own. This process of slowly adding and reinterpreting the ancient melodic sequences has, over the millennia, developed into the radif which exists today.
       Other aspects of performance which are important are mentioned by Safvat and apply to the dance as well as the music. One of these is symmetry which he explains creates calmness and eliminates excitement which is spiritually harmful. He says that repetition, "prepares the mind to receive more profound messages. This is why repetition and symmetry are visible in spiritual artwork." He explains that, "nuance, in it's European sense, does not exist in authentic Iranian music. We never play one part loud and the next one soft. In Iranian music, this nuance instead exists in each single note. In other words, no single note remains the same from beginning to end. The main notes of a melody are usually played with more stress and soften as they continue. Ornamental notes, on the other hand, are always played softly. This change of sound should be very subtle, lest it become unpleasant to the ear." Another aspect of balance is discussed by Safvat, "we might say that in Iranian music there are very few angles, that most movements are created through curves. This is particularly important in moving from one rhythm or key to another. This element should be strictly observed unless we intentionally want to create a sudden change of mood in our audience." What is termed "loud and silent", in Persian music is a type of question and answer which can take the form of phrases played alternately in high and low registers.
       An important factor in performance is mood, called hal in Persian. According to Safvat, "Music is a message, and like any other message it carries two types of information: semantic and esthetic. The esthetic information is what we call mood. By message, we mean whatever part of the outside world that affects us, that we can feel through our physical senses. Each message consists of many signs that follow each other in accordance with certain rules or codes." He explains that, "Semantic information is the part of any message that is logical, can be understood through common sense and is translatable into other media. The esthetic part of a message only affects our mood and feelings; it can make us sad, happy or angry. This, in fact, is the result of a direct relationship between the sender and the receiver of a message and is not translatable into any other medium. In the case of music, whatever can be written down on paper is only the semantic information. The esthetic information in music is the part we cannot transcribe; it is defined only by the style and mood of the performer."
       Safvat asserts that, "In authentic Iranian music, mood is always superior to technique. In other words, technique is only a tool with which we want to create moods. To be able to create moods, the performer has to have worked towards his own perfection. He must be honest with himself. He must see his own shortcomings and constantly try to correct them. That is why a dishonest artist can never get anywhere." Safvat describes the four characteristics necessary to be able to relay an honest mood as, "purity, honesty, humility and love of others." In this regard, Safvat notes that, "people's characters can be detected through their music", and he describes humility as, "avoiding all pretentions and worldly ambitions which stem from putting too much importance on the self."


       Historical data on Persian dance is rather scarce. Herodotus was not complimentary in his description of Persian dance because he did not understand it's purpose. Ancient Persian dance must have shared the same purpose and respect in which dance of ancient India or China was held. As evidenced in some art works, dancers of the pre-Islamic courts might have carried wooden clappers. When Islam came to Persia, dancing was relegated to a low social category but was fostered in the courts of kings and Mogul rulers. Dancers were imported from India and the transfer and inter-blending of dance concepts among the various cultures encompassed by Islamic culture is obvious and is possibly the origin of Persian inspired Indian Nautch dancing. Persian traditional dance, as traditional music, has always been a solo virtuoso art with improvisation consisting of choosing among known themes learned from the master who passed them on from his master. After Islam, although the profession of dance was relegated to a caste or class of people not favored by society, those performers who were hired by nobility or courts had full-time attention placed on their art, availing them of skills unattainable by the average person who occasionally danced for fun. Persian traditional dance with it's gliding slow, yet purposeful grace and charm was continued in Caucasia which did not fully succumb to Islamic interdictions.
       Thus, although Persian miniature dance, which is a depiction of Persian miniature paintings, is not purposely intended to be a dance of devotion to God as are certain dance forms of India, the dancer portrays the qualities of perfection described in poetry and depicted in paintings which awaken the viewer to a higher consciousness beyond the material plane. The beloved, in the character of the idealized woman in Persian poetry and painting, is a non-existent ideal which one is not expected to find on this earth, but rather represents the beauty of a divine being. This is not to say that a god actually possesses these exact features, but that this physical representation is something with which mortal man can associate beauty and perfection. Classical Persian poetry, as opposed to modern poetry, nearly always contained the theme of yearning for the beloved, for a reunion with the divine and often had a mood of longing or pining as well as devotion or praise. This aspect can be felt in Persian music and may be seen in some Persian dance. In the Book of Kings, (in Persian, Shah Nameh), the author Ferdosi, when speaking of Manizheh, the daughter of Afrasyab and her attendants writes: "all are cypress-statured and all fragrant with musk. Their cheeks are rosy, their eyes languorous, their lips wine-filled and redolent of rose-water." Ferdosi, as many other authors, symbolically used these descriptions to represent the love for a divine source. The great poets described every detail of the beloved as well as many other references in the poetry, and each of these details symbolizes a spiritual counterpart. For example, when the poet refers to the cup of wine which is intoxicating, he means the love of the divine which brings happiness. The system of symbolism is endless, intricate and extremely beautiful and moving. It is this poetry, designated as song texts to the traditional Persian music, by which the Persian miniature dancer expresses herself through interpretation
       The music which accompanies Persian miniature dance is the traditional sequences known in Persian as radif, of modes called dastgah. Each dastgah is assigned a certain color, element, spiritual connotation, and mood. Noted Persian music and spiritual master Dr. Daryush Safvat, suggests that the mode Shur, is affiliated with fire and the color red; Segah, is water and blue; Chahargah is gold and heroic; Isfahan is green, and so on. The colors of miniature costumes used to dance to the various dastgah may be chosen according to Safvat's code. Both the free-rhythm, implied rhythm and rhythmic sections of the dastgah are appropriate for miniature dance. The various poses of the angelic women represented in the miniature paintings are brought to life during the liquid, gentle flow of the dance accompanied by the santur, setar, tar, nei or other traditional solo instrumental pieces with the addition of the drum (zarb) for the rhythmic sequences. The graceful hand movements from side to side, above the head and about the face while the dancer glides across the floor or sways back and forth, either standing or kneeling, hints at different symbols in the cultural heritage of Persia, but a system of specific mudras (hand symbols) and asanas (positions), such as exist in India and Indochina has not yet been codified. Persian miniature dances have been developed from drawing on Persian miniatures, from dance styles of neighboring areas which have been formed by influence and interchange with Persian culture and from the traditional poetry used in the vocal music in the various dastgah as passed down by the late vocal master, Mahmud Karimi. The emotion, color and element of each dastgah according to Dr. Safvat's system have been utilized in the development of the dance.
       Other than miniature solo virtuoso dance, another degraded form is termed 'party dance'. This style is a more mundane, actually low level, even at times disgusting with version of some of the miniature dance movements with hands waving from side to side while shuffling and swaying back and forth to a definite strong drum rhythm, usually 6/8, and a melody instrument or two played in an energetic frolicy manner rather than the serious classy and esoteric fashion of the dastgah system. The attire of the Qajar dynasty, 1799-1925 A.D., is sometimes worn for this type of party dance and would include a short skirt called shaliteh, worn over colorful pants, a colorful vest worn over a long shirt and a head scarf. Along with this style of dance is what is known as the Baba Keram. This dance, usually done by men, is performed to slow, humorously oversensuous music almost a 7/8 feeling in a 6/8 framework. The man wears a tilted hat and does exaggerated gyrations as the viewers clap along and shout encouragements. Persian party dance is not representative of anything serious and should be avoided by serious students of traditional Persian dance who would prefer the miniature accompanied by purely old traditional music of the radif or regional folk dances as done by the actual people of various regions.
       Persian folk dance could be divided among the ethnic minorities of the country. These are: Kurds and Lors in the west with their line dances; Azeri Turks and Armenians in the north with the acrobatic virile men's dances and the slow graceful women's movements; the Qashqai Turks of the Shiraz area with their handkerchief group dance; Khorasanis in the east with their Afghan type circle dances; Baluchis with their tribal dances and Gilanis of the north Caspian area with their colorful group dances. Regional Iranian folk dances will be described below along with the appropriate music and costuming for the area.


       The Qashqai are a Turkic tribe who live in the environs of Shiraz, a city famous for roses, situated near the ancient Persian capital of Persepolis. The Qashqai speak a Turkic dialect and are semi-nomadic living in villages around Shiraz in Fars province. Categories of Qashqai dance are, raqs-e dastmal, (scarf dance), raqs-e haft dastmal (dance of seven scarves), Ashrafi, Buir Ahmadi, etc. Women's dances are done either in a circle or in other patterns including free style. When pivoting, the dancer steps on one foot and pushes off with the ball of the other which gives the skirts the appearance of bouncing somewhat. The stepping progresses to a small leap-step-step, which can be a travelling step. The dancers hold small scarves in each hand and wave them in time to the music sometimes leaning from side to side. The scarves are waved in front of the dancer, at the sides, overhead, or the dancer may choose to rest one hand on the hip or on her shoulder near the neck while the other hand waves the scarf. The dancer may turn while alternately waving scarves up and down, overhead, or in front. In some styles the dancer stops with the music, kneeling or squatting on the floor and shaking the scarves with small vigorous shakes while raising from the floor, or turning into the kneeling position. Men's movements may also include waving or shaking scarves. The footwork ranges from simple walking, stepping turns, to leap-cross steps and step kick or lift patterns while shaking the scarves alternately overhead or side to side.
       Qashai tribeswomen wear many skirts at one time, some are made of a lacy fabric woven with metallic threads. They often have a ruffle on the bottom of about three inches in width and the skirt is made with as many as 10 yards of fabric gathered at the waist, this gives the skirts an extremely full appearance. Over the skirts the women wear a straight long chemise which is split on the sides, and a short jacket of velvet or the same metallic fabric as the skirt. The chahar qad, or long head-shawl, can be fastened under the chin and is held in place by a silken head band of cinched fabric tied once in back, both in lively colors such as gold or maroon. The dancer can wear flat Persian style slippers. The woman's hairstyle often determines her marital status. One hat style worn by the Qashqai men is a felt design with flaps which can be pulled down over the ears, but this is rarely done. Another more rare Shirazi cap which represents old style Persian would not have the flaps, a look common to city people. Long straight loose pajama style drawstring pants and a shirt worn outside the pants, coming a little below the waist, are also common. A vest or a long loose-fitting cloak, often in dark brown, and folded in front held closed with a kamarband, or cummerbund, is worn firmly wrapped and tucked in at the waist. The men's shoes are woven white cloth with thin leather soles, the back of the shoe is often worn under the heel so the foot slides in like a backless slipper.
       Music for Qashqai dance is played on a shrill oboe called sorna, and a drum played with sticks. The rhythm is 6/8 and the melodic phrases are repeated over and over again with stops during which the drum continues a free rhythm roll until the sorna starts playing again


       The Kurds are an Iranian people descendant from the ancient Medes such as those who inhabited the ancient city of Ekbatana, now Hamadan. Kurds are now found in western Iran, northeastern Iraq, Syria, eastern Turkey and a few in neighboring USSR. Their languages are Iranian dialects which in some ways reflect more traditional old Persian phenomena. Dancing among the Kurds, regardless of where you find them is generally line dance with dancers linked in a number of hand, finger or shoulder holds. This is the farthest East that we find this folk dance configuration, with most Eastern dance favoring solos, segregated or unlinked circle dances. The Kurdish line dances do differ from region to region but mostly include variations on grapevine steps, hopping, balancing and leg lifting movements. The leader of the line is usually waving a scarf and often there will be a soloist or two dancing in front of the curved line. The line does not become a closed circle, only rarely. Men and women sometimes dance together in a line, which is quite unusual for Eastern dance, but often they would be segregated.
       The Kurdish man's shirt is a type of cotton and comes up high to the neck. The man's jacket is one of two designs; a military-look in a heavy lined fabric with buttons up the front, sporting buttoned pockets and a straight stand-up collar. The second style jacket is a lighter weight fabric, closed at the waist with a V opening from the neck to the waist and is collarless. Billowing pantaloons with pegged bottoms, held up by a drawstring are typical pants worn by the men in this area. The shirt or jacket is tucked in the pants. The waist band is a very long (18 ft. or more), narrow, usually shiny fabric and can be any variety of color. The waist band is tied by starting with the center of the band at the back, bringing each end in front, crossing them over, twisting and bringing them around back, bring them forward again and cross and twist, repeating until the ends come front and tuck them in, there are usually three of the cross/twists in the front. This waist band is called kamarband, which became cummerbund in the west. A crocheted type cap is worn by the men under the specially wrapped turban. The turban fabric itself is a square of silky material, about 6 ft, usually a narrow stripe of black and either red or silver with black short narrow tassels tied at the end of the fabric about 1 inch apart. The turban is wrapped so the right end hangs about 12 inches from the face and is wrapped around the head, tucking in the final ends. An important characteristic of the Kurdish turban is the tassels which hang on the forehead due to the way the fabric is wrapped. Sometimes a black or red Arab kefiya can be used for the turban or as a short tucked waist sash. The Kurdish men wear a detached sleeve which is added to the arm between the wrist and just above the elbow worn on top of the shirt or jacket. This sleeve is a white light weight fabric cut in a long narrow triangle with a small opening on one end for the hand and completely open on the other long end of the triangle. The man puts his hand into the triangle and through the small opening and wraps the sleeve around the arm, tucking the final end in the top near or above the elbow. Footwear consists of a knitted or crocheted shoe with a thin flat sole, usually white.
       Women's clothing includes a pantaloon, an A-line cut dress of various fabrics, and a floor-length coat, open in the front. The women wear a waist sash and turban similar to the men but the turban is held down by a headpiece of coins linked in a circle crossing the top from front to back. The shoes would be similar to the men's but usually more colorful.
       Instruments used in Kurdish music are usually sorna, (shrill oboe), or dozale (double oboe), and a dohol (large two-headed barrel drum) and single headed frame drum doira, also known as daf. Instruments common to the Kurdish Sufi tradition are the tambur, which is a two or three string plucked lute, and the daf, or frame drum. The tambur is played free-rhythm at first then slowly builds up momentum when the daf joins until it reaches a wild frenzy. Melodic patterns are simple and can be in 4ths or 5ths. Rhythms are normally a strong steady 4/4 and rarely tambur solos might be in 7/8. Movement that accompanies this music in the Sufi khaneqa is sporadic and chaotic, characterized by head tossing from side to side and occasionally a semblance of Kurdish line dance. Kurdish Sufis sometimes wear long white robes with Chinese style collars and white sashes, attire appropriate for both men and women. These movements, which are discussed further in the Turkish lesson, should not be misinterpreted as dance nor should they be performed by anyone other than sincere and serious initiates of a legitimate Sufi order.


       Torbat-e Jam is a city on the road between and Herat and, although located in Iranian Khorasan, it's inhabitants are more Afghani. This men's dance is similar to the atan and the atan-e kaufi, which also uses the 7/8 meter divided 3 + 4. The similarities can be seen in the characteristic; step-close-step-type pattern and the quick spins. The Torbati dance often includes dance with sticks called raqs-e chupi in Persian, and resembling dances done with swords and typifying military dances of the area. Torbati dance is done to 6/8 and 7/8 meters. Dancers progress to a spectacular advanced pattern which includes spins and squats with each dancer holding two sticks. Squatting on the floor and small walking, lightly bouncing squats, circling while hitting the sticks on the floor are common acrobatic movements. They progress to wild spins on one foot, kicking or lifting the other foot and hitting both sticks against the partners's, overhead and on the alternate measure, while turning, hitting their own sticks together about waist level or below in front or slightly to the side. The one footed spins are all done on the right foot, then the dancers catches himself after the spin with the left foot and pushes off to spin in the other direction. So, the first spin may be done clockwise and the second counter clockwise and so on
.        The men ordinarily wear the billowy white trousers called tumban, white long knee-length shirts called kemiz which are very full and flare when spinning. The men also wear vests called vaskot, which can be buttoned in the front and have a V shaped neckline. The vaskot is usually a plain dark color. The headwear consists of a white turban, amame, or equivalent to the Afghan lungi. In this case, one end of the turban cloth is drawn under the chin and around the back of the neck. The turban is worn over a cap called kola, which can be of gold embroidery. Dark heavy socks are worn with an open backed sandal made with three strips of leather folded over leaving two small openings near the toes.
       Torbati music is played on a two-string dutar, and a large flat double-headed drum played with the hands. Music for this dance begins in 6/8 and then for the stick dance switches to the 7/8 beat common to Afghanistan.


       Khaf is a village in Persian Khorasan which is near the border of Afghanistan. Although geographically in N.E. Iran, it is culturally Afghan, as are many of it's inhabitants. Khaf is known for it's excellent two-string lutes called dutar. Khafi folkdance, which could be called atan-e khaufi, is basically a men's dance. If done by women would exclude the acrobatic patterns and execute the spins more gently. The movement of this dance is mostly in and out of a circle, facing center and spinning away and stepping back in the circle. The dance begins with a hand clapping sequence and a simple stepping sequence marking the 7/8 rhythm. The patterns build and develop adding spins, push-ups, squats, hops, drops to one knee, more claps and a combination of spins and squats. The dance is done to a 7/8 rhythm and the accents are primarily on counts l and 4. Clothing for the men is similar to Torbati dance costuming.
       Music is played on a two-string dutar, and the large frame drum doira. Music for this dance would be in the 7/8 rhythm cycle common to Afghanistan which is 3 + 4. Melodic patterns are in two repetitive reoccurring parts in a modal scale which is major in the lower portion and minor in the upper portion.


       Quchan is a village northwest of Mashhad in Khorsan towards the Caspian Sea inhabited by a Turkic people more similar to Azeri Turks than to the Turkomans of Turkmenistan, whose border is a few miles to the north. The men's dance is done in a circle and when the circle moves into a line, each man does a solo similar to Georgian or Azerbaijani men's solos with some acrobatic spins, squats, several hops on one foot and quick kicks with slightly bent knee. The meter is 6/8 and several patterns are used with the group and in the solos. The hand and arm movements are very characteristic of dance from this area and even resemble Central Asian men's hand movements. The arms are held up almost shoulder level for the most part, sometimes higher when snapping fingers. This snapping is called peshkan, a style of snapping with the hands clasped together, snapping one index finger off the other, sometimes holding the hands up high, at other times down low. The hands are sometimes held gracefully at the sides near front of the dancer with arms extended at shoulder level. Two very common gestures are the quick small flicks of the hands, almost like flicking water off the fingertips lightly, and the position which looks like a prayer position of the hands, palms together with straight fingers. Each position is very subtle, held for a short time and can be done during transitions in footwork.
       The men dancers have been known to wear a red shirt, buttoned in the front sort of off center, buttoned at the neck near the shoulder, also at the sleeve. The pants can be black, tighter fitting than the billowy tumban, more like woolen loose fitting pants and tied at the waist with a hanging sash of white or some other color. The pants would be tucked in colorful stockings which come up to below the calf and are worn beneath soft soled moccasin type shoes with straps tied over the stockings. The hat would be a dark color, shaped similar to Turkoman in form but not as large and would be lambswool, karakul. It would sit back on the head a bit, but would cover the front hairline and not the ears. This men's clothing closely resembles some Eastern European clothing.
       Quchani music can be played on a two-string dutar, bowed kamanche, with the rhythm supplied by a large flat double-headed drum played with the hands. Music for this dance is in 6/8 meter.


       Bojnord is a village in the northeast section of Iran on the road between the Caspian and Mashhad, just East of Quchan. Bojnord is inhabited by a Turkic people similar to those of Quchan. Men and women dance separately or together in Bojnordi dance, snapping their fingers in the method known as peshkan, with hands held overhead or at various levels in front of the body. The dance movements include quick running threes, step hops with feet close together or turning, pivot spins, pas de basque, etc. This style of dance is characterized by the bounding movements done in time to the 6/8 meter. Dancing in a circle with running and step hop steps, the dancers may turn alternate directions facing first one side then the next, dancers sometimes facing one another. Men or women may dance with small colorful scarves, called dastmal, waving them to a slow 3/4 meter. Another hand movement is raising and lowering both hands when stepping forward and back. A third hand movement resembles that of Quchani dance and looks like a prayer position of the hands with "pulling" the fingers away from each other and drawing them together again. Men do a dance to the 6/8 rhythm, in a circle with peshkan, which resembles many other circle dances of Iran.
       Men's costuming includes a bright colored collarless shirt which buttons down the front and on the cuffs, dark straight pants and a narrow waist-sash tied with ends hanging on the side. Headwear for the men would be a light colored cloth tied similar to a turban, with fringe on the edges or a felt dome shaped cap which sits high on the head. The footwear is a soft leather slipper, turned up on the toe with leather straps wrapped up past the ankle and worn over heavy colored socks. The women's clothing is extremely colorful from head to foot. The headdress consists of a large silky fringed scarf draped over the head and under the chin, tied on with another colorful scarf tied in the manner of a small turban which could have fringe hanging from the side. The blouses are usually printed and colorful and are worn over a very full skirt. The skirt is a few inches below the knee and has several horizontal multicolored stripes of various sizes near the hemline. Over the blouse the women wear an open, straight-lined, sleeveless vest which comes below the waist a few inches
       Bojnordi dance music is played on a small double-reed instrument similar to a bagpipe chanter and a barrel drum played with the hands called dohol.


       Baluchis' are a nomadic Indo-Iranian tribe who live in southeast Iran, southwest Afghanistan and in Western Pakistan and speak a dialect related to Persian. Baluchi folk dance is characterized by stepping and turning in and out of a circle. The men often do squatting steps with feet fairly far apart, then they rise and repeat the turning. The men and women may dance separately or together, the women's styling more demure. Although Baluchis have a more coarse character compared to some, their dance features some of the softer styling from Indian influence but in a less restricted motif. The dancers may plie after step turns, pausing and creating a little bounce. The women may add graceful leaning and possibly sharp hand gestures causing bracelets to ring.br>        The men may wear long sleeves that hang below the hand so that turning with hands extended out to sides causes the sleeves to "fly". Women's costuming shows some Indian influence in tight fitting pants, colorful ornate straight dresses and long flowing brightly colored veils. The veil and dress is adorned with jewelry and the hair may be long and straight or braided in a few braids. The dancer would also wear bracelets which can jingle when she dances. She is sometimes barefooted with jingling ankle bracelets. The men's costuming is light colored cotton, a light brown for example, billowy pants with long matching shirts and a vest or short jacket, and a silky striped turban of the Pakistani style with one end starched to fan out, tucked in so that it stands up in front. The turban is worn over a tall, rounded cap which may have gold embroidery. Men dance barefoot or in simple sandals.
       Instruments for Baluchi music consist of sorud, also known as sarang or gaichak outside of Baluchistan, it is a skin-covered bowed instrument with a mysterious echo. Another instrument used is the rebab, which is a plucked instrument with a long, deep, skin-covered soundbox and finally the tanbire, which is a large, long, three-stringed lute similar to an Afghan tambur used as a drone instrument. The rhythm instruments can be the dohol, (large barrel drum), the tabla, or frame drum, doira.


       Gilan is a province in northern Iran which borders the Caspian Sea, inhabited by an Iranian people who speak a dialect of Persian known as Gilaki. The plush, verdant splendor of Gilan is a soothing contrast to the desert areas of the country. Gilan is known for two dances, one is called Ghasemabadi and the other is Deilamani, referring to the area. The dance by the women sometimes imitates the rice harvest for which the area is known. Women's dance done to a 6/8 meter is slow yet bouncy, often holding small colorful handkerchiefs (dastmal) in each hand and lightly shaking them while tumbling hands over one another. Hands are sometimes on the hips, when turning for example, or shaking the scarves from side to side, up and down. Women's footwork is mostly simple small steps which causes the up and down bouncing of the skirt hems. There is also a movement bending forward and shaking the scarves from side to side near the ground, gradually descending to the ground while shaking the scarves. Women also spin with skirts flaring and suddenly sit on the ground doing sweeping motions with the scarves. Movements done sitting include describing a circle on the ground with the scarves, or circling scarves overhead either both at the same time or alternating. While sitting, the women also lean forward and do sweeping movements overhead alternating one scarf and then the other.
       Clothing for women include a shawl-like headpiece draped over the head and wrapped around the front of the neck. This can be worn over a mall cap or pinned in the hair. The fabric for the shawl is a fine lace or a closely woven cotton and may have fringed and tasseled edges. The costume can include a chemise dress of woven metallic fabric or a long blouse, over a full-length flared skirt with many stripes around the hemline. These stripes may be ribbons or rick-rack sewn to the skirt. A jacket of velvet or other fabric is worn over the blouse or dress ornamented with rick-rack or some other trim on the sleeves and borders of the jacket. A wide dark scarf is sometimes worn on the waist. Music for Gilani dance can be shrill oboe, sorna, and barrel drum, dohol.
       Gilani dance, for some illogical reason, often tends to lend itself to the possibility of hip movements which are not at all in character with any authentic Eastern dance. This degrading practice should be completely avoided as well as cheapening the dance with other cutesy and sexy-oriented antics. This problem is the reason we will not even discuss Bandari dance which is a representation of the Arab peoples living in the south of Iran because their dance is perceived by many Iranians to be quite cheap and low class, not representative of the highly developed metaphysical Persian culture. It is a dance form that really should be avoided.


                      QASHQAI DANCE                                           KURDISH DANCE

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