Located in the heart of the mountain ranges of Zagos, the province of Kermanshah testifies to the long history of Persia. Accompanied by many wars, battles, and reconstructions, the history of its capital, also called Kermanshah, begins according to some historians at the time of the reign of Bahram IV, Sassanid emperor.

Located in the heart of the mountain ranges of Zagos, the province of Kermanshah testifies to the long history of Persia. Accompanied by many wars, battles, and reconstructions, the history of its capital, also called Kermanshah, begins according to some historians at the time of the reign of Bahram IV, Sassanid emperor. Considering the Sasanian king as the founder of the city, these researchers link the origin of the name of the city to this sovereign, who would have had Kermanshah for pseudonym. However, more recent etymological studies have enriched the hypotheses about the origin of this name. According to Mir Jalal al-Din Kazzazi, professor of Persian language and literature, Kermanshah is a variation of the word Kerminshan. This last appears in the parts concerning the creation of Bundahishn, set of cosmogonic texts written in Pehlevi. Based on the fact that the Bundahishn speaks of a place called Sephadhan Kerminshan where is the holy mountain of Bisotun, Kazzazi says that Bisotun was in ancient times called Sephadhan or Kerminshan. Kerminshan would have progressively transformed himself into Kermanshahan; popular usage being then at the origin of the appearance of the word Kermanshah. Other scholars like Mehrdad Bahar and the authors of the article "Kermanshah and a historical misunderstanding" [1], are of the opinion that the word is composed of two parts, "gar" which means mountain, and "mashan", one of the forms of the word "mihan" (country) meaning place and place. Thus, the word Kermanshahan would mean "the mountainous land", while that of Kermanshah stricto sensu would be devoid of historical depth.

The tanbur


On the other hand, Bisotun, who appears to be the equivalent of Tagh-e Bostan in Bundahishn, is composed of "bogh" and "setan", meaning the place of the gods. The German archaeologist Ernest Herzfeld also considers Tagh-e Bostan as a place of worship of Anahita. The mountains are also a sacred figure in the culture of the Kermanshahan region where music, influenced by Sufism, appears as a song of the heavenly kingdoms. The importance of this art in the Kurdish culture before the entry of Islam appears on the bas-reliefs of Tagh-e Bostan where musicians who play during the hunting of the Sassanid king are seen. Kurdish music is divided into two main groups:

Ancient music includes modes (magham) such as hureh, mureh, lureh, siyah tchamaneh, tchubi ... This group is composed of traditional songs consisting of verses in ten syllables. In this group, a ritual, elegiac and biographical category is described as "real", while a category covering the lyrics is called "virtual".
Contemporary music, comprising such modes as magham-e samad-e latchaki, lagham-e Allah Veiysi, lagham-e kutcheh baghi, magham-e samad-e mesgari, consists essentially of verses with syllabic meters.

The daf and the tanbur

In Kermanshah, the main musical instruments used are:

The tanbur

In his book Ketab al-Musiqia al-Labir (Great Book of Music), Farabi evokes two kinds of tanbur, namely the tanbur of Khorassan and the tanbur of Baghdad. A two-string musical instrument, the tanbur has a larger sound box than the setar. This case and the handle of the instrument are usually made with apricot wood. Counting 12-13 intervals, the tanbur covers an octave. Mid-intervals are the smallest units of the tanbur that is tuned either to the fourth or the fifth. In order to play tanbur, one generally uses the four fingers of the right hand, but never the five fingers. Endowed with an aura of sacredness in Kermanshah, this musical instrument is embraced by the musician before and after the recital.

The tanbur is at the origin of a singular sound that distinguishes it from other musical instruments played at Kermanshah. Appeared before the entry of Islam into Iran, tanbur creates a rhythm and a melody evoking the radives of ancient Iranian music. The melodies played by this musical instrument are divided into three main categories:

  1. Kalam. Comprising 72 magham, kalam is characterized by unbridled rhythms.
  2. The magham-e majlessi. Characterized by a singing melody, the magham-e majlessi also includes the hureh.
  3. The magham-e majazi (virtual). More recent than the two previous magham, the magham-e majazi is considered inferior to them.

Among the songs accompanying tanbur are:

The tarz. There are three kinds of tarz, namely tarz-e majnouni¸ tarz-e Rostam, tarz-e razmi (fighting tarz), and tarz-e kalam.

The hureh. Wanting the oldest Iranian song, the hureh is based on a free rhythm. It includes the regions of Guran, Sandjabi, Falkhani, and Kalhor. Including Maghams such as ban benei, baniri jareh, gharibi, ghatar, gol o dare, hejrani, hey hayeh, pav muri, sahari, and sarroukhani, the houreh also includes the lullaby of the mothers, as well as the songs sung at the time of the cattle trade. Below is an example of the lullabies sung in Kermanshah:

The va lav kam arai ya tefle

Samal bsano zanjirai zulfi

The va kam la evarava

Zarai zanyi tet the gavarava

Lava lava kam lavam vamaza

Balesi sari bet the qaza

(I sing the lullaby for a child whose

The north wind caresses the hair

I sing the lullaby when the sun sets

While hears the ringing of the bell of its cradle

I sing the lullaby for a child whose

The mattress is filled with goose feathers.)

After the appearance of Sufism in areas where the majority of Kurds lived, the hureh, now accompanied by din, is presented by Sunnis and followers of Qadirriya, they attributed to it an almost mystical dimension. In addition, Kurdish fighters sang this song at the time of the war.


The road to the temple of Bibi Shahrbanou


The Siyah Chamanh. One of the oldest modes of the Kermanshah region, the Siyah Chamanh, is understood in particular in Paveh and Uramanat. The verses composing this song are all in hawrami dialect. It includes various vocal compositions sung only by the great indigenous singers. Moving away from all acclaim and euphoria, this song strives to "take" to the heart. After the appearance of Sufism, and especially of the Naqshbandi branch in regions like Uraman and Djavanrud, the Siyah Chamanh gradually took on a mystical aspect. The followers of the Naqshbandi consider it a Sufi song intended to be chanted during wakes or mourning ceremonies.

The beyt khani (verse recitation) or gurani. Accompanied by the applause of the singers, the beyt khani is characterized by a particular rhythm played in Guran and Djavanrud with the shemshal (wind musical instrument), and in Kalayi with the daf and the doney. Relying on the rhythm of the applause that accompanies it, the recitation of the verses is carried out in certain regions of Guran without any musical instrument.

The music of dance. As a prelude to bravery and combat, Kurdish dance proposes to come closer to a state of unity. Hand in hand, the dancers perform the same steps on the same line, giving a very orderly appearance to the dance. The different types of dance at Kermanshah are djabi, larzaneh, fattah peshshyi, khanmiri, ghalayi, gueryanh, and sejalu. Musical instruments such as dohol, sorna, dozaleh and shemshal are at the origin of Kurdish dance music.


British military stationed in Iran


The daf: As respected as the tanbur, the daf means Kurdistan rather than Kermanshahan.

The sorna: Known as Saz in Kermanshah, the sorna is a wind musical instrument used in both wedding and mourning ceremonies. Most of the Magham traditional Kurdish dance, as well as songs such as Sahari, Savar Savar and Chagari are played with a sorna.

The dozaleh (doney): Composed of two ney knotted to one another, this instrument appears both at wedding ceremonies than those of mourning. It is also used at the time of the recitation of the verses (Beyt khani).

Shemshal: Wind musical instrument, shemshal is the instrument of choice for shepherds.

The narmeh ney: Known as the baslaban among the Kurds and dudak among the Armenians, the narmeh ney is no longer played in Kurdistan but in Kermanshah. Made from wood, this musical instrument has a wide reed that allows it to produce the sweetest sounds.

The dohol: Musical percussion instrument, the dohol is played in most parts of Kermanshah with the sorna.

The drum (war drum): Made of two boxes of metal resonance, the task is part of percussion musical instruments that was played in the past by the nomads at the time of the war. He gets along today in the convents where he is played while accompanying the daf.

Among the great figures of Kermanshah's music are:

A'zam Manhubi: Born in 1921 in Tutshami, village of Guran, he is the grandson of Sorkhab Tut Shami, founder in Tabriz of the monastery of Yarsanisme (Ahl-e Hagh). His father played skilfully tanbur, and his uncle Kadar Manhubi, known for his remarkable voice, was an undisputed master of tanbur. It is from these great masters that A'zam learns tanbur from his childhood. This musician is today among the great players of tanbur, and has trained himself many musicians.

Nam Khas Sayyadi: Born in 1950 in Guran, he learned the dohol of his older brother, Ali Veys, who is also one of the great players of sorna. Mastering some original techniques, he stands out as one of the great dohol players in the region.

Tehran Conference, Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill, Tehran, 1943


Ali Karami Nejad (Hadji Tuti): He was born in 1920 in the village of Gol-va-dare of Sandjabi. From his adolescence, he is noticed for his soft voice and learns music from the master Darakhan, great singer of hureh and gurani. Among the contemporary Kurdish singers, he is most renowned for his hureh.

Tasavvor Mohammadi: Born in 1926 in Ghalkhani de Guran, he is one of the greatest players of sorna, dozaleh, and shemshal.

Ali Akbar Moradi: Ali came to the world in 1336 in Guran, Ali Akbar Moradi learned from his childhood to play tanbur. Pupil of renowned masters like Ali Akbar Darvishi, Seyyed Vali Hosseyni, Seyyed Mahmud Halabi and Seyyed Mehdi Kaffashiyan, he learned in the early 1970s traditional musical instruments and theories of music from the famous Kurdish musician Keykhosro Pournazeri. In 1979, he became the soloist of the group Shams under the direction of Pournazeri. Moradi is known today as one of the emeritus players of tanbur, whose melody bears witness to his particular style called shiveh-ye Moradi ("the method / manner Moradi").

Seyyed Naser Yadegari:In 1941, he was born into a family whose members wanted to be great tanbur soloists. Naser learns the tanbur of his uncle, Seyyed Fattah, true master of this musical instrument. Having a beautiful voice, he also sings all the maghams of the tanbur of Kermanshah. His very personal song is reminiscent of traditional Iranian songs.

Seyyed Avaz Ghazvinei: He was born in 1908 in Ghazvineh, a village in the Kangavar region. The art of tanbur being a legacy in his family, the melodies played by Avaz are considered to belong to the heritage of Kurdish music. It is under the direction of his older brother, Naser-al-din Jeyhun Abaddi (Kurdish mystic), and Seyyed Baba Hosseini that he learns to play tanbur. He is also the inventor of a singular type of tarz.

Agha Seyyed Amrollah Shah Ebrahimi: Excellent tanbur player from the Sahneh region, he was trained with many musicians. It is also thanks to his work that this musical instrument has been increasingly recognized in contemporary Iran. In 1974, he founded the first group of tanbur players in Sahneh. In 1975, this group gave a recital at Rudaki Hall. From now on, this group plays in Isfahan the songs of Agha Seyyed Amrollah, with songs based on the ghazals of Djalal-al-din Rumi and Fakhr-al-din Iraqi.