Persian Music Podcast from the Smithsonian

A Podcast Master of Persian Music: Hossein Alizadeh with tar and sitar.

Listen to a podcast from the Freer Gallery at the Smithsonian featuring the ancient improvisational tradition of Persian classical music played masterfully by one of Iran’s greatest musical legends. Hossein Alizadeh is a two-time Grammy nominee, once for his solo album Endless Vision and again as a member of the Masters of Persian Music ensemble, with which he has toured internationally.

Also an award-winning composer, Alizadeh wrote the music for such highly regarded Iranian films as Gabbeh, Turtles Can Fly, and A Time for Drunken Horses. This live performance was recorded in the Meyer Auditorium at the Smithsonian on May 30, 2002.  You can listen to or download the podcast and see more background information and additional related images from the Freer Gallery of Art here.

This sixteenth-century painting from Iran depicts an allegorical court scene with musicians playing the setar and doira, or frame drum. The image is part of a mystical treatise known as the “Effulgences [radiant splendors] of Light.”

Detail, Lawa’ih (Effulgences of Light), Mir ‘Ali, d. 1556; Nawwab Durmish Khan, Safavid period (ca. 1521-1525); opaque watercolor, ink, and gold on paper (origin: possibly Herat, Iran). Purchase, Smithsonian Unrestricted Trust Funds, Smithsonian Collections Acquisition Program, and Dr. Arthur M. Sackler. S1986.38


According to legend, the fifth-century king Bahram Gur had seven castles, each painted a different color and housing a different royal mistress. In some Persian paintings, each castle is also provided a different music ensemble for the king and his princess to enjoy. This sixteenth-century painting depicts his turquoise-blue pavilion with a duo of musicians on setar and doira.


Detail, Folio from a Khamsa (Quintet) by Nizami; recto: Bahram Gur in the turquoise-blue pavilion; verso: text; Murshid al-Shirazi; Safavid period, 1548; ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper; origin: Shiraz, Fars, Iran. Gift of Charles Lang Freer. F1908.275a-b


Support TeachMideast

Make a Donation

Your generous contributions help make TeachMideast, and our efforts to educate and provide high-quality information on the Middle East and North Africa, a reality. Help support the students and educators in your community by clicking the button below.

Scroll to Top