ʿABDALLĀH, MĪRZĀ (ca. 1259-1337/1843-1918), a well-known court musician and master of the setār and tār (plucked long-necked lutes). His musical repertoire (radīf) is considered to be the main source of contemporary Persian classical music as taught in conservatories and universities in Iran.

Mīrzā ʿAbdallāh was part of a family of musicians. His father, ʿAlī-Akbar Farāhānī of Arāk, came to Tehran and became a prominent court musician and performer on the tār during the reign of Moḥammad Shah and Nāṣer-al-dīn Shah (J. During, p. 142). Gobineau during his visit to Tehran about 1855-58 witnessed ʿAlī-Akbar’s performance and counted him among the great artists of the world (Gobineau, p. 441). After the early death of ʿAlī-Akbar, his nephew and student Āqā Ḡolām-Ḥosayn became his successor as a tār performer in the court. Āqā Ḡolām-Ḥosayn also became the stepfather to ʿAbdallāh and Ḥosayn-qolī, the two younger sons of ʿAlī-Akbar. ʿAbdallāh studied the tār first with his older brother Ḥasan (Ḵāleqī, I, p. 102). He and his younger brother Ḥosayn-qolī eventually studied with Ḡolām-Ḥosayn and became successful court musicians.

The students of Mīrzā ʿAbdallāh include Mahdī-qolī Hedāyat, who transcribed the radīf of another student, Mahdī Ṣolḥī. This radīf, known as “Radīf-e Montaẓam-al-ḥokamāʾ” is one of the major sources of the published Maʿrūfī radīf (Ḵāleqī, I, pp. 106-07; idem in Maǰalla, p. 19). The radīf of another student, Ebrāhīm Qahramānī, has been recorded by Nūr-ʿAlī Borūmand and used for music instruction in Tehran University. Other influential students include Sayyed Ḥosayn Ḵalīfa, Abu’l-Ḥasan Ṣabā, and Ḥāǰǰ Āqā Moḥammad Īrānī Moǰarrad. Of Mīrzā ʿAbdallāh’s four children, Aḥmad ʿEbādī is known as a master performer on setār.

Mīrzā ʿAbdallāh collected and organized the melodies of his contemporaries and added them to the radīf of his father. Colonel ʿAlī-Naqī Vazīrī transcribed this radīf, working with Mīrzā ʿAbdallāh over a period of one and a half years (Ḵāleqī, II, pp. 44-46). He freely taught this radīf to all his students, regardless of their ability. He did this in reaction to the guarded attitude of musicians toward teaching others, an attitude which he felt was endangering the Persian music tradition.

The music tradition that is taught in the National Conservatory and Tehran University has been attributed to Mīrzā ʿAbdallāh (Ḵāleqī, I, pp. 102, 442; Khatschi, p. 1; Zonis, pp. 39, 190); and also to ʿAlī-Akbar (During, p. 142; Ney-Dāvūd, interview, 1976). Mīrzā ʿAbdallāh’s radīf is the oldest documented version of the seven dastgāh system. This system, developed in the nineteenth century, is thought to be a rearrangement of the older twelve maqām system. The tradition is known by Mīrzā ʿAbdallāh’s name due to his extensive work in collecting, arranging, and teaching his radīf. The present published version of the tār radīf collected by Mūsā Maʿrūfī is based on the radīf of Mīrzā ʿAbdallāh and Āqā Ḥosayn-qolī and two of their students, Mahdī Ṣolḥī and Darvīš Ḵān (Ḵāleqī, 1340, p. 19).

Existing works of Mīrzā ʿAbdallāh include the Vazīrī transcription of the Dastgāh Čahārgāh, the radīf of Montaẓam-al-ḥokamāʾ, and the radīf of Qahramānī. “Rāk-e ʿAbdallāh,” one of the gūšas (pieces) of the Dastgāhs of Māhūr and Rāstpanǰgāh, is found in both the vocal and instrumental radīf and may be attributed to him. In addition, there are a number of recordings of his tār performance listed in the 1906 Catalogue de Disques Persans de la Companie The Gramophone and Typewriter Ltd. (pp. 3, 14, 30). Some of these recordings are still extant.


J. During, “Ēléments spirituels dans la musique traditionelle iranienne contemporaire,” Sophia Perennis 1, no. 2, Autumn 1975, pp. 129-54.

J. A. Gobineau, Trois ans en Asie, Paris, 1905.

R. Ḵāleqī, “Moḵber-al-salṭana Hedāyat: dānešmand-e mūsīqī-šenās,” Maǰalla-ye Rādīo Īrān 61, Šahrīvar 1340 Š./1961, pp. 18-19, 30.

Idem, Sargoḏašt-e mūsīqī-e Īrān I, Tehran, 1333 Š./1954; II, 1335 Š./1956.

Kh. Khatschi, Der Dastgah, Regensburg, 1962.

M. Maʿrūfī, Radīf-e haft dastgāh-e mūsīqī-e Īrānī, Tehran, 1973.

E. Zonis, Classical Persian Music, Cambridge, Mass., 1973.

(M. Caton)

Originally Published: December 15, 1982

Last Updated: July 15, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 2, pp. 177-178

Cite this entry:

M. Caton, “Abdallah, Mirza,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/2, pp. 177-178; an updated version is available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/abdallah-mirza (accessed on 21 January 2014).>