Persian singing master Mohammad Reza Shajarian dies

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      One of Iran's national treasures has died in Tehran.

      Musical legend Mohammad Reza Shajarian, an icon of courage in his home country, was 80.

      His soaring interpretations of Sufi poetry captivated his nation and the Iranian diaspora for decades.

      “Sometimes you don’t even have to understand the lyrics, you just have to understand the voice,” Shajarian told the Straight in 2008.

      In the same article, North Vancouver musician Hosssein Behroozinia had this to say: “Shajarian is special for all Iranians, especially musicians. He knows everything about the Persian repertoire, and he knows everything about Iranian poetry. That’s why the people of Iran know him as a legendary singer.”

      In an earlier article, Georgia Straight writer Alexander Varty described what it was like for him the first time he heard Shajarian sing in 2002 at Centennial Theatre in North Vancouver.

      "Shajarian's singing that night—and on the Masters' brilliant Without You and Faryad CDs—had the remarkable quality of being simultaneously lulling and invigorating," Varty wrote. "Listening to him is like being enveloped in a velvety cloak of beauty, but the experience also demands a high degree of attentiveness, so nuanced and intricate is his phrasing.

      "I've never met a saint, and I have no idea how Shajarian conducts himself in his private life, but on that North Vancouver night the Iranian singer seemed as close to godliness as any human might get."

      Mohammad Reza Shajarian performed in this NPR Tiny Dessk Concert in 2013.

      Shajarian was also beloved by many Iranians for demanding that state-run media stop playing his songs in broadcasts and films.

      This came after the reelection of a fundamentalist president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009. That led to a violent crackdown on Green movement demonstrators who felt that the election was stolen. 

      Shajarian paid a price for speaking out. He couldn't perform live in Iran and instead sang to audiences in other countries.