Forever Under Construction

Ostad Hossein Tehrani

Posted in Iran, Music by homeyra on January 5, 2007

The tonbak was not considered a soloist instrument until the pioneering work of Ostad (Master) Hossein Tehrani in the 1950’s.

“…When I started playing on zarb, the instrument had fallen into disrepute. The zarb player was considered a low-level musician, a joke; no one dared to want to play zarb. To do so was to give up all prestige, all respect as a musician. Nonetheless, I began to play it. Love for the instrument outweighed the derision and scorn. At this time, I decided that I should change this negative view in any way possible. To this end, I practiced the zarb incessantly.” Rhythmweb



The following is an article wrote by Peyman Nasehpoor, a distinguished percussionist himself. You can read the whole text here.

“It is really hard for me to write in remembrance of the late Ostad Hossein Tehrani who is the father of modern tonbak. He changed the negative view that people had about tonbak and tonbak players.

Every musician … not only talks about his great art, but also about his kindness and his true courtesy.


He was born in 1912 in Tehran. Once that he had gone to zoorkhaneh (Persian traditional gymnasium) he felt that he loved the tonbak of the morshed, the singer and tonbak player that leads the athletes to practice martial arts … he made a hole at the end of a clay vase and covered the bigger mouth with skin and started playing his first strokes of tonbak on it.

When his father was at work, he was able to practice in a room … the neighbors complained to his father … he stopped practicing at home and started playing tonbak in the train, vagon-e-asbi … between Lalehzar crossroads and Machine-Garage at the end of the South of Tehran…


Lalehzar, 1947

… He started learning tonbak in 1929 with the late Ostad Hosain Khan Esma’ilzadeh, great master of kamancheh … he went to the classes of the great masters of his time … He even studied the style of the gypsy tonbak players, tonbaknavazan-e-doregard.

In 1938 he became acquainted with the late Ostad Abolhasan Saba … their friendship continued till to the time of the sorrowful demise of the late Ostad Saba. “… except the recitation of rhythms that I learnt from Khaleghi … what I know about the theory and practice of Persian music comes from Saba.”

In 1940 after the establishment of Radio Tehran … he collaborated with the Radio. In 1941 in the Master Course Music School under the directorship of the late Ostad Ali Naghi Vaziri … he started teaching tonbak…

… the tonbak became more popular and many wanted to learn tonbak and Ostad Tehrani … established a musical group for tonbak for the first time in Iran.

After the establishment of Iranian TV in 1958, he … accompanied Ostad Faramarz Payvar. In the first Shiraz Art Festival, 1967, he played with Ostad Payvar and was the conductor of the tonbak group …

His book Amuzesh-e-Tonbak is the most famous instructional book … Ostad Tehrani recorded some tonbak solos and accompaniments … In 1972 … he recorded his last performance, rhythms of zoorkhaneh…


He was kind, smiling, elegant, self-possessed and witty … he had lost one of his eyes while he was working in a technical workshop in his youth and … he was always wearing smoked glasses.

Unfortunately after a long indisposition, he passed away in Feb. 25th, 1974.

May he always be brought happily to mind! ” Jan. 9th, 2002, Peyman Nasehpoor


Tehrani’s page at Iran Chamber Society

Update: Dear Professor has been kind enough to write the following:

“Ustad” means teacher or master in Persian. Gave us “Usatz” in Arabic which means professor or sir/mister. Moved to Spain (subsequently Latin America) with the Arab-Islamic conquest in the form of “Usted” = ‘Dear Sir’ in Spanish with a special verbal conjugación attached to it (similar to “vous” in French).



6 Responses

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  1. Agent 99 said, on January 7, 2007 at 6:58 am

    Turns out, twenty years later, I can Google the maniac and find out what he’s up to. There never used to be any lyrics… just DRUMS!

  2. homeyra said, on January 7, 2007 at 11:27 am

    Thank you 99 🙂
    I really do envy all these guys!

  3. Sol said, on January 8, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    Salaam, linked to your article about Ostad Hossein Tehrani.

  4. homeyra said, on January 8, 2007 at 3:51 pm

    Hi Sol, as you know I have gathered all that from online materials. Thank you for you link and your visit. You have a great site and I will link to it in blogroll/Music.

  5. sharman said, on January 16, 2007 at 11:18 pm

    c’est formidable
    merci pour les graines
    j’indiquerai l’adresse de ton site a plein de gens , c’est vraiment tres bien
    a bientot

  6. homeyra said, on January 17, 2007 at 5:14 am

    Shami-Jan, ravie de te retrouver. J’espere que je te verrai souvent par ici.
    Vraiment de rien… ce n’est que des grains!
    Et merci pour l’encouragement 🙂

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