Persian Tār Master and Composer - World Jewish Congress
Persian Tār Master and Composer
Morteza Naydāvūd (1900– - 1990)

Morteza Khān Naydāvūd (1900–1990) was a renowned Persian musician, composer, and master ​​tār (plucked flute) player. Born in Tehran in 1900 to a Persian Jewish family and the son of master tombak (chalice drum) player Bālā Khān, Murtażā Khān was one of twentieth-century Iran’s most renowned masters of Persian classical music. He demonstrated musical talent at an early age, but his father initially opposed his becoming a musician and wanted to see his son follow a different path. Eventually, he began training with Ramażān Khan Ḏu’l-faqāri, a musician who had been a student of Āqā Ḥusaynqulī (1853–1916), and later with Ḡolām-Ḥosayn Darviš Khan (1872–1926), who was a famous student of Mīrzā ʿAlī Khan Ẓahīr-al-Dawla. By the time he turned twenty, Naydāvūd had become a master of the tār and a distinguished Persian classical musician. 

Naydāvūd made significant technical and compositional contributions to Persian classical music. He created a unique style of tār playing that bears his name and was renowned for his the musical styles of pīshdarāmads, chahārmiżrābs, and taṣnīfs. His compositions included the famous taṣnīf "Murgh-i Saḥar," which has long been a canonical ballad of the Persian classical songbook. He wrote most of his compositions between 1926 and 1950 and established a class to teach the Persian t​​ār and rad​​īf, the traditional repertoire of Persian classical music, naming it Darvish in honor of his master who had died in 1926. 

Aside from his technical and compositional contributions, Naydāvūd discovered and taught many famous Iranian musicians, including Ghulām-Ḥuseyn Banān and Qamar al-Mulūk Vazīrī. He also worked regularly with other legendary female figures of Persian classical music, such as Rūḥangīz, ʿIzzat Rūḥbakhsh, and Mulūk Ẓarrābī. He collaborated with Qamar al-Mulūk Vazīrī, the first woman in Iran's history to perform unveiled to a mixed audience. Together, they produced over one hundred albums, making them the most recorded artists of their time. 

Naydāvūd's technical mastery of the tār and his encyclopedic knowledge of the radīf earned him a place among the late-nineteenth-century pillars of Persian classical music. He created his own signature radīf, known as the "Naydāvūd radīf," which includes 297 gushihs of seven dastgāhs and five āvāzes. This remains the longest radīf ever recorded, totaling fifty-seven more gushihs than Mīrzā ʿAbdullāh's radīf canon. Naydāvūd recorded this epic work in the studios of Radio Iran over eighteen months, starting in 1969. He donated one complete set of the recordings to the music library of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the 1980s. The recordings were finally released for distribution by the Mahoor Institute of Culture and Art in Tehran in 2005. 

Naydāvūd joined a group of other master musicians to perform on Radio Tehran's inaugural broadcast on April 24, 1940. However, after leaving the radio in 1946, he rarely performed in public, preferring to compose and teach a select group of students. During this time, he managed Shabāhang, a radio store in Tehran that he owned in partnership with his brother-in-law. The store was a popular destination for music lovers and musicians alike, and it became a hub for discussions about traditional Persian music. 

F1 morteza naydavud 1900 1990
Dawood's family at the end of the Qajar period Standing at the top from the right of the first person is Morteza Khan Ni Dawood

In addition to managing the store, he taught a small number of dedicated students, including his daughter, Maryam, who became a well-known musician in her own right. Naydāvūd was known for his strict teaching style and emphasis on traditional techniques, and his students were expected to practice for many hours each day. 

Naydāvūd's compositions and performances are considered to be some of the most important works in the history of Persian classical music. He was known for his innovative approach to the santur, a hammered dulcimer-like musical instrument, and he developed a number of new techniques that are still used by musicians today. Despite his devotion to Persian music, Naydāvūd moved to San Francisco after the Islamic Revolution (1979). Naydāvūd lived a modest life in America, remaining dedicated to his craft until his death in 1990 at the age of 84. (same question as above about age/birth year)  

  • Dehkordi, Morteżā Ḥoseyni. "NEY-DĀWUD, Morteżā". Encyclopaedia Iranica, 2005.
  • Sarshar, Houman. “Naydāvūd, Murtażā Khān”. Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World, edited by Norman A. Stillman, Brill Online, 2010. doi:10.1163/1878-9781_ejiw_SIM_0015750.
  • Sarshar, Houman, editor. Esther’s Children: A Portrait of Iranian Jews. Jewish Publication Society, 2002.
  • "NEY-DAVUD: Master of Persian music" (23 July 2005), BBC Persian, accessed 15 March 2023,
About Iran

In the ancient heart of Persia, the history of Iranian Jews unfolded. From Cyrus the Great, who freed Jews from Babylonian captivity in 539 BCE, to the thriving communities of the 20th century, Iranian Jews have been integral to Iran's fabric.

Read more on Iran