Introduction to Persian Radif

By Idin Samimi Mofakham

Radif is a system that reflects Persian culture, literature, philosophy and aesthetics. In short, this system is a complex network of melodic structures called Gusheh (plural Gusheh-hā), organized into twelve groups arranged according to their modal relationships; each group is called a Dastgāh (plural Dastgāh-hā), and each Dastgāh has its own tonal space, and the network that connects them is called Radif.

Here is the list of twelve Dastgāh-hā:

The modal structure of some of these Dastgāh-hā is so similar that one can put them into one larger category. It is essential to know that many theoreticians consider the Radif system as seven major Dastgāh and five subgroups called Āvāz (plural Āvāz-hā). If this would be the case, the version of the mentioned above list in this format would be :

Both grouping systems are correct and cause no problems in our general understanding of the Radif system.

The crucial content of the tuning/intonation and the analytical/theoretical structures of the Radif of Iranian music for this project is mainly based on the book The Dastgah Concept in Persian Music. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 1990), written by Professor Hormoz Farhat (1928 – 2021). Therefore, we have oriented ourselves on Farhat's grouping system, presented at the top of this page (twelve Dastgāh-hā). However, in order to gain a more comprehensive insight into this topic, this book was not the only source of inspiration and learning for this project. Among other sources, two important books, both existing only in Farsi, by great Iranian artists of different generations, Ruhollah Khaleqi (1906-1965) and Hossein Alizadeh (b. 1952), were used for the theoretical aspects of the introduction to each Dastgāh and the hints sections.