ADIB ḴᵛĀNSARI, Esmāʿil, a major vocalist of Persia in the first half of 20th century (b. Ḵᵛānsār, 1280 Š./1901; d. Tehran, 1361 Š./1982). His father, Mirzā Maḥmud Ḵᵛānsāri was a cleric but earned his living through copying manuscripts as well as from his inherited farmland. He was interested in the arts, especially calligraphy, and was particularly skilled in the nastaʿliq script (Behruzi, p. 456).
Adib lived in his birthplace of Ḵᵛānsār until the age of eighteen. His early education was at a traditional school (maktab), where he was introduced to the basics of Persian literature and Islamic jurisprudence (feqh). Because of his good voice, Adib also worked as a moʾazzen (caller to prayer at a mosque). His first instructor in music was ʿAndalib Golpāyagāni, a friend of his father, who, noticing Adib’s singing talent, encouraged him and trained him in private without the knowledge of his father, since it was believed to be unbecoming of the son of a cleric to practice singing. Adib’s vocal skills greatly improved with ʿAndalib’s training d, but ʿAndalib’s expertise soon proved to be too limited to satisfy Adib, who had already mastered everything that ʿAndalib had to offer and was very eager for progress (Adib Ḵᵛānsāri, quoted in Behruzi, pp. 456-57; Taqiān, p. 3).
At the age of eighteen and against his father’s wishes, Adib went to Isfahan to study with the leading musicians of that city. For two years he worked under the tutelage of the well-known singer Sayyed Raḥim Eṣfahāni, the great ney (reed-flute) player Nāyeb Asad-Allāh Nāʾi, and other master musicians of Isfahan. During this period, Adib studied the modes (dastgāh) and melodies (guša) of Persian music and perfected his vocal skills. He also travelled to the Baḵtiāri region and studied the folk songs and music of this Lor tribe, the traces of which is noticeable in his later singings.
Adib moved to Tehran in 1924 in order to study the fine points of the musical traditions of the capital. There, with the help and guidance of Abu’l-Ḥasan Ṣabā and Reżā Maḥjubi, he was introduced to the master kamānča (a spiked fiddle) player Ḥosayn Khan Esmāʿilzāda (q.v.), whose home was frequented by the leading musicians of the time. In his workshop, Adib learned the repertoire (radif) of Persian music in the tradition of Tehran and also benefited a great deal from meeting such master musicians as Ḥabib Samāʿi, ʿAli-Akbar Khan Šahnāzi, ʿAbd-al-Ḥosayn Šahnāzi, Ḡolām-Ḥosayn Darviš Khan, Mortażā Maḥjubi, and Mortażā Ney-Dāwud. Moreover, he also learned how to play the setār (a four stringed lute) and the piano (Behruzi, p. 458).
Adib started recording his singing on phonograph records in 1926), among which are those in the following modes: Šuštari Manṣuri (Homāyun), Šur, Ḥosayni (Šur), Afšāri, Maṯnawi-e pič (Afšāri), Navā, Bayāt-e Tork, Dašti, Šekasta (Bayāt-e Eṣfahān), Zābol (Segāh), Ḥeṣār wa Moḵālef (Segāh), Bidād (Homāyun), and Šāh-ḵatāʾi (Navā; Fardi). In these records, Adib’s style of singing is the traditional one that he had learned from the beginning, but around 1945 when he started working with the National Musical Society (Anjoman-e musiqi-e melli), his singing style improved in its charm, his voice mellowed, and his long traditional yodelling (taḥrir) became more low-pitched and masculine, all probably under the influence of ʿAli-Naqi Vaziri. His singing of the Baḵtiāri nomadic song l Šolayl, performed at a concert of the National Musical Society, attracted a lot of attention (Sepantā, p. 213).
Adib’s contribution to the radio program Golhā, include two performances titled Barg-e sabz 36 and Barg-e sabz 40, which demonstrate his masterful artistry and are considered among the representatives of the contemporary Persian vocal music at its highest level. Some of his later performances, accompanied by Ebrāhim Sarḵoš on the tār (a six-stringed fretted lute) were gathered in a set of three audio CDs and published in 2001 (performances in the modes Šur, Abu ʿAṭā, Bayāt-e Tork, Afšāri, Homāyun, Segāh, Čahārgāh, Bayāt-e Eṣfahān, Māhur, Dašti, and Navā). Most of Adib’s surviving works consist of his singing at an advanced age, and, therefore, despite their inherent exquisite beauty and charm, they cannot truly represent the range of his artistic proficiency. During 1954, when he was at the peak of his art, accompanied by Mehdi Ḵāledi on the violin, he recorded fifteen performances that were scheduled to be gradually broadcast on the radio, but these tapes were all erased during the tenure of Mošir Homāyun Šahrdār as the head of the music department of the radio (Behruzi, p. 461).
Adib’s singing style had its own characteristics. His songs often present a combination of fine points in the styles of Isfahan and Tehran. His yodelings were fluent and became more measured in its variation, while his tones tended closer to a man’s natural voice. Unlike the singers of the Qajar period, who muddled the poems they used in their singings, Adib sang every poem eloquently and with accurate pronunciation. Due to the deep understanding that he had of Persian poetry, he was very successful in his choice of poems and in imparting their meanings to his audiences/listeners. Another characteristic of his style was that he reduced the unnecessary vocal embellishments so that only the words of the poems were heard. Another noteworthy characteristic of his songs is the low-pitched tone in his voice, which gave his singing a unique quality. The singers of the late Qajar period had all sung in a high-pitched voice; Adib was the first one to change the trend and provide a model for later vocalists such as Ḡolām-Ḥosayn Banān.
Šāpur Behruzi, Čehrahā-ye musiqi-e Irān, Tehran, 1993, pp. 453-61.
Moʾassasa-ye farhangi o honari Māhur, Musiqi-e āvāzi-e Irān: āvāzhā-ye Adib Ḵᵛānsāri, 3 audio CDs, Tehran, 2001.
Sāsān Sepantā, Čašmandāz-e musiqi-e Irān, Tehran, 1990, pp. 213-14.
(Morteżā Ḥoseyni Dehkordi and EIr)
Originally Published: July 20, 2005
Last Updated: July 22, 2011