DAWĀMĪ, ʿABD-ALLĀH (b. Ṭā near Tafreš, 1309/1891; d. Tehran, 20 Dey 1359 Š./10 January 1981), a master of classical Persian vocal music with a perfect command of the radīf (repertoire), as well as a gifted player of the Persian drum (tonbak) and a virtuoso of rhythmic (żarbī) pieces and songs (taṣnīf). His father, Abu’l-Qāsem, was a performer in taʿzīa (the Shiʿite passion play) and a singer. Dawāmī received his early education from the village mullas. At the age of nine years he went to Tehran, where he studied at the Tarbīat school. After his graduation in 1325/1907 he was hired by the Ministry of post and telegraphs (Wezārat-e post o telegrāf) but was dismissed seven years later, in 1332/1914, because he had taken unauthorized leave to accompany Darvīš Khan (q.v.) to Europe in order to produce musical recordings. After his return to Persia he went to work in the Ministry of finance (Wezārat-e dārāʾī), where he remained until his retirement in 1323 Š./1944 (ʿAskarī; Loṭfī, p. 10; Wayszāda, 1356 Š./1977a; Mašḥūn, p. 47).
Dawāmī did not receive a systematic musical education; rather he learned melodies at first hearing and continued practicing until he could sing them perfectly (Ḵāleqī, p. 409). He was introduced to the social circles of Tehran by Rokn-al-Dīn Moḵtār, a fellow student at the Tarbīat school and a skilled musician, who admired his singing. In this new milieu Dawāmī met the prominent singer ʿAlī Khan Nāyeb-al-Salṭana, with whom he studied for three years (ʿAskarī; Loṭfī, pp. 10-11; Wayszāda, 1356 Š./1977a). It was also through his association with Moḵtār that he met all the great musicians of the period, including Darvīš Khan, who, impressed by Dawāmī’s skill in singing and playing the Persian drum, invited him to join his orchestra, which included the master vocalist Sayyed Ḥosayn Ṭāherzāda, as well as Mošīr Homāyūn Ḥabīb-Allāh Šahrdār (Wayszāda, 1356 Š./1977a).
In 1332/1914, in response to an offer from the Baidaphon company in Germany, Darvīš Khan, Dawāmī, and several other musicians left for Berlin, planning to travel via Russia. Owing to the outbreak of World War I, however, they were forced to stop in Tiflis, where they produced a few recordings, which they sent to Berlin. One of these recordings, of which a copy is kept in the archives of Radio Iran, is a song by ʿĀref (q.v.; Wayszāda, 1356 Š./1977a).
Dawāmī remained actively involved in music, collaborating with Darvīš Khan and Ṭāherzāda, until the coup d’état of 1299/1921 (q.v.), when he decided to withdraw from the musical scene. The reason he gave for such an early retirement was his fear that, because musicians were at that time not appreciated as artists in Persia, his public involvement in music could jeopardize his career at the ministry. He later refused an offer to join Radio Tehran (Wayszāda, 1356 Š./1977a). The real reason, however, may have been his voice, which was not much appreciated by the public and had already earned him the nickname ʿAbd-Allāh Do-dāng (ʿAbd-Allāh Two Notes; Šahrdār, p. 39) because of its narrow range.
In the 1950s-70s Dawāmī once again returned to the musical mainstream and made an important contribution by training outstanding students and recording the radīfs and gūšas of traditional Persian music. In 1330 Š./1951 the Department of fine arts (Edāra-ye koll-e honarhā-ye zībā) initiated evening music classes under the direction of Moḵtār, who invited Dawāmī to teach singing. In 1350 Š./1971 Dawāmī recorded his repertoire of radīfs on six tapes, running a total of three hours, for the Ministry of culture and fine arts (Wezārat-e farhang o honar). In 1354 Š./1975 he accepted an offer from the Center for preservation and dissemination of Persian music (Markaz-e ḥefẓ o ešāʿa-ye mūsˊīqī-e īrānī) to teach singing, which he continued to do until his death. He was also asked by the Center to record any early song that he could remember. His former student the renowned vocalist Moḥammad-Reżā Šajarīān was assigned to supervise the recording sessions, which took place during 1356-57 Š./1977-78, but the tapes were never delivered to the Center. Furthermore, Šajarīān recorded, and now has in his possession, close to 140 taṣnīfs sung by Dawāmī (Šajarīān, pp. 161-64).
Among the other notable students trained by Dawāmī are Maḥmūd Karīmī, Marżīya, Ḵāṭera Parvāna, Parīsā, Ḥosayn ʿAlīzāda, Parvīz Meškātīān, and Nūr-al-Dīn Rażawī Sarvestānī (Loṭfī, p. 13; Wayszāda, 1356a; Šajarīān, pp. 156-57).
Ḥ. ʿAskarī, personal interview, 1370 Š./1991.
Š. Behrūzī, Čehrahā-ye mūsīqī-e Īrān I, Tehran, 1367 Š./1988, pp. 360-68.
J. During and Z. Abdolbaghi, The Art of Persian Music, Washington, D.C., 1991, pp. 38, 175, 219-21.
R. Ḵāleqī, Sargoḏašt-e mūsīqī-e Īrān I, Tehran, 1333 Š./1954.
M.-R. Loṭfī, Mūsīqī-e āvāzī-e Īrān (Dastgāh-e šūr). Radīf-e Ostād ʿAbd-Allāh Dawāmī, Tehran, 1354 Š./1975.
Ḥ. Mašḥūn, “Naẓar-ī be mūsīqī-e żarbī-e Īrān” in Sāzmān-e jašn-e honar, Do maqāla dar bāra-ye mūsīqī-e Īrān, Shiraz, 1348 Š./1969, pp. 3-54.
Ḥ. Naṣīrīfar, Mardān-e mūsīqī-e sonnatī wa novīn-e Īrān I, Tehran, 1369 Š./1370.
ʿA. Šaʿbānī, Šenāsāʾī-e mūsīqī-e Īrān, Tehran, 1351 Š./1972, pp. 187-88.
Ḥ. Mošīr Homāyūn Šahrdār, “Pīānū dar mūsīqī-e Īrān,” in Moḥammad-ʿAli Amir-Jāhed, ed., Dīvān-e Amˊīr Jāhed I, Tehran, 1333 Š./1954, p. 33.
M.-R. Šajarīān, “Dar kenār-e Ostād Dawāmī,” Kelk 22, 1370 Š./1991, pp. 156-64.
S. Sepantā, Čašmandāz-e mūsīqī-e Īrān, Tehran, 1356 Š./1977.
Idem, Tārīḵ-e taḥawwol-e żabṭ-e mūsīqī dar Īrān, Isfahan, 1366 Š./1987.
S. Wayszāda, “Mūsīqī-e īrānī be kojā mīravad? Goftogū bā Ostād ʿAbd-Allāh Dawāmī pedar-e āvāz-e Īrān,” Eṭṭelāʿāt, 6 Dey 1356 Š./27 December 1977a, p. 21.
Idem, “Emkān-e talfīq-e šeʿr-e now wa mūsīqī-e īrānī. Goftogū bā Ostād ʿAbd-Allāh Dawāmī,” Eṭṭelāʿāt, 8 Dey 1356 Š./29 December 1977b, pp. 21, 25.
Originally Published: December 15, 1994
Last Updated: November 18, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. VII, Fasc. 2, pp. 136-137