KĀŠI, MUSĀ KHAN (also known as “Kāšāni”; b. Kashan, 1856; d. Kashan, 1939), Jewish master of Persian classical music, teacher, and innovative kamānča player also known for his mellow singing voice. He received the honorific title of khan from Masʿud Mirzā Žell-al-Solṭān (1850-1919), son of Nāṣer-al-Din Shah Qājār (r. 1848-96) and governor of Isfahan, in whose court he served as a musician for nearly twenty years.  

The most notable pupil of Musā Khan was Bāqer Khan Rāmešgar, who studied with him in Isfahan and became one of the 20th century’s master kamānča players and the earliest recorded musician of that instrument in Persia (Sepantā, pp. 102-3). A taṣnif in the Māhur mode (dastgāh), known only to Rāmešgar in his days, reportedly dated back to the Safavid era and was taught to him by Musā Khan. Yusof Khan and Solaymān Kāšāni were two other acclaimed students of Musā Khan (Mašḥun, pp. 451, 540-41; During, 1984, p. 81). Subsequent to his stay in Isfahan, Musā Khan moved to the court of Jalāl-al-Dawla Qājār, the governor of Yazd (Levi, III, p. 437). Soon after his arrival, he used his close connection with the governor to help abolish the required wearing of the Jewish patch (yahudāna or vāla-ye juhudi [johudi]) in Yazd. After Yazd, Musā Khan went to Tehran at the invitation of Nāṣer-al-Din Shah to perform in his court (Sarshar, p. 144, figs. 671, 672). 

Musā Khan was famous for his innovative introduction of the six-stringed kamānča, a traditionally three-stringed instrument that took on its now requisite fourth string in the mid-19th century. Musā Khan’s six-stringed kamānča did not prove a lasting tradition among later kamāča players, but Bāqer Khan was known to use one (Ḵāleqi, I, pp. 66, 69-71, 318; Chaouli, 2002, pp. 138-40; During, p. 77; Setāyešgar, II, pp. 279-80). Photographs of Bāqer Khan during his London tour with Darviš Khan and others in 1909 show that Bāqer Khan was playing a six-stringed kamānča in recordings during this trip (Kinnear, pp. 10-11, 14).  



Alain Chaouli, “Les Musiciens juifs en Iran aux XIXe et XXe siècles et leur contribution à la sauvegarde du patrimoine musical iranien,” Ph.D. diss., Université Paris III, Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris, 2002.

Idem, Les Musiciens juifs en Iran aux XIXe et XXe siècles, Paris, 2006.

Jean During, La Musique iranienne: Tradition et évolution, Paris, 1984.

Ruḥ-Allāh Ḵāleqi, Sargoḏašt-e musiqi-e Irān, 3 vols., Tehran, 1998.

Michael Kinnear, The Gramophone Company’s Persian Recordings: 1899 to 1934, Victoria, 2000.

Ḥabib Levi, Tāriḵ-e yahud-e Irān, 3 vols., Tehran, 1960.

Ḥasan Mašḥun, Tāriḵ-e musiqi-e Irān, Tehran, 2001.

Houman Sarshar, Esther’s Children: A Portrait of Iranian Jews, Los Angeles, 2002.

Sāsān Sepantā, Čašmandāz-e musiqi-e Irān, new ed., Tehran, 2004.

Mehdi Setāyešgar, Vāža-nāma-ye musiqi-e Irān-zamin/Lexique de la musique Iranienne, 2 vols., Tehran, 1975.

(Houman Sarshar)

Originally Published: May 1, 2012

Last Updated: May 15, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. XVI, Fasc. 1, p. 67-68