KEREŠMA, a musical term denoting a melodic unit (guša), or a metric section within a guša, based on any modal system (dastgāh). The Persian word kerešma literally means “wink, nod, glance, looking languishingly through half-shut eyes, an amorous gesture or blandishment, coquetry” (Steingass, p. 1023). A musical kerešma is normally sung with a verse composed in the poetic meter mojtaṯṯ-e moṯamman-e maḵbun-e maḥḏuf (cf. the Arabic pattern mafāʿelon faʿelāton mafāʿelon faʿelon ᴗ – ᴗ – ᴗ ᴗ – – / ᴗ – ᴗ – ᴗ ᴗ –; see ʿARUŻ). Its distinctive musical rhythm matches the poetic meter with a regular alternation of two beat and three beat units that can be represented in musical notation as a hemiola with a measure of 6/8 (two beats, each equal to three eighth notes) followed by a measure of 3/4 (three beats, each equal to two eighth notes):

meter: 6/8 3/4   6/8 3/4
beats: 1 2 1 2 3   1 2 1 2 (3)
durations: ᴗ – ᴗ – ᴗ ᴗ / ᴗ – ᴗ – ᴗ ᴗ (–)

The Boḥur al-alḥān of Mirzā Moḥammad-Naṣir Forṣat Širāzi (1855-1920) includes a table of gušas (pp. 34-37), where a guša called kerešma is only found in the dastgāhs of Čahārgah, Segāh, and Šur. But Mirzā Moḥammad also describes kerešma as a naḡma (here a synonym for guša) that “may be brought to [every dastgāh] as an addition” and that “it is in the style of reng consisting of the meter tanan tanan tan tan tan” (p. 32). In Dāryuš Ṭalāʾi’s transcription of the radif of Mirzā ʿAbd-Allāh (1843-1918), we find a guša designated kerešma in several dastgāhs such asŠur, Māhur, Segāh, Čahārgāh, and Navā. Some dastgāhs have more than one kerešma: for example, Māhur has kerešma-ye rāk in addition to the kerešma proper, and Segāh and Čahārgāh have kerešma and kerešma bā muya.

A metric section that bears the distinctive hemiola rhythm in the radif may be called kerešma. Hormoz Farhat (pp. 109-10) classifies kerešma as a tekka (a small or short piece), and states that it is played in every dastgāh. He gives examples of kerešma in ten different modes: Šur, Segāh, Čahārgāh, Navā, Homāyun, Bayāt-e Tork (cf. bayāt[i]), Bayāt-e Eṣfahān, guša-ye Ḥesār-e Segāh, guša-ye Maqlub-e Čahārgāh, and guša-ye ʿArāq-e Rāst-panjgāh.

Kerešma is the most commonly performed tekka, and its distinctive meter serves to set off the rather heavy and serious texture of the non-metric āvāz with relaxation and diversion (Tsuge, p. 297). The meter of kerešma sounds sad (ḡamangiz) to Persians, and it is no exaggeration to say that kerešma is one of the most “Persian” rhythms.

The Persian word kerešma seems to have entered Turkic languages through Persian poetry (Doerfer, III, pp. 590-91, sec. 1627 “karašma”). The Uyghur word kirişma is derived from kiriş “to start, to set about, to interlock” (Schwarz, p. 728) and designates an opening piece (kirişma muzikisi; cf. Ahmidi, p. 25).


Ämätjan Axmidi, Uyġur muqamliri toġrisida, Ürümqi, 1992.

Gerhard Doerfer, Türkische und Mongolische Elemente im Neupersischen, 4 vols., Wiesbaden, 1963-75.

Hormoz Farhat, The Dastgah Concept in Persian Music, Cambridge, 1990.

Moḥammad-Naṣir Forṣat Širāzi (Forṣat-al-Dawla), Boḥur al-alḥān dar ʿelm-e musiqi va nesbat-e ān bā ʿaruż, Bombay, 1914; repr. with commentary by ʿAli Zarrin-Qalam, Tehran, 1967.

Henry G. Schwarz, An Uyghur-English Dictionary, Bellingham, Wash., 1992.

F. Steingass, A Comprehensive Persian-English Dictionary, Beirut, 1892.

Dāryuš Ṭalāʾi, Radif-e Mirzā ʿAbd-Allāh: Not nevisi-e āmuzeši o taḥlili, Tehran, 1997.

G. Tsuge, “Āvāz: A Study of the Rhythmic Aspects in Classical Iranian Music,” Ph.D. diss., Wesleyan University, 1974.


Originally Published online: September 9, 2016

Archived version from the previous EIr. online edition.


(Gen’ichi Tsuge)

Originally Published: June 15, 2017

Last Updated: June 15, 2017

This article is available in print.
Vol. XVI, Fasc. 3, pp. 243-244

Cite this entry:

Gen’ichi Tsuge, “KEREŠMA,” Encyclopædia Iranica, XVI/3, pp. 243-244, available online at (accessed on 30 November 2017).