ČAHĀRGĀH, the name of one of the twelve dastgāhs (modes) of traditional Persian music in the 14th/20th century, evidently derived from its position among musical scales or the fret locating its fundamental tone or tonic (Mallāḥ, p. 200). The term was already known in the 9th/15th century, when it evidently referred to a maqām (Ar. “key”) of Persian music (e.g., Marāḡī, p. 70). The maqām Čahārgāh in 20th-­century Arabic music ordinarily has a scale close to that of a Western major scale; the Turkish makam Çargah is similarly constructed. In Persian music, however, a similar unit became the basis for a larger grouping that at some point began to be performed in consistent succession and combination. Čahārgāh thus became one of the dastgāhs; although it is mentioned in sources of the early 14th/20th century (Khatschi, pp. 7, 79), it probably did not achieve its position as one of the principal dastgāhs in Persia until after 1320 Š./1940. Examination of recordings suggests that it continued to increase in importance until about 1975. Many composed pieces in the Persian classical tradition—pīš-darāmads, taṣnīfs, čahār-meżrābs —are cast in Čahārgāh, as are songs in the popular repertory.

The scale of Čahārgāh is consistently described as being like a Western major scale, except that the second and sixth degrees are lowered a quarter-tone: the tone­-interval sequence of the scale, beginning with the tonic, is thus 3/4, 5/4, 1/2, whole, 3/4, 5/4, 1/2. In actual practice, however, there is considerable variation in the intonation of the intervals, especially in the second and sixth degrees, which are sometimes rendered as much as a quarter-tone lower or higher than in the defined sequence, thus occasionally corresponding to a Western major scale. Čahārgāh also has in common with the Western major mode that the third and fifth degrees of the scale are emphasized.

The dastgāh of Čahārgāh has other important distinctive features, including a characteristic musical motif (6-­5-6-5-6-5-6-1-6-1), which always appears in its initial section (darāmad) and sometimes elsewhere as well; a tendency to emphasize the tonic more than is common in some other dastgāhs; and a distinct musical character or mood. This mood is usually described as epic (ḥamāsī) and heroic (pahlavānī), but Čahārgāh is also considered one of the two more joyous dastgāhs (the other being Māhūr). The very popular wedding song “Mobārak bādā” is sung in Čahārgāh. Most important, this mode has a group of subdivisions, gūšas, which appear in the various sequences of the radīfs (canons of instrumental melodies) of Persian music. Chief among them (after the characterizing darāmad) are Zābol, Moḵālef, Ḥeṣār, Maḡlūb, Mūya, Manṣūrī, Ḥodī, Pahlavī, and Rajaz. Frequently the darāmand itself includes a rhythmically distinct section in the kerešma meter and a metric tune called Zangūla (also called Pīš-zangūla), which is reminiscent of the American song “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” Ḥeṣār and Mūya are modulatory gūšas, departing from the basic scalar pattern of Čahārgāh. Virtually all these gūšas, with the same names and general melodic outlines, also appear in the closely related dastgāh of Segāh. Several other gūšas of Čahārgāh also appear in other dastgāhs of the Persian radīf. The various published radīfs, like those of Mūsā Maʿrūfī, Abu’l-Ḥasan Ṣabā, and Maḥmūd Karīmī, as well as the available recordings of Nūr-ʿAlī Borūmand’s radīfs, generally agree on the context and on the order, though the position of Mūya varies somewhat.

Structured series of recordings made in the 1960s and 1970s (see Nettl and Foltin; Nettl, 1987, pp. 43-64) make it possible to give an account of the characteristics of āvāz (nonmetric) performances of Čahārgāh. Various sequences are possible. For example, although the darāmad is virtually always first and Zābol second, there is less consistency among the succeeding sections, except that Manṣūrī, if it appears, is usually last. Ḥeṣār and Moḵālef are partly complementary, one of them being always present; when both appear they are played successively. Ḥodī, Pahlavī, and Rajaz, which, in con­trast to the other gūšas, am semimetrical, are almost always grouped together. The most popular gūšas in order of frequency are darāmad, Zābol, Moḵālef, Ḥeṣār, Manṣūrī, Maḡlūb, and Mūya.

Performances of Čahārgāh differ from those of some other dastgāhs in that the āvāz is usually divided into several sections, each clearly based on one gūša. In some performances the section based on the darāmad is by far the longest and ensuing sections are presented in order of decreasing length; in others an approximately equal amount of time can be devoted to each of the gūšas. In a quite different type of structure there are two major sections, each beginning with a long gūša (usually Moḵālef after the darāmad), followed by a short rendition of one or two other gūšas. Although the āvāz is improvised, individual musicians do develop characteristic patterns and apparently plan their perfor­mances; there are certainly characteristic structures.

The tendency to devote a section in the āvāz clearly to material from one gūša is typical of Čahārgāh, Segāh, and Māhūr, in contrast, for example, to the dastgāh of Šūr, in which materials from various gūšas may be started in quick succession and mixed order.

For a music sample, see Bastenegār.

For a music sample, see Chahārgāh.

For a music sample, see Dastgāh-e Čahārgāh.

For a music sample, see Ḥeṣār - 1.

For a music sample, see Ḥeṣār - 2.

For a music sample, see Rajaz.


M. Barkechli (Barkešlī), La musi­que traditionelle de l’Iran, Tehran, 1963.

Idem, Modāwamat dar oṣūl-e mūsīqī-e Īrān. Gāmhā o dastgāhhā-yemūsīqī-e īrānī, Tehran, 2535 = 1355 Š./1976, pp. 137­-38.

J. During, La musique iranienne. Tradition et évolution, Paris, 1984. Kh. Khatschi, Der Dastgāh, Regensburg, 1972.

Ḥ.ʿA. Mallāḥ, Ḥāfeẓ o mūsīqī, Tehran, 1351 Š./1972.

ʿAbd-al-Qāder b. Ḡaybī Ḥāfeẓ Marāḡī, Maqāṣed al-alḥān, ad. T. Bīneš, Tehran, 1344 Š./1965, pp. 64, 70, 74, 82, 83, 118, 127.

Idem, Jāmeʿ al-alḥān, ed. T. Bīneš, Tehran, 1366 Š./1985, pp. 133­-34, 140, 142-44, 164, 192, 200-01.

M. Maʿrūfī, Radīf-e haft dastgāh-e mūsīqī-e īrānī (Les systèmes de la musique traditionelle de l’Iran [radif]), Tehran, 1352 Š./1973.

M.-T. Masʿūdīya (Massoudieh), Radīf-e āvāzī-e mūsīqī-e sonnatī-e Īrān be rewāyat-e Maḥmūd-e Karīmī (Radif vocal de la musique traditionelle de l’Iran, version de Mahmud-e Karimi), Tehran, 1357 Š./1978; 2nd ed., 1364 Š./1985 (tapes with notes).

B. Nettl, “Notes on Persian Classical Music of Today. The Performance of the Hesar Section of Dastgah Chahargah,” Orbis Musicae (Tel Aviv) 1/3, 1972, pp. 175-92.

Idem, “Aspects of Form in the Instru­mental Performance of the Persian Avaz,” Ethnomusicology 18, 1974, pp. 405-14.

Idem, The Radif of Persian Music. Studies in Structure and Cultural Context, Champaign, Ill, 1987.

Idem and B. Foltin, Daramad of Chahargah. A Study in the Performance of Persian Music, Detroit, 1972.

H. Zonis, Classical Persian Music, Cambridge, Mass., 1965, pp. 90-92, 138-39, and index.

(Bruno Nettl)

Originally Published: December 15, 1990

Last Updated: December 15, 1990

This article is available in print.
Vol. IV, Fasc. 6, pp. 629-630