ẒELLI, Reżāqoli Mirzā (b. Tehran, 1906; d. Tehran, 1945), singer. Ẓelli lost his father, Aḥmad Mirzā, in childhood and was brought up by his elder brother. He got a job in the telephone company after finishing middle school. He become a teacher later and was finally employed by Bank Melli Iran. He studied the repertoire (radif) of Persian music with Āref Qazvini for a while and then with the famous singer of the time Eqbāl Āḏar (Purmandān, p. 144; Behruzi, p. 449). He was, however, diagnosed with tuberculosis in his early youth and was, therefore, prescribed to live in a cool area with clean air and also quit singing. He moved to the mountainous area of Hamadān in 1941, but, disregarding his doctor’s prescription, continued to sing. Hīasan Mašḥun (II, p. 668) mentions a memorable evening when Ẓelli and another singer, Sayyed Reżā Aṭṭār, kept singing until dawn. Ẓelli succumbed to the illness at the age of 38.

Ẓelli had a clear voice with wide range, which his distinct, beautiful yodeling (taḥrir; see ĀVĀZ) made especially enchanting. Ẓelli’s singing was influenced by the piano music of Hīabib-Allāh Mošir Homāyun, and is an exemplary of the Tehran singing school. A selection of his singing, accompanied by the piano of Mošir Homāyun, were published on phonograph records in 1933. These singings are in the modes of Čahār Gāh, Bayāt-e Tork, Bayāt-e Eṣfahān, Homāyun, Afšāri, and Abu ʿAṭā, and they are considered among the most beautiful samples of Persian singing. He also left two more recordings in the modes of Šur and Segāh, accompanied by Arsalān Dargāhi’s setār and Abu’l-Ḥasan Ṣabā’s violin, respectively (Behruzi, pp. 254, 451).

For a music sample, see Dastgāh-e Čahārgāh.


Šapur Behruzi, Čehra-ha-ye musiqi-ye Irān, Tehran, 1993, pp. 449-51.

Ḥasan Mašḥun, Tāriḵ-e musiqi-ye Irān, 2 vols., Tehran, 1994.

Mehrān Purmandān, Dāʾerat-al-maʿāref-e musiqi-e kohan-e Irān, Tehran, 2000.

(Morteżā Ḥoseyni Dehkordi)

Originally Published: July 20, 2009

Last Updated: July 20, 2009