Suite in Rastpanjgah (Naghd-e Sufi) is a two full-length CD set containing original compositions by Mahmoud Zoufonoun all in the mode (dastgah) of Rastpanjgah featuring Mahmoud Zoufonoun on the violin, Siamak Pouyan on tombak and other percussion. This material also includes original songs (tasnif)namely "Bovad-aya", "Naghd-e-Sufi", "Baba Taher", plus instrumental chaharmezrab, rengs and other pieces.
The following is an exerpt from the English foreward of "The Life of Mahmoud Zoufonoun", a biography written by Aghdas Zoufonoun:
“One of the earth's most valuable human gems has yet to still be uncovered, and that gem is Ostad ("Master") Mahmoud Zoufonoun. There are arguably fewer than a handful of figures in the history of traditional Iranian music who could have come close to Mr. Zoufonoun’s profound depth as both an artist and human being. And yet many still do not even know about, much less understand and appreciate the quality of Ostad Zoufonoun’s genius. This is because his is a genius illuminated by both prolific contributions and achievements as a master composer, performer, musicologist and teacher, marked throughout with a perfectly humble, selfless dedication to his family and community --- and all this while being utterly disinterested in any self-promotion! Indeed, if precious gems are the result of nature's concentrated effort over time, one can say that Ostad Mahmoud Zoufonoun is without a doubt one of its rarest, most authentic masterpieces”
- Dr. Hafez Modirzadeh, Professor of Music, San Francisco State University
Even at the age of 86, Mahmoud Zoufonoun does not rest. He continues to teach students from age 6 to 60, take long walks every day, invent and construct musical instruments, perform violin on stage and of course, continually compose--often on napkins and scrap paper, while in a noisy environment, whenever and wherever inspiration finds him. His life reveals a man more interested in preserving and composing music, teaching others to learn and appreciate music, his family, and the appreciation of others--especially other musicians and his students--than in promoting himself or his works.
That humility, which makes Ostad Zoufonoun stand out as a true artist pursuing art for the sake of the art, has rendered his accomplishments and contributions virtually unknown to the greater population. And yet, as Ruhollah Khaleghi notes in his encyclopedia of traditional Persian music, the importance of Ostad Zoufonoun in the history of Persian music cannot be overlooked. Ostad Zoufonoun, through his early national radio solo programs when he was only in his twenties and thirties became and remains known to some as a leading soloist. What many may not know, however, is the extent to which Mahmoud Zoufonoun also dedicated his energies to composition, musicology and teaching. And this places him among only a handful throughout the history of traditional of Persian music who attained mastery in all these areas. As musicologist Dr. Hafez Modirzadeh notes, the depth and refinement of Mahmoud Zoufonoun's works may not be fully understood and appreciated for years to come.
Mahmoud Zoufonoun's life has been chronicled in these pages at the behest of the community and with the penmanship of his wife, Aghdas Zoufonoun. This story begins with Habib Zoufonoun, Mahmoud's father. It was Habib who first imported music into the family (incidentally, it was also he who selected the name "Zoufonoun" for the family, which translates into "master of many arts").
Thus, the Zoufonoun musical legacy flows from Habib. And as the pages of this book reveal, Mahmoud followed in his father's footsteps on a number of fronts. After detailing Habib's attraction to music and extraordinary break from the family's deeply rooted devotion to religion, this biography turns to detailing the coming of age of Ostad Zoufonoun by outlining four phases in his life: (1) early life in Abadeh; (2) life as a young man in Shiraz; (3) life in Tehran; and (4) life in the U.S., where Ostad Zoufonoun, his wife, and sons and their families currently live.
The story of Mahmoud Zoufonoun begins with him as a boy in the small town of Abadeh, where he was born in 1920. As the young Mahmoud listened to his father teaching tar in a nearby room in the family home (Mahmoud was one of nine children), he secretly began imitating his father's lessons on the tar. After a short time playing the tar and eventually impressing his father with his secretly-developed skills, Mahmoud overheard a neighbor's violin, and was immediately drawn to the instrument. As his father had done before him, Mahmoud set out to build his own instrument -- what he would later describe with a grin as a "frankenviolin," which only through extensive stretch of the imagination could ever resemble a violin. The story continues by describing Mahmoud Zoufonoun as a young man who first makes his mark as an accomplished musician in Shiraz, shortly followed by his arrival in Tehran where he quickly earned the admiration and respect of an elite circle of legendary musicians including Khaleghi, Vaziri, Saba, Banan. Following years of collaboration with these musicians, he continued decades of work at the National Radio and Television where he led several ensembles, was charged with notating old songs, and was a key arranger of ensemble works for recording and broadcast.
Mahmoud Zoufonoun continues to devote himself to his family. In 1976 Mahmoud moved and family to the U.S. to ensure educational opportunities for his four sons, while prolifically producing some of his most significant achievements within the various facets (composing, pedagogy, musicology, and performing) of his musical mastery.
LITTLE KNOWN FACTS ABOUT MAHMOUD ZOUFONOUN
The idea for documenting the life and accomplishments of Ostad Zoufonoun blossomed as his close circle of friends and even his own wife and sons slowly and incrementally discovered over the course of several years the full extent of Mahmoud Zoufonoun's accomplishments. With a sense of duty, they set out to learn more about, and ultimately share with the world, the story of the giant hidden behind the gentle man. In their research, they uncovered many interesting and little known facts about Mahmoud Zoufonoun:
- He spent a great part of his lifetime painstakingly gathering and transcribing the folk music for the various regions of Iran - several times! The first time, the enormous volume (one region's songs would take months, if not years, of notating) was given to his violin instructor, Rubik ("Ruben") Gregorian, from whom he was never able to retrieve his manuscripts. So for a second time, he embarked on this task for the National Radio / Television Archive, again never to have seen a trace of the work. The third time Ostad Zoufonoun completed this work and had it ready for publication, it was destroyed along with his other manuscripts in a tragic fire at the Zoufonoun family home. Finally and most recently, he completed this task a fourth time using burned scraps found in the ashes of the fire, his memory and other sources. The work is currently in publication phase. This work is so monumental and important (literally spanning several foot-high stacks of handwritten manuscripts in Ostad Zoufonoun's office), that when the Encyclopedia Iranica learned of it recently, they offered to archive a copy as a resource for music researchers. A California university has indicated the same interest as well. In aggregating, organizing and preserving in writing for the first time the folk music of the various villages and disparate regions of Iran, Mahmoud Zoufonoun will have made one of the most important contributions toward preserving the music and cultural heritage of his country.
- He was one of the first, founding teachers of the "Honarestaneh Moosighi"(the presigious Academy of Music) along with Khaleghi, Vaziri and Saba.
- He routinely arranged for and conducted the Golha orchestra
- He led various other orchestras and groups at the National Radio and Television.
- He also performed duets with Banan and composed original songs performed by the Golha orchestra and available in recordings.
- He was selected by Ruhollah Khaleghi as the only instructor to teach the art of ensemble-playing at the Honarestan.
- He wrote many of the etudes still used by students and graduates of the Honarestan, including master musicians such as Hossein Alizadeh.
- He had such a command of the violin even at an early age, that when he approached Saba and played for him, Saba remarked, "I have nothing I can teach you, Mahmoud." Similarly, upon first hearing him audition, Khaleghi offered Ostad Zoufonoun several positions as a soloist, as a member of the Golha orchestra, and as the first teacher of violin (along with Saba) at the newly formed Honarestaneh Museghi.
- He was only in his twenties when he was selected to have a weekly solo program on the national radio, regarding which one of this contemporaries recently remarked that, "Mahmoud Zoufonoun was so technical and eloquent a violinist that when he was present, the rest of us dare not touch our instruments!"
- Immediately upon becoming married in the mid 1950's, he devoted himself to his family so fully, that from that day forth, Ostad Zoufonoun did not practice the violin (or any instrument for that matter). Despite not having a practice regimen, he consistently demontrates in live performance his command of the violin and his ability to effortlessly improvise within the radif.
- He has recorded (without release yet) the entire radif of Abolhassan Saba on violin twice - once in one tuning, and a second time in a different tuning.
- His original composition "Naghde Sufi," which spans two full length CDs, remains the most expansive single suite of original compositions to explore a single "dastgah" (mode, in this case Rastpanjgah) released to date.
SAMPLING OF IMPORTANT COMPOSITIONS AND OTHER WORKS
• Notated volumes of folk music classified by Iran's various regions
• Concerto Dashti for Symphony Orchestra
• Tareneh Bayateh Tork, Shart-e Rah, Golha Orchestra; Banan singing
• Taraneh Mahour: "Gol-o-Zaari", Lyrics by Hafez
• Suite in Rastpanjgah (Naghde Sufi), including several
original songs: "Bovad-aya", "Naghd-e-Sufi", "Baba Taher", plus chaharmezrabs, rengs and other pieces
• Faash-Mee-Gooyam: Suite in Chahargah, including original songs: "Sheydaee", "Narm Narmak", "Faash-Mee-Gooyam"
• Heelat-Raha-Kon: Suite in Oshagh, including the original Taraneh "Heelat-Raha-Kon", pishdaramad and chaharmezrab
• Anthem in Chahargah: "Vatan", Lyrics by Simin Behbahani
Further information about Mahmoud Zoufonoun can be found at