Mohammed Reza Shajarian is a master of the complex art of traditional (classical) Persian (Iranian) singing. His renditions of ancient songs include masterful interpretations of verses from the Radif, a collection of 200-300 melodies, grouped into 12 modal systems, that constitutes the foundations of Persian (Iranian) classical music. A native of the northeastern Iranian village of Mash'had, Shaajarian was taught folk music of the Khorasan Province by his father. Demonstrating obvious talent, he was sent to a series of teachers including Ahmad Ebabi, Esmael Mehrtash, Reza-Gholi Miriza Zelli, Ghamar-ol Molouk Vaziri, Egbal-Sultan Azar, and Taj Esfahani. He studied santur, a three-octave wooden dulcimer with 72 strings, with Jolal Akhari. The greatest influences on Shajarian's singing were vocalist Gholam Hossein Banan and teacher Abdollah Davami, who taught him the ancient songs of Persia. Making his professional debut on a broadcast by Radio Khorasan, in 1959, Shajarian became a regular performer on Radio Iran after moving to Tehran in 1966. In early 2001, he toured North America with kamancheh (spiked fiddle) player Kayhan Kaylor, tar (lone-necked lute) player Hossein Alizadeh, and his son, Hamayoun Shajarian, on tombak (goblet drums) and vocals.
A teacher at Tehran University's Department of Fine Arts, Shajarian has done considerable research into the music of his homeland. Since 1967, he's balanced his music career with an interest in Persian calligraphy. Awarded a prestigious Picasso Award from France, in 1999, Shajarian was named Best Classical Vocalist Since the Revolution by the Ministry of Culture of Iran the following year.