At the age of twenty, upon winning a highly selective audition, the young Mahmoud began a long affiliation with the National Radio, where he would collaborate with the most prominent musicians of the day, who in turn, had great respect for Mahmoud’s technical prowess as violinist and his intricate knowledge of music theory, composition, and arrangement. In fact, even at a very young age, Mahmoud would prove so virtuosic and expressive a musician that a well-known contemporary of his recently remarked that “when Mahmoud was present, the rest of us dare not play.” Rare photo of Golha orchestra members including Banan (front row, second from far right), Rouhollah Khaleghi(front row, center), and Mahmoud Zoufonoun (back row, center). For years to come, Ostad Zoufonoun would be revered as a soloist, composer, arranger and conductor at the National Radio and Television with groups such as the legendary “Golha” (see rare, mid-20th-century picture on right of Golha members, including Ruhollah Khaleghi, Banan and Mahmoud Zoufonoun) and other groups he would lead as director, such as Soma-ee, which included many well-known masters, such Jalil Shahnaz and Mohammad Reza Shajarian. From his earliest days of musical pursuit, Mahmoud Zoufonoun began what has been a lifelong love for and dedication to teaching, both in his private studio (even to this day), and at a variety of top institutions including the prestigious National School for Iranian Music (of which he was a founding member), The Shabaneh Adult Art School, Institute for the Arts, The University of Tehran, and The Danesh-e Sarah-e Honar. Those who know him well often remark that in every gathering of Iranians, there is at least one person who is or has been a student of his. As the late composer and conductor Rouhollah Khaleghi notes in his encyclopedia of traditional Persian music, Mahmoud's contributions as violist, composer, teacher and academic are of great significance, cementing his prominence in the history of traditional Persian music. And though he clearly could have pursued and attained great fame as a formidable performing or recording artist (which he has in many ways, nonetheless), Mahmoud instead selflessly and fully dedicated himself to his family, instrument making, daily walks in nature and far more private forms of musical pursuit such as composition, scholarly research, and teaching.
Perhaps the most notable of these pursuits has been Mahmoud Zoufonoun's almost lifelong effort to compile, transcribe and describe what will be the most complete compilation of regional folk songs, modes, and styles to date - an unprecedented national musical encyclopedia chronicling in painstaking detail the tapestry of (folk) musical styles of Iran’s various regions and cultures. This work, when completed, will undoubtedly be one of the most monumentally important contributions to Iranian music to date. The Zoufonoun Ensemble, consisting of Mahmoud Zoufonoun and his sons (from left to right) Ramin, Omid, Amin and Amir. Following his retirement in 1976 from the National Radio and Television, Mahmoud and his family emigrated to the USA. Since then he has tirelessly continued to teach and compose, and on rare occasion, record, and perform traditional Persian music with his students, other well known musicians and most often, with his sons as the Zoufonoun Ensemble. His most recent large-scale composition, "Naghd-e-Sufi," has been recorded, notated, and published for future generations to enjoy and study.
The suite, which spans two recorded CDs, is an electrifyingly innovative and elaborate musical exploration of the Dastgah of Rastpanjgah clearly displaying Ostad Zoufonoun's mastery of song ("taraneh") writing, poetry, rhythm, and of course, virtuosic improvisation as a soloist. As much as Mahmoud Zoufonoun is known as a musician, he is equally famous for his ever-calm, optimistic and extraordinarily humble temperament and wit, through which he has gained the love of those whose lives he has touched. Even at the age of 86, he continues to teach every interested student, from age six to age eighty, with his now-famous patience and energy. Along with his achievements in music, his gentle personality and infinite hospitality have even transformed his home into a pilgrimage destination, where aspiring students as well as other masters of this art form often visit him. Despite Mahmoud’s consistent humility and complete lack of interest in self-promotion, connoisseurs of traditional Persian music who recall his radio programs from several decades ago, have in their possession rare home/radio recordings, or who’ve otherwise come to know his music/playing will continue to treasure Mahmoud Zoufonoun as one of the crown jewels of traditional Iranian music and one of the few living legends of a golden era of this art form. Read more on Last.fm.
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