The Bita Daryabari Endowment in Persian Letters, with Stanford's Iranian Studies Program, presented the Third Annual Bita Prize for Literature on November 19th, 2010, to Mr. Mohammad-Reza Shajarian.
For two generations of Iranians, their most personal moments of the sublime, and their most public expressions of social exuberance, their joys of love and their pains of separation have been inseparable from the tender and thunderous voice and music of Mohammad-Reza Shajarian. Whether reciting lines from a prayer or singing one of Khayam's Quatrains, reviving an old song or putting to music one of the masterpieces of modern Persian poetry, his vast musical erudition, his unfailing aesthetic taste and his perfectionisms combine to make it yet another part of his impressive collection of work. He has become in Iran an icon of classical Persian music.
Today his reputation extends far beyond Iran's borders. Not only everywhere he goes, members of the Iranian Diaspora fill auditoriums and concert halls to see him perform, but he is considered one of the great fifty voices of our time.
Shajarian is an artist of myriad talents. Born and raised in a religious family in the city of Meshed, early in life he realized not just his unique musical genius and the unusually wide yet supple and soft range of his voice, but his many other talents as well. He is a master calligrapher and carpenter, acclaimed song-writer and composer, and the best embodiment of an artist for whom art is not a commodity of commerce, but an existential expression of all that is good and evil in us. His remarkable command of Persian poetry—both classical and modern—has allowed him to turn the lyrics of his songs into the voice of the voiceless, and a map for the trials and tribulation of a nation pressured by discordant forces of despotism, democracy, dogmatism and freedom.
For Iranian music, he has been a relentless guardian of tradition and a refreshing force for innovation and change. Whether it is in new musical instruments he has invented or innovative renditions of classical arrangements, he combines genius and talent with dedication, discipline and erudition, and the result has been a body of work singular in its depth, beauty, creativity, and finally unfailing dedication to justice and freedom.