Abolhassan Saba

The well-known Persian musician Abolhassan Saba was born in Tehran in 1902. When he  was quite young,  he began  to  study  and  play  the  setar  with   his  fatherís   guidance.  After  a   few years, he  became  a  student  of   Mirza Abdollah and  then  joined  Darvish  Khanís  School,  which  had the  most significant  impact  on  his playing  technique  and  his  compositions.  Saba  perfected his tonbak skills with Haji-Khan Zarbi and received training on the santur from Ali Akbarshahy. In addition, he learned to play the kamanche under the guidance of Hossein Esmail-Zadeh. Later, when Alinaqi Vaziri established his School of  Music,  Saba  enrolled  to  learn the theory of music and the art of playing the violin. He was also familiar with ney, Western flute, and tar.

Seeing his passion, talent, and skills, Vaziri suggested that Saba start teaching music. In 1927 Saba founded a music school in Rasht, after which he went to live in several northern villages for about three years. The music he heard in those villages was the starting point for his significant future research in Persian folk music. Saba composed some of his best works in this period of time, including Zard-e Malijeh, Deylaman, and Bezendan. He wrote four volumes of training manuals for the santur, three volumes for the violin, and a volume for the setar and tar.


Fortunately, some of Sabaís first recordings have survived. These include some private performances on the violin and the setar, accompanied by Master Hossein Tehraniís tonbak, performances in Golha (a weekly radio program performed by the elite musicians of Persia), and recordings made with the orchestra of Vaziri's School of Music. He worked very closely with Rouhollah Khaleghi and was one of the first master musicians to be invited to teach at the School of National Music.


In contrast to heavy strokes and drones on all four strings, which was the style of previous music masters, Saba played the setar on a single string. He was also involved in the design and production of the setar. He believed that, to be an accomplished musician, one must know more than just how to play an instrument. He felt that one had to know the theory and the history of music, in addition to oneís area of specialization. Furthermore, he believed that familiarity with Persian literature was crucial for a Persian musician to achieve higher levels in appreciation and depth of understanding of music. Master Abolhassan Saba passed away in 1957.