By Arash Ahmadi
Mr Shajarian objected to the authorities' use of his music
Young Iranians, with their fondness for Western music, are not the natural market for the country's leading classical Persian musician, Mohammad Reza Shajarian.
But his latest album has caused a stir among the Iranian online community, with web users urging others to attend Mr Shajarian's concerts and to buy his album, in an apparent bid to defy the authorities.
Often referred to as Ostad Shajarian (Master Shajarian), the musician has become a focal point for those still unhappy about the disputed presidential election earlier this year.
His new-found following stems from the fact that he objected to the use of his songs to celebrate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election as president.
Now online support is growing for his album Rendan-e Mast (Drunken Libertines), which he released on 29 August before embarking on a European tour of Germany, Sweden, France and the Netherlands, set to begin on 4 September.
The words "rend" (libertine or rogue) and "mast" (drunk or intoxicated) have positive connotations in classical - especially mystic Sufi - Persian poetry.
The symbolism in the verse has a powerful impact on many Iranians, frequently leading to emotional reactions from audiences, who often shed tears when listening to classical music with its poetic lyrics.
Moreover, the lyrics resonate strongly with Iranians as many Sufi poets scorned what they believed were the orthodox clerics' obsession with the minutiae of religious observance at the expense of "true" spirituality.
A short piece from the album found its way to YouTube and Facebook almost immediately, possibly before Rendan-e Mast's official release.
Rendan-e Mast is from a poem by 13th Century Sufi poet Rumi
The six-minute clip showed a still of Shajarian with the artist performing Rendan-e Mast, from a poem by one of the best known medieval Sufi poets, Mawlana Jalaloddin Balkhi, who has gained popularity in the West, especially the US, under the name Rumi.
Comments in Farsi on YouTube were indicative of the mood. "Live long, Ostad," said one. "We are proud and we are Green." Green is the colour adopted by the demonstrators in Iran after the disputed presidential elections.
Others wanted to see the album become a best-seller. "Let us make this the best-selling album of the year. We will buy and listen to this album in memory of all the martyrs."
Some urged readers not to download pirated versions of the album, calling on the public to visit Mr Shajarian's official site to download the album.
Hit with youth?
Similar sentiments were expressed on Shajarianfans.com. On 31 August the site republished an article from the reformist newspaper Etemad, entitled "Unprecedented reception for Rendan-e Mast by the people".
Shajarianfans.com illustrated its post with a still of the artist apparently showing the "V" victory sign, also adopted by protesters against the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran.
This was not missed by one of the entries in the comments section: "Your choice of photo for this post is clever and cool."
Others said that they had rushed to stores to buy the original album.
One reader, who began his comment with "long live the one and only Ostad of Iran's green land", observed that young people had been eager to get hold of the CD in the shop he had visited in Tehran's Enqelab Square - home of bookshops and music stores close to Tehran University.
Classical Persian music does not generally appeal to youth in Iran, who are more keen on rap and other forms of Western music.
Remarks on Twitter.com followed suit. "Mr Shajarian is about to go on tour in Europe. Please support him," said a tweet. "Don't forget to purchase Mohammad Reza Shajarian's new album today!" said another.
Mr Shajarian fell out with Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), the country's state-run radio and television organisation, after the 12 June elections and the ensuing demonstrations.
He objected to the airing of his works by state radio and TV, saying that the broadcaster had used one of his most famous songs, O Iran, House of Hope from the early days of the 1979 revolution to celebrate Mr Ahmadinejad's re-election.
"There is no connection between the songs and the present situation. IRIB must stop broadcasting my songs and other works immediately," he said, according to the Mehr news agency on 17 June.
He defended his actions in interviews with the BBC's Persian Service, as well as with Voice of America. He said his "voice has no place in the Voice and Vision [state radio and TV]".
This in turn incurred the wrath of the hard-line media, with the daily newspaper Keyhan taking the lead and describing him as a "traitor".
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