Payam Yousefi


Payam Yousefi (M.A. UCLA, 2015) is a PhD candidate in ethnomusicology at Harvard University. His primary research interests include the classical, regional, and sacred musics of Iran. More broadly his work focuses on affective musical communities, women’s vocality, transmission, and the intersections of music and power. Payam’s current research centers on the politics of style in classical Persian music—critically examining the exclusionary aesthetics of competing musical styles while highlighting how creative practices strategically mediate the semantics of style to project subversive notions of self, nation, and global membership. Whether he is playing the kamancheh, creating short ethnographic films, writing, or teaching Payam is entangled in the endless pursuit of unraveling the many meanings of music.

“I received my BA and MA in ethnomusicology from UCLA, where I studied closely with Dr. Ali Jihad Racy and Dr. Münir Beken. After graduating from UCLA, I began teaching in the music department of the Tehran University of Art in Iran. In Tehran, I taught several courses such as, “History of Ethnomusicology;” “Transcription Methods in Iranian Music;” “Field and Lab Methods;” “Current Issues in Ethnomusicology;” “Modal Analysis of Classical Persian Music’s Radif-s and Dastgah-s;” and the “Music of the Middle East.”

I have been very fortunate to study under the tutelage of some of Iran’s most prominent master musicians. As a dedicated apprentice of Ostad Masumeh Mehrali, I learned the vocal radif-s (modal, melodic, and rhythmic improvisatory systems) of classical Persian music, and the advanced morakab techniques (modal modulation). Additionally, I studied the instrumental radif-s and the repertoire of the kamancheh (Persian spiked fiddle) under the direction of Negar Kharkan and the renowned Ostad Ardeshir Kamkar. As an active performer in Iran and America, I hope that my musical experiences can add depth to my scholarship, and contribute a unique perspective to current issues in academia.”