Qamar (born Qamar Khanum Seyed Hosayn Khan in 1905 in Tehran) was the first Iranian female singer to record her songs and to appear on public stage without using hijab. She was the first and is one of the the most famous female singers singing Iranian traditional vocals. She is known as the Queen of Persian music.
Qamar’s father died before her birth, and her mother died when she was only 18. Her grandmother, Khairulensa (Eftekhar al-Zakrin), was the head of the Nasreddin Shah Qajar private gospel ceremonies. Her grandmother took her to the gospel singings. During these gospel singings, Qamar would repeat the words, and when alone, she would recite them.
From the very early years, Qamar became interested in singing. When she was a little older, she asked her grandmother to take her to a singing teacher, so she could practice singing. Her grandmother however objected as it was culturally unacceptable for the female to sing.
Nevertheless, Qamar insisted and as a result, her grandmother hired a teacher to come to their house for teaching her to sing. Shortly after, the grandmother and then the teacher passed away and Qamar once again became alone.
But it was not too long later when Master Bahraini took over her care, invited her to live with his family and began her singing training. During her stay with Master Bahraini, Qamar became acquainted with other musicians of the time, including Master Lachini. Master Lachini helped Qamar in performing several songs that were recorded in Polyphone studio.
Qamar was 16 years old when she met Master Morteza Neidavoud who was at the time the most well-known tar player. Master Neidavoud remembers the time:
“It was in 1921 when during a night group gathering, everyone asked a fifteen, sixteen-year-old girl to sing a song … When she started singing, I realized I had found a very powerful and unbelievable voice. I asked the host for a music instrument and began playing and she sang with me. I told her, `you have a great voice; all you need is to learn Iranian music and gave her my music class address.’ She welcomed my offer and showed great excitement and enthusiasm to learn music and enhance her singing.’’
Qamar’s efforts and hard work paid off and her first concert was held in 1924 at the Grand Hotel in Tehran when she was 19-years-old. Qamar says of the experience: “That night was my most memorable night I will never forget. When I entered the hall, it was full of people. I went on stage and was given a large bouquet of flowers and everyone was clapping. This welcome experience gave me a lot of self-confidence. After the concert, I was called to the police station and I was told that I can no longer appear on stage without a veil. But I did not listen; I went on stage many more times without covering my hair and sang.”
At about the same time, Ali Vakili, the founder of Sepah Cinema in Tehran, arranged a six-day concert for her, which lasted for six weeks, due to unprecedented public appearances. Tickets for the concert reached 50 Iranian toumans, which at the time was about twice the monthly salary of a high-ranking government employee. And even during the last nights, many of those who were unable to get a ticket, listened to her while standing on their feet during the entire performance.
At the concerts and during her performance, the audience would get so excited and jubilant that they would throw anything of value, money, gold, ring, necklace, …, they were carrying, at her on the stage. Even the spectator who were far away from the stage would do the same. Qamar spent all these gifts on poor people. She bought small houses to shelter the homeless; she paid their debts, provided dowry to poor girls, and bought beds for hospitals.
Qamar continued to sing until the establishment of the radio (in 1940), and from that year her unparalleled voice, along with santour by Habib Samaya, tar by Morteza Neidavoud, and sometimes violin by Abol-Hassan Saba, was broadcast by the radio, allowing many more people to enthusiastically enjoy her beautiful voice.
Qamar’s voice was at its peak until 1953 when she was the sole female singer. But later she had a stroke that ended her singing career. She became an ill house woman and she was gradually forgotten.
Qamar died on August 6, 1959, at the age 54. Some claim she was poor when she died; other records indicate she was receiving a monthly salary of 800 Iranian toumans, which was equivalent to the salary of a government official at the time.
After Qamar’s corpse went through ritual washing and preparation, it was taken to a local mosque on Friday morning to perform religious ceremonies and to call on the people to come say farewell to her, but the mosque custodians refused to accept the corpse of the famous female singer as an overnight guest and she was buried alone.
Qamar’s legacy includes over 200 memorable songs, the first of which was the song Republican by Aref Qazvini.