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Iranians mourn iconic musician Mohammad Reza Shajarian

Thousands of fans paid tribute to the singer and maestro, who died in a Tehran hospital at the age of 80
The legendary singer was known for his distinctive voice and classical style (AFP)

Iconic Iranian singer and vocalist Mohammad Reza Shajarian died after a long illness on Thursday at the age of 80, leaving many Iranians in mourning as they expressed their sorrow online. 

The singer had been in intensive care since Monday at the Jam Hospital in Tehran, where he died of cardiac arrest. 

Shajarian had long suffered from kidney cancer, for which he received treatment inside Iran and abroad.

Shajarian was known for his traditional music and distinctive voice, and was loved by Iranians young and old throughout a career spanning more than half a century.

Online, fans have expressed their grief and sadness over his passing, with videos also showing people waiting outside the hospital, singing some of his songs and crying. 

Tributes poured in for the singer, with many people recalling how his music impacted them. 

Shajarian was also known for his support for anti-government protests in 2009.

He became a symbol of the opposition after the disputed election of 2009, which saw President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad win a second term and prompted large-scale demonstrations and a subsequent crackdown

Following the crackdown, Shajarian demanded that state media refrain from playing his music on radio and TV stations. 

Despite coronavirus restrictions, thousands of people came out to pay their respects to the singer, which reportedly turned into protests.

Many chanted “dictators die, but Shajarian never dies”. 

Shajarian was born in the city of Mashhad, northeast of Iran and first discovered his talent after reciting the Quran.

His songs, which were classical in style, were broadcast every year at sunrise during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan

The singer won a number of awards, including one from UNESCO for his contributions to Persian music, as well as the Picasso Award in 2006. 

Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, expressed his condolences for the singer in a tweet, calling him an "ambassador to Iran".

"Maestro Shajarian was a great and true ambassador of Iran, her children and most of all her culture. I extend my deepest condolences to Iranians across the world and particulary his loved ones. From God we come and to Him we return," Zarif said, quoting a verse from the Quran.

In his later years, the singer performed outside of Iran after his stance against the re-election of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. 

Shajarian also taught music, and carried out research into Iranian music. 

The singer is survived by his wife, Katayoun, three daughters and two sons. His son Homayoun is also a singer. 

Shajarian will be buried in Toos, a town near his birthplace of Mashhad.