SOAS University of London

Department of Music, School of Arts

Dr Saeid Kordmafi

  • Teaching
  • Research
  • Publications


Saied Kordmafi
Department of Music

Lecturer in Music

Dr Saeid Kordmafi
Email address:
+44 (0)20 7898 4433
SOAS University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Russell Square: College Buildings
Office No:
Academic Support Hours:
Wednesdays 10-11am, Thursdays 10am-1pm


Saeid Kordmafi is an ethno/musicologist with special interest in cross-cultural music studies of the Islamic World. His research focuses on the history of music theories and their relation to practice in classical traditions of the maqām realm. Having completed a BA in Classical Iranian Music and an MA in Art Studies (music studies) both at University of Tehran, he received his PhD from the Department of Music at SOAS University of London where he was supported by a Felix Full Scholarship. His doctoral thesis looks at rhythmic organisation in the classical music of the Arab Mashriq. He was also awarded the first BFE Fieldwork Grant (2015) as well as AAWM Rob Schultz Junior Scholar Award (2019). 

Saeid has worked in the Music Departments at the Centre for the Great Islamic Encyclopaedia and Tehran University of Art as a senior researcher and lecturer, respectively. Now, he is a member of the editorial board of Mahoor Music Quarterly in Iran. 

A professional composer and performer, he has learnt classical Iranian music from a number of distinguished musicians in Iran, endeavouring to explore various performance and compositional styles of the given tradition. He is also one of the leading musicians of a revival movement, seeking to revitalize the pre-modern aesthetic in Iranian music; an undertaking inspired by historical pieces of evidence as well as neighbouring traditions which have partly preserved the previously shared musical heritage. As a soloist on the Iranian santur, Saeid has participated in a good number of live performances, recordings, and workshops in the Middle East, Central Asia, Europe, and the United States, actively engaged in carrying out various collaborative music-making projects with acclaimed musicians from Central Asia and the Arab world. He co-founded Rahâ Ensemble in 2007 and has so far released six CDs in Iran (as a composer and performer). His recent music-making project in the UK is the Phoenix of Persia (Tiny Owl Publishing 2019), a collaborative compositional work accompanying an illustrated children’s book based on one of the ancient epic stories of the Shâhnâme

He is also the convenor of the Performance Portfolio in the Department of Music at SOAS University of London.


Modules Taught
  • Saeid Kordmafi takes part in teaching the courses Sound and Culture (convened by Prof. Lucy Duran), Music in Global Perspective (convened by Dr Richard Williams), and Great Works (convened by Dr Christian Luczanits).
  • Iranian santur, UG 1, 2, 3 and MA Music (Performance and Ethnomusicology Pathways) 
  • Middle Eastern Ensemble


Saeid Kordmafi’s areas of interest include a broad range of research topics pertaining to music in the world of maqām, namely: comparative analysis of modal and rhythmic systems; historiography of the interrelation between music theory and practice; contemporary music revival movements and processes of modernisation in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

At the present, he is working on his first book on rhythmic-metric system in the modern music practice of Mediterranean Eastern Arab region. The book centres on the art-classical tradition developed from the mid 19th century at the latest in Egypt and Levant, partly rooted in the legacy inherited from the preceding musical aesthetics, and currently revived by a small group of dedicated musicians in the Arab World. With the aim of presenting a descriptive theory as well as modern history of the metrics in the tradition in question, the book can thus be conceived as an analytical and historical query enhanced by participatory observation and ethnographical data (acquired in a multi-sited fieldwork over the time span of 2016-2019). 

Over the last decade, Saeid has also been engaged in conducting both types of practice-related research, i.e., “practice-led research” and “practice-based research”. One of his practice-related projects, encapsulated in his article in the world of music (2018), not only portrays two music revival movements in the region, but also showcases an example of how practice-based and practice-led research may merge in a single project which aims to enrich our understanding of music as well as creative output.


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