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West Asia and the Middle East: Iran (Nowruz)

Of all the nations whose narratives stretch back several thousand continuous years, Iran is one of the most proud. Despite lengthy, often unwelcome visits by Greeks, Arabs, Turks, Mongols, the Russians, the British and others, Persian (now known as Iranian) people have lived on the same land for about four millennia. They have maintained an essentially consistent language and developed groundbreaking art, science and other elements of culture, all the while adapting to people of different ethnic and linguistic backgrounds that either invaded Persia or, when Persia was in the conquering mood, found themselves as Persian subjects. 

In the 1800's colonial nations such as England and Russia occupied Persia and in the 1900's empowered a Western-leaning Shah (King). In the 1950s when the Shah faced popular oppositon by Mohammad Mossadeq and his efforts to nationalize the Iranian oil instrudy the U.S. and British engineered a coup to depose him. In 1979 an Islamic, forcibly anti-Western movement fronted by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini overthrew the monarch. Since then Iran has been a fervent, though not monolithic, critic of the West, and also a major power in the region.   

In class we sing:

We sing "We Are Happy," a hello song from Uganda, to open every All Around This World class. This week we sing hello in Farsi (Persian): "Salâm."

Niloufar” is a Persian song of longing in which the singer searches for his true love. (More.)  

I Love My Cow,” a Kurdish-language song from Iraq, is essentially a love song to a cow. (More.)  

Look in My Eyes” is an Iraqi Kurdish song that starts as a tribute to the beautiful eyes of the singer's beloved. (More.)  

Lily”is a Persian love song that is so exciting we can't help but cheer at the end of every line. (More.)  


Let's learn a little about one of Iran's most beloved secular singers...Googoosh!

Born "Faegeh Atashin" in 1950 in Tehran, "Googoosh" (Atashin's nickname from birth) began performing at an early age alongside her father, an Iranian-Azerbaijani actor and acrobat. She started to act in movies before she was 10, released her first album in 1966 and over the next thirteen years became Iran's most popular actress and singer. When the 1979 revolution took place Googoosh was in the United States and could have chosen to stay abroad, but instead she returned to Iran. Back in her homeland she served a three month prison sentence for living with a man out of wedlock, then she had to choose how she would react to the Islamicists' ban on female vocalists. Rather than flee the country or attempt to perform in protest, Googoosh remained silent. Googosh didn't sing in public again for over 20 years. In 2000 Googoosh embarked on an international "comeback tour," performing in 19 cities around the world including Dubai, where the audience included many adoring Iranians. Googoosh now lives in Los Angeles and continues to perform, though, especially after speaking out against the Iranian leadership's crackdown on 2009 protests, she most likely won't be singing in Iran any time soon.

More information: Googoosh's official facebook page | Read about Googoosh's comeback | Watch Googoosh perform in London for an adoring crowd    



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