Ramesh and Floppy Persian Dancing of the 1970s

I like Ramesh – she has a nice masculine (lesbian?) vibe, a good voice, and awesome stage presence. That afro alone is crazy-inspiring.

One thing that gets me every time I watch this video is the girl at 1:36 or so and her super-floppy Gumby dancing. <3 forever.

Pomegranates on KCRW

The beautiful new compilation of Iranian funk music, “Pomegranates,” was covered yesterday on KCRW. Producers Mahssa Taghinia and Arash Saedinia talk about the music and Schnabel plays Googoosh’s Gol Bi Goldoon. Listen here:

Buy the CD at Finders Keepers.

(Merci, Nazanin!)

30 Years

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

“Anatomy of a Revolution” – Al Jazeera English

Googoosh Blog

Yes, you read that right: Googoosh has an official blog.

Kaj Kolah Khan

This video of Googoosh singing “Kaj Kolah Khan” is a great way to start the day. Thanks, YouTube!

Andranik, Father of Iranian Pop Music

Bebin.TV consistently cranks out well-researched and well-packaged video journalism, which has made the site a really important archive of Iranian culture in a relatively short time. Bebin’s especially strong in its music coverage, as evidenced by this 15-minute piece about Andranik, who you’ve probably never heard of but who happened to invent Iranian pop music in the 1970s. In any case, if you are a fan of Googoosh, Ebi, Andy, Shahrokh or any of the other classics (many of whom are interviewed in this piece), you have Andranik to thank for their sound. Watch above.

(Thanks, Rose and Arash!)

Googoosh and The Believer Music Issue 2008

The Believer 2008 Music Issue - featuring Googoosh

The Believer is a literary magazine from the same people that publish the literary magazine McSweeney’s. I’m excited that this year The Believer’s music issue includes a cover illustration of original Persian pop queen Googoosh – and the accompanying CD features her song Makhloogh, as well as Sholi’s cover of Googoosh’s Hejrat (for more on Sholi, check out the Pars Arts interview with Sholi frontman, Payam Bavafa, who brought this cover to my attention). You can buy a copy of the issue ($10) at any big bookstore, or get it straight from McSweeney’s right here.

Payam also writes: “You can download an mp3 of Googoosh’s version of Hejrat for free here, and you can now buy her 40 Golden Hits Record for the first time on iTunes via Taraneh Records (her best compilation).” Thanks, Payam! I think it’s very cool that Googoosh is hitting more mainstream music distribution channels.

But enough talk. Here’s Miss G. rocking out Makhloogh, back in the day:

Re-Interpreting Googoosh: An Interview with Musician Payam Bavafa

Sholi Hejrat EP cover

Meet Payam Bavafa, songwriter/guitarist in a San Francisco-based experimental rock band called Sholi. The band’s most recent EP, “Hejrat,” features an awesome cover of Googoosh’s song by the same name. We asked Bavafa, the group’s sole Iranian-American member, what Persian music means to him, and why he and his bandmates – drummer Jonathon Bafus, bassist Eric Ruud, and keyboardist/percussionist Greg Hagel – decided to cover the Persian pop legend. Here’s what he had to say.

Pars Arts: Tell us about Sholi; how’d you guys get together, and how’d you pick the name?
Payam Bavafa: I started playing music with Jon (the drummer) in Davis, where we were both going to college. I wanted to have a Persian name for our group, and Jon liked “Sholi,” the nickname that my dad gave my brother and me when we wrestled as kids.

PA: Your newest release is a 7″ entitled Hejrat, which is the name of the famous Googoosh song you’ve covered. Why the fascination with Googoosh, and why did you choose the song Hejrat?
PB: Googoosh was the predominant soundtrack to youth in Iran in the ’70s. My mother came to the United States then as a college student, and like many other young Iranian girls of the time, she was fascinated with Googoosh… her voice, her looks, her dancing, her fashions. For today’s middle-aged Iranians, including my mom, listening to Googoosh’s music is reminiscent not only of Iranian ’70s music, but the family and the culture they left behind. Thinking about how powerful this inherently nostalgic music must have been to my mother and other Iranians struck a particularly strong chord in me.

My original idea was to do an entire album of Googoosh covers, reinterpreting them with Sholi as a means to turn American audiences on to her music and story. However at the time (November 2007), this seemed a bit ambitious, and also political rhetoric between Iran and America was escalating in such a way that I felt the urge to make a more concise statement right away – one that would turn an American artist’s fan-base on to Iranian music and culture and vice-versa. That is still pretty ambitious, I suppose…

It was also then that I read an essay by Hamid Nafisi called The Making of Exile Cultures, about the impact of media, particularly television, on Iranian expatriates looking back to images/sounds/relics of their pre-revolutionary past for a sense of cultural identity. This led me to thinking about how I seek out my own cultural identity, with Internet and new media playing a prominent role. The YouTube video and audio clips we sampled for the 7″ – the front-cover image of Googoosh on the TV taken from the Hejrat music video, the image of Joanna on the back cover taken from the Sprout and the Bean music video, and the audio clip of Iranians being interviewed about what they do for fun at the end of Sprout and Bean, are all a testament to Nafisi’s ideas and also the way I connected to the songs myself. My good friend Michael Aghajanian posed our parents watching Googoosh on television at his house in LA for the cover shot.

As for why I chose “Hejrat” in particular… it started with seeing the music video and being intrigued. After looking further into the lyrics and speaking with some Iranians, I realized that it’s commonly regarded as one of Iran’s most beautiful songs. I believe that the literal translation of the title is “Migration,” and it’s about a lover that has departed. I wanted to re-frame the song to be about Iran itself leaving the hundreds of thousands of natives who were essentially forced out of their homeland at the turn of the Islamic Revolution, a theme that I think Googoosh herself embodies.

PA: You’re the sole Iranian in Sholi’s lineup. How did you introduce Googoosh to your bandmates? Have you guys explored other Persian music, and do you have plans to do other Iranian covers?
PB: We don’t have plans for more covers at the moment, but I think that Persian music is something that is inherently explored within this band… in the melodies, rhythms, tunings, 1-chord song structures.

I introduced Eric (our bass player) to Googoosh’s music a long time before he was in the band. I could tell he was moved by it, not even knowing what the song was about. More recently I gave everyone “Googoosh: 40 Golden Hits,” a best-of compilation on Taraneh Records my friend Razmin turned me on to.

PA: The B-side of this album is a cover of the Joanna Newsom song, “Sprout and the Bean.” Again, an interesting choice, as Newsom’s ethereal folk-style contrasts so much with Googoosh’s 1970s disco-chic. What does Newsom’s music represent here?
PB: I think “Sprout and the Bean” is beautiful and poses an interesting counterpoint to “Hejrat,” thematically. The song climaxes with a chorus of voices asking “Should we go outside?” Googoosh’s answer, through “Migration,” the name and theme, is delivered on side A. The backwards sequencing here – implying action or “migration” preceding thought or choice or questioning – is suggestive of many Iranians’ sudden plight at the turn of the revolution. A large number of these exiles still look to the past for answers in their search for happiness and a sense of cultural identity. While Joanna’s and many Americans’ existential dialogue is far-removed from political pressures, Googoosh’s and the expatriated Iranians’ dialogue is heavily centered on their cultural displacement. Joanna embodies the fantastical and other-worldly, and works within an original, mystical universe that she’s seemed to have created all on her own. I think that her work moves the audience forward into a fantasy realm, rather than backward into a realistic, nostalgic one. It’s full of “danger of broad boats,” “hollow chatter of tadpoles,” among a myriad of other fantastical constructions that are characteristic of her free-flowing musical ideas. To me, what Googoosh represents now is a repressed cultural icon. Her songs have rigid, repetitive structures, and are mostly romantic in nature. Her work, in its current context, is most often interpreted as nostalgic, turning listeners back to the way their lives were before political circumstance changed everything.

PA: You’re touring now, with recent stops in Brooklyn complete. How has your music been received thus far, especially the Persian-language Googoosh cover? A couple of your stops were in my old neighborhood, Williamsburg – I’m so curious about what the hipsters made of your show.
PB: I think we were received well at [Brooklyn venue] Union Hall. The place was a strange combination of hipster kids and 30-something parents with their babies playing bocce. This Norwegian prog band called Ungdomskulen played with us. They were awesome.

Oddly enough, the Googoosh song has been the highlight of many shows among Americans and Iranians alike. In Portland, this very nice Iranian woman came to the show with her American husband, and they liked it so much they welcomed us to stay the night at their house! I feel like in some ways doing such a cover has allowed us to connect with a crowd of people who would have never connected to our music otherwise… the main example of that being my parents. Another highlight was a Take Away Show we recently did with director Vincent Moon (yet to be released). For one of the videos we walked through Dolores Park in San Francisco carrying guitar, cello, and bells, playing “Hejrat” to hundreds of unsuspecting listeners.

PA: What other Persian music has influenced your and Sholi’s music?
PB: Lately I’ve been listening to the Golha Radio Programmes (The Flowers of Persian Poetry and Song) on radiogolha.com. They are very beautiful and inspiring; it’s so nice that they’ve been digitally archived since their original broadcasts from 1956-1979.

When I was young, I listened to a lot of Andy and Kouros, and actually still do. I think Balla is one of the best Iranian pop albums. Besides that, Shajarian, Javad Maroufi, Ebi, Hayedeh, Marzieh, Dariush and probably a hundred other artists that I couldn’t name that my parents have filled the house with since I was young. A lot of traditional Persian music.


Hear Sholi’s music here:

27 Aug 2007, 12:38pm
Music Nostalgia
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Elahe is Dead

Elahe Iranian Singer

Iranian singer Elahe (also spelled “Elaheh”) died recently, following by just a few months the death of Mahasti. There are a few great videos of her on YouTube, below. This one is very scratchy but it looks like it’s from the ’50s, and the camera work is so strange:

This video is more recent but unfortunately mostly features shots of her accompanist:

And here’s another older video of Elahe singing, accompanied by famous Iranian pianist Anoushirvan Rohani:

Elahe became a controversial figure after the revolution because of her alleged support of the MKO. In an interview with Elahe, Anne Singleton, formerly a British MKO supporter, quizzed her at length on her involvement with that organization and Elahe essentially says she was conned into performing at the MKO’s concerts. Of Elahe’s political entanglements, Darius Kadivar writes:

Elahe never became a full member of the MKO but as explained in her interview had accepted to sing for Iranians abroad and was seductively approached by MKO members and isolated from her initial apolitical audience. Ironically Elahe was actually at the forefront of the Former Imperial Regime’s campaign of modernization that was spearheaded by the Shah of Iran in the aftermath of the Mossadegh years.

See Kadivar’s piece on Persian Mirror or BBC Persian (Persian text only) for more.

9 Feb 2007, 2:07am
Music Nostalgia
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Happy Belated (or Early) Birthday, You Grand Dame


Before there was the big GOOG, another “Goog” sang and danced her way into the Iranian consciousness. Googoosh, sort of an Iranian Joni Mitchell (meets Judy Garland, meets Tina Turner, meets Olivia Newton-John, etc.), either turned 56 yesterday or turns 57 in April – even Wikipedia doesn’t seem to know. In any case, no Persian culture website is complete without at least one mention of her, so here’s ours. For the curious, there is no lack of her music or biographical information online, though it’s important to note that we think her music from the 1960s and 1970s (as opposed to the more contemporary stuff) has the true staying power.

As a little kid I remember being mortified by my parents’ dancing until I saw this video and realized their Persian disco stylings were not entirely their fault. In fact, I couldn’t help but pick up some of these moves myself. Enjoy:


And for kicks, here’s her funky cover of Carole King’s “It’s Too Late”: