Previous posts in this discussion:
PostMusic Across Cultures: "Mara Beboos"; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA, 03/20/15 2:02 pm)
JE: Gary Moore responds to Massoud Malek (19 March):
My thanks to Massoud for his considerate reply to my question on the Iranian song "Mara Beboos." Moreover, John Eipper's postscript helped to pinpoint the underlying questions: Is this very secular song still popular in Iran today?
I've never met an Iranian expat who didn't know it (and some know both stanzas by heart, and sang it with me), but this doesn't define its standing within Iran, which could help show the size of the breathing space allowed to secular culture--perhaps larger than the stereotypes suppose.
Very helpful in Massoud's reply were the specifics on the song's origins, and how it came to be surrounded by a story that seems diametrically opposed to theocracy--that is, that the song was secretly written by a Tudeh (communist party) martyr, and hence its beloved sentiments came from the most secular of sources. In other explanations I had heard less specifically about the prior obscurity of the 1950s singer, Hassan Golnaraghi, in comments like: "He had a bakery or something. He had never been a singer before. He came out of nowhere with this song."
I hadn't realized that a key link was in the author credit at the beginning. When the song was originally presented, and became a smash hit, was its authorship left vague, or presumed to be by Golnaraghi himself? I had assumed that the lyricist's name on the record had always said Heidar Reghabi (plus the musical composer), but if there was a hiatus of a few years before Golnaraghi added this information, it would help explain an aura of mystery that the story about secret authorship would address. I wonder if Massoud can direct me toward sources where I might try to explore those early days, and perhaps the song's recording history.
The English renderings in the song are various, but if I'm not mistaken, the phrase "dokhtare ziva" can be rendered not as "pretty flower" but as "pretty daughter"--adding credence to the stories about secret authorship, claiming that there was a hidden layer of meaning--in a song not really to a lover but to a beloved little daughter on a condemned man's last night. Also the line about boatmen in a storm, in some renderings, more strongly suggests the communist ideal of New Men pulling together through stormy sacrifice.
Maybe it would be instructive to hear more about how Massoud's parents viewed the song, and on what context they formulated their conviction, as he pointed out, that the story of secret authorship was true.
It's frustrating that these questions require so much context and sound so abstruse. They aim at something very simple.
JE comments: Although our discussions are not as frequent as before, I've learned an enormous amount about Iran during my eight years at WAIS. Many of our Iranian correspondents have stressed that there is significantly more cultural wiggle room than Westerners commonly believe. Incidentally, WAIS receives a number of "hits" from within the IRI. (If any of you are reading this post, please drop me a line. I'd love to hear from you.)
Gary Moore's question begs a more politicized one: what is the current regime's take on the Mossadegh years? I would assume there's ambivalence. Mossadegh was a secular communist (bad), but also staunchly against Western imperialism.
Music Across Cultures: "Mara Beboos" and Mossadegh
(Massoud Malek, USA
03/22/15 6:39 AM)
In response to Gary Moore (20 March), I don't think there is much to add about "Mara Beboos." The song was popular in the 1950s and '60s, and now is almost forgotten. Young Iranians don't even know about the song, so the Mullahs have nothing to do with it. There are infinitely many Iranian songs with more beautiful lyrics. Some are from the poems of Hafez, Rumi, and other great poets.
Khomeini wrote some beautiful poems about love and wine. Here are two poems:
I will be a moth, burning,
burning all my life in her candle.
I will be drunk with wine,
marveling at her beautiful face.
For love's sake the veil
of chastity I'll tear.
Infamy, should the friend's path
entail is the loveliest thing to bear.
By the way, Mossadegh was not a communist. He actually had problems with them. Mossadegh is known in the West for nationalizing Iranian oil, but he did more for Iran than any other man. He was one the greatest reformers; his goal was to make Iran both economically and politically independent from the West and the Soviet Union. He gave more power to the ordinary people by curtailing the power of landlords, the military, and the Shah.
When he resigned in 1952, the whole Iran became paralyzed with strikes and street demonstrations. Five days later, the Shah was forced to reappoint him as the Prime Minister.
JE comments: How do we explain Khomeini's erotic poetry? His collection (in English) is called The Wine of Love. We don't associate erotic love, and much less wine, with the Ayatollahs.