Mommad Reza Asrar

Asrar’s “Amoo Zanjeer Baaf”

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I vaguely recall a popular social game that children used to play in Iran, Amoo Zanjeer baaf (literally “uncle chain-knitter”). The game has lyrics that kids would sing:

عمو زنجیرباف، زنجیرم بافتی؟ – بله پشته کوه انداختی؟ – بله …

I don’t exactly remember how the game was played; and I wouldn’t be writing this piece had it not been for a beautiful song by the same name, Amoo Zanjeer Baaf, written, composed and performed by a young Iranian musician, Mohammad Reza Asrar, that I recently came across.

Amoo Zaneer Baaf in Asrar’s song is not a friend to the children. Quite the contrary, he’s an More >

Famous Persian scientists, scholars, ...

Iran & Iranians — a bit of distant history

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The extent of Persian Empire in Achaemenid era, via Wikipedia
Early History

Iranian cultures and arts are rich and diverse, and have their roots in the ancient civilizations that developed as early as the fourth millennium BCE — about 4,000 years before any theistic religion came to existence — across the Iranian plateau.

Cyrus Cylinder, via Wikipedia

Iran has a long and complex history. Cyrus the Great (~ 600 BC – 530 BC), king of Persia during Achaemenid dynasty and the founder of Persian empire, conquered much of the known civilizations and expanded the Persia which spread from More >

Azam Ali and Ramin Torkian, Yoshi's - Oakland, Sep. 2011

Niyaz, a blend of Sufi poetry & folk songs from Mid-East

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I had the opportunity to see the recent concert by Niyaz in the San Francisco Bay Area (at Yoshi’s Oakland in September), as part of their world tour. After performances in Oakland, LA and Vancouver, their tour went on to Tunisia, Turkey and Slovenia in October and they have concerts in NYC, Toronto and Philadelphia in November. For details on their upcoming performances see the event calendar.

I have seen Azam Ali perform since her pre-Niyaz days in late 1990s. Every time I’ve seen her, I have enjoyed her music more, and this last one was the best I’ve seen of her and of Niyaz. They More >

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Rana Farhan, blending Rumi and the Blues

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Rana Farhan, the New York based Iranian singer, along with her band, had a performance at Yoshi’s San Francisco, on October 2, 2011, that was quite well-received.

“I do not know how Rana manages to combine the classical Persian poetry with contemporary jazz and blues and make it sound so good but she does it,” said Sharareh, one of Rana Farhan’s fans at Yoshi’s in San Francisco.

As an Iranian American singer, Rana Farhan has found a way to sing the rich classical poetry of Iran with the underground sound of the America, jazz and blues. Her ability to fuse these two very distinct cultures and More >

The ruins of Alamut Fortress

Alamut, Ismailis and the Legend of Hassan Sabbah

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We all have heard of Hassan Sabbah, the supreme leader of Nizari Ismailis order of eleventh century Persia, but only few know about the true history of this controversial branch of Shiite Islam and its leaders.

Ismailism

Ismail lion

In 765 Shiism gave birth to a new branch, which arose from a dispute over succession of its 6th Imam. Today’s dominant and the main stream of Twelver-Shiites believe that their 6th Imam, Jafar Al-Sadigh, instead of choosing Ismail (his first and oldest son) nominated Ismail’s younger half-brother, Musa Al-Kazim as the 7th Imam. Jafar’s decision was not endorsed by More >

Moshkin-Ghalam at Backstage, CA, Aug. 2011

Moshkin-Ghalam’s interpretation of Iraj Mirza’s “Zhohreh & Manouchehr”

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Zohreh & Manouchehr, the poem

Zohreh & Manouchehr is a 23-page long poem written by the early 20th century Iranian poet and satirist Iraj Mirza, who in turn based it on William Shakespeare’s poem “Venus and Adonis”. And this story has ties to the ancient Greek mythology.

It is the story of Zohreh (Venus, the goddess of love and beauty) who one day comes to earth in the form of a beautiful woman for a short rest, and by accident runs into the young and handsome prince, Manouchehr, next to a stream and at once desires him. So she sets out to pursue and seduce him. Manouchehr who is out with his More >

circ2

Let no love fall victim to Circumstance

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I first heard about the film Circumstance (also see IMDB and this) during its world premier at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2011. It was one of the 16 films out of more than 1,100 submissions that was selected for the Sundance film competition, and it went on to win the “Audience Award: Dramatic“.

Luckily I had the chance to see it at the San Francisco International Film Festival this week. Both screenings were sold out early on but I managed to get a ticket from a friend. I loved it. It is a beautiful, luscious, sensual and sexually charged drama, done artfully and tastefully. It is More >

Mehrnoosh

Mehrnoosh, a new voice in the Persian pop music

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I am generally not a huge fan of Persian pop music except some old timers like Dariush, Farhad (RIP), Googoosh, Haydeh (RIP), among few others, many of whom have been performing since before the 1979 revolution.

Among the newer pop singers I like the Iran-based Mohsen Chavoshi with melancholic love songs. The rapper, Shahin Najafi who is based in Europe, has got powerful social/political lyrics, though it is not really pop music.

And of course we have the SF Bay Area based Kiosk lead by Arash Sobhani, with his insightful social and political songs. But again in terms of style of music they More >

Shepards in Azarbaijan, near Ardebil, June 2004

Ethnic jokes in the Persian culture

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As I have discussed in About Iranians, Iran is a diverse country both geographically and culturally. Geographically we have it all — from the open seas and hot climate in the south along the Persian Gulf, to the dry and extreme climate of vast central and eastern deserts such as Dasht’e Kavir, to the cold climate of high mountain chains such as Alborz and Zagros, to the verdant north coast (Shomal) along the Caspian Sea with mild four season climate with high humidity and precipitation.

Ethnically Iran and Iranians are also quite diverse. Many of us use the terms Iranian and Persian More >

solstice_equinox

Solstices & Equinoxes, and the Persian tradition

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There are four special occasions during a year — two equinoxes and two solstices — that have astronomical significance and they mark the beginning of the four seasons. But they also have cultural significance among certain people and cultures of the world such as Persians.

An equinox occurs when the length of the day and night is equal. More technically, the tilt of the earth with respect to sun is at its minimum at an equinox. Vernal equinox occurs on March 20 or 21, and it marks the beginning of Spring in the northern hemisphere of earth and the beginning of Fall in the southern hemisphere. More >

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