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Googoosh fans at London concert. Photo by C. Kadivar

Falling in love again
Thoughts after Googoosh's concert in London

By Cyrus Kadivar
January 19, 2001
The Iranian

In those dreamy days, before the revolution, a lovely voice could be heard in the garden of roses. From dawn to dusk, the nightingale serenaded us with songs drawn from a life filled with more drama than anything she sang.

Gathered around our battery-operated radio or television sets in Iran, wherever we were, we would listen to the lively concerts of Faegheh Atashin, better known as Googoosh.

She was our beloved nightingale and never again has there been a more popular icon so loved by young and old, rich and poor, men and women. Then one day a violent storm destroyed our garden, the roses were trampled and our nightingale stopped singing. She watched the dark clouds cover the blue sky. Everything changed.

She heard the bad news that the gates were shut. The land of the nightingale grew too sad to warrant a song and the happy faces fled to hide their tears. The sunlight in her heart became a shadow. Her heart was broken. For almost two decades, she preferred to forget her name. Imprisoned in a gilded cage she became a silent singer.

Memory may grow dim, the true story merged into legend, just as words and music blend into a song. But when, after all the instruments had fallen silent and every voice extinguished, there lingered for a very long time, an echo ­ the same eerie quiet that descended upon a grand house once inhabited with joy and laughter. We became exiles, millions wandering aimlessly in the proverbial desert. With the stars and the moon as our only friends, we murmured her tunes, until we found refuge in foreign lands.

Without her, in the city of exiles, nothing was ever the same again. The happiness we had known became poison to us. We needed each other to cross over the bridge of differences and become one again for without her we were a broken frame on the wall.

Lamenting our loss we buried our souvenirs. We moved on and pretended to smile again. And if the life we once knew grew further away her memory never left us. For all the years of separation from our homeland. the aura of Googoosh lingered in our hearts and minds.

Then one day someone opened the cage and the nightingale flew towards us to win our love and her voice. One January evening, Googoosh, deep in the throes of stage fright, brought thousands of exiles to their feet, many crying, with a voice that proved both defiant and undiminished by time. "In the name of Iran and Iranians... As long as I have you, I am always in love."

Struggling with her emotions, Googoosh threw back her blonde hair and held out her hands to show they were shaking. The crowd immediately burst into raucous whistles and cheers. Their noise was infectious and soon others joined in as Googoosh leaned against a white piano. She sang with her eyes closed, as if letting go of the pain. And when tears slipped from her eyes, her fans at Wembley arena roared. "Googoosh! Googoosh! Googoosh!"

It took one song to bring it all back. She sang of love and sorrow with such emotion that many people seated in the audience cried. Her voice was magical, her vitality extraordinary.

With her graceful gestures, Googoosh, now 50, danced the night away with the same cheeky love of life that had made her a star at the height of her career twenty-one years ago when the fundamentalist mollas banned her music as decadent. Dressed in gold and white, she sparkled in the dark. Behind her a thousand tiny lights twinkled like a galaxy of stars.

For two hours, as an 18-piece band played away, past, present and future merged as one unforgettable experience. The instruments came to life again. We heard the flute, the strings of a guitar, the drum and piano. Old and new melodies filled with metaphors. The stage exploded and from the sky poured countless pieces of colored hearts.

That night we all fell in love again. We became young and frivolous again. We were happy and sad. We were family again. We found our souls again. We embraced each other again.

Had the beautiful nightingale become a simorgh? Everything was reborn. Our fond memories of our ancient land rushed down like melting snow through the mountains towards the green pastures leaving us with the hope that the winter would soon give way to spring.

And when she flew away towards another branch we watched her rise above the hands eager to catch her. That night in London, I thought we heard the sweet sound of liberty ringing in our ears. The nightingale had brought us a message of better days ahead:

How can I not exist?
For in my Heart's desire;
There is the chirping of
hundreds of drunken birds.

If I sing again;
our fields will be green again.
If I sing again;
The girls will read poetry once more.
If I sing again;
The boys will fall in love in the
Classrooms all over

Googoosh performed in London on Saturday, January 6th, 2001 at the Wembley arena in front of 7,000 Iranians and several hundred European and Middle Eastern fans. She will return to London shortly before the Persian New Year in March

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