Thinking in Persian, talking in English
By Babak Khiavchi
April 2, 2002
I have a problem. Well, quite a few actually, but this one is that... well, frankly
I just enjoy puns too much. This guilty pleasure aggravates when I have to think
in Persian and talk in English every day. I mean, I really can't help but admire
the beauty of what most people around me consider "uncivilized dialogue".
I know I sometimes take the whole "Pinglish" concept too far and venture
into the "Punglish" realm, but I really think Life is too Short all those
sleepless nights suddenly become so much interesting when you start creating puns
and instead of counting sheep start "goospund cheraani" in your imagination!
I used to be a devoted follower of the PanIranism Party when I had a "headache"
for politics! And whenever girls talk about marriage, I advise them to "Leftesh
bedeh till you find the right one!" Hell, if I ever have a daughter I"ll
call her "Paniz"! I mean how can you not "Beh Root Beeyaar" that
"Root Beer" tastes crappy?
But to make things worse, my infatuation with music opens up a whole new world of
possibilities. See, from my point of view, it is more than just the simple matter
of the Guitar being a "tar" wearing a "G-String".
I have discovered that contrary to the misconception that the Blues (I don't mean
Esteghlaal!) and consequently Rock music were conceived in the Mississippi Delta
by cotton-pickin' Afro-American slaves (the artists formerly known as Haji Firooz),
the real roots of Rock lay in the Middle East.
Probably the first hit rock and roll song was "I love Suzy", which was
played on single-string instruments called "Panbeh Zan" and sung by the
romantic street peddlers called "Lahaaf Doozees" (No relation to the Doobies).
Although the chord progressions and lyrics were very limited and had to adhere to
their traditions, the vocalists tended to improvise in their performances.
Some early styles developed include the Turkish Lahaaf Doozees: "Ela Luv Suzeeeeeeyeh
", the Downhill-Freewheeling Lahaaf Doozees on their speed bikes ("Sooooooo
zeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee") and the Tortured Lahaaf Doozees: " LAOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOF
Note the careful placement of the accented "OOF" and "EH" on
the 2nd and 4th downbeats which is a staple of early Rock music. This keeps the awakened
listener in a state of utter shock while the vocalist gathers his breath for the
A famous Rock success story is the tale of one of Prophet Mohammad"s (Peace
be upon him and to whom it may concern!) closest disciples by the name of Jafar Tayar.
The origin of his name is yet unkown, but it is believed that he was somehow in a
constant state of "high". Later on, he managed to sneak into the U.S. and
develop a cult following which led to the establishment of the 70's supergroup Jefferson
Another of Jafar Tayar's direct descendants, Elyas Jafari, later changed his first
name to Elvis and his last name from Parsley to Presley. Elyas exploded onto the
moozik scene with his hit "Tutti Frutti" which has maintained its actual
Persian title and pronunciation to this day.
Speaking of Persian influences in Rock music, anyone seeing Cat Stevens perform will
instantly realize the significance of "Gorbeh Raghsaani" in his music.
Even if he wasn't an asshole when he became Yousef Islam and wasted his talents,
it still seems "Ass holeh halim oftaad tooyeh deeg".
Some legendary Bluesmen and folk singers who followed the name-change trend were
Jan Ali Ghollabbaf who became John Lee Hooker, and Babak Daylaman who changed to
Bob Dylan after he realized he couldn't quite sing like Banan.
And it was the site of Bi Bi Sakeeneh wearing a bikini, that inspired B.B. King to
choose his stagename. And did you know that Stevie Ray Vaughan was vaaghean from
Shahre Rey? Even Heavy Metal groups like Metallica got tired of all the Persian "matalak-haa"
thrown at them and Dave Mustaine called it quits and formed his own group Mega-Deth!
Eventually the trend got out of hand and name changes lost all relativity to their
origins, a good example being Farrokh Ahi who became Elton Ahi because he didn't
like people calling him "Joon" or " John". Did I mention "2Fun"...
or was it "tooFun"?
Wait there's more...
Ever picked up Eric Clapton's "Layla"? (Not Samad Agha's Layla) Well you
can't anymore. And why did it take Al Di Meola 20 years to follow up "Isfahan"
with the "World Sinfonia" album? Because he hadn't seen the other half
of the world yet!
Now I know you don't believe me, but we do have a mode in traditional Persian music
called "Rock Abdollah". Swear to God. Ask any Setar-back-packing-nose-jobbed-girl
So do you see my point? Why can't some people just enjoy the moment and instead of
groaning and mumbling at this "Bee Punyan" sea of humor, see the cultural
humorous crossing created? Why can't we just enjoy our "dual identity"?