night with Aghili
He belted out tune after
tune, the classics, the pop songs, and provided more than a
few funny stories in between
July 21, 2005
A little over a week ago I was on my lunch break at work, and
like all good Iranian children, I called home to check in with
my mother. She
picked up and began to yell "AGHILI IS COMING!" I laughed and asked
what she was talking about, and instead of an explanation I just kept
getting "Aghili is coming, Aghili is coming!"
What you have to understand
is that I, like many children of immigrants, was raised on shoddy VHS recordings
of music videos and worn tape cassettes made in Iran during the 70's. Somewhere
between the pop sounds of Googoosh and Sattar though, I fell in love with the
majestic voice of Houshmand
Growing up it was pretty much assumed
that I'd never get the opportunity to hear Aghili sing in person,
musicians who perform usually have shows in New York and Los Angeles and Iranians
stuck down in Atlanta either fork out money for a plane ticket or sigh and
pop in a "Greatest
You can understand
my disbelief then when I had my mother
repeating, "Aghili is coming, Aghili is coming!" without any sort
of explanation. I assumed that she misunderstood an ad or gossip about Shadmehr
or even Hooman Aghili and quickly got off the phone.
Once I arrived home she explained to me that one of my khalehs
(you know the one, she's the oldest who is always first to hear
and spread the latest Iroony news and gossip) had seen an ad in
Pardis, the Iranian newspaper, for Aghili, yes Houshmand Aghili.
He was to perform in Atlanta, actually a northwest suburb of Atlanta,
about a six minute drive from my house at a new Iranian restaurant/cabaret
Now, if I were to review The Cabaret
in this article, the next two paragraphs would go into detail
about how unorganized the owner is, how it was impossible to reach
at the restaurant, how I was given incorrect information regarding
the show, how the phone number for the restaurant which was provided
in the ad was for a FAX LINE, however this is about Aghili, not
the train wreck of a restaurant he was performing in.
My mother and I arrived at The Cabaret on Friday (July 15th)
around 9:00. We ate incredibly bland and overpriced kabob and finished
up with tea made from cheap teabags. Around 11:00 Shabahang (whose
frontman is the owner of The Cabaret) took the stage and bored
everyone to tears until finally he walked out.
And he did just... walk out. He caught most of us off guard,
strutting out from somewhere in the back; he swooped up the microphone
and began singing immediately, before we were done clapping. He
was incredible. There really are not words for this man's voice.
Before attending the concert I told myself to not get my hopes
up, he is an older man now; he may not be able to sing the same
Oh how wrong I was.
He belted out tune after tune, the classics, the pop songs, and
provided more than a few funny stories in between. Among the songs
performed (and I only remember these since they are some of my
favorites) were "Farda
to Meeaee," "Shen-e Daagh" (probably
known better as "Daryaa") and "Yek Yari Daram." Now,
I cannot speak for the rest of the people there, especially those
like my mother who had seen Aghili perform in Iran, but I thought
his performance was spectacular.
Maybe I feel that way because I've been obsessed with this man
since I was able to speak, maybe because halfway through a song
he came up to me, grabbed my hand and asked
me to dance and as
a result my heart stopped. Maybe I feel that way because this man
could sing the Hokey Pokey with a head cold and I'd still thing
he'd have the most exquisite voice on the planet. It doesn't matter
though, the point is that Houshmand Aghili is every bit as marvelous
at 68 as he was when he first started singing.
Now, the only distraction from this amazing voice was the music
provided by Shabahang,
which was pretty horrifying according to everyone, including
Aghili himself. He stopped more than once and asked them to just
play, to allow
him to first sing and then follow along. It was loud, obnoxious
and half the time we could not recognize what song they were
attempting to play until he began singing.
If I could subtract
the equation, the night was pretty awful. Mr. Shabahang does
not know how to perform music nor does he know how to run a
restaurant. Perhaps I will save the horror stories regarding the
later article. For this one though, I will close with a few
(blurry) photographs taken from the show and this: although seeing
aged was a bit of a shock, he completely lived up to the near
godlike image I've been creating for him in my head since I
was a child.
He was a thousand times better than I could have ever imagined
and I feel honored to have been able to share a room with him
while he sang at least once in my life.