Bringing poetry to life
By J. Javid
At first, the music will grab you. Then Shahram Nazeri's voice. And then, you start noticing the words and their meaning. The balance and beauty of "She'r-o-Erfan" (Poetry and Mysticism) is truly mesmerizing.
When "She'r-o-Erfan" came out, if I'm not mistaken, around 1985, it was an immediate hit. The initial enthusiasm came from the fact that it was one of the first musical productions that got an official permit from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.
Up to that time, you could get an illegal Googoosh or Michael Jackson tape, if you paid a substantial sum, but basically what was available from bookstores and sidewalk vendors in front of Tehran University were only classical tapes, "harmless" elevator music and a few soundtracks.
"She'r-o-Erfan" changed all that. It was new and it was superb. AND when a revolutionary guard stopped and searched your car in the middle of the night and asked you: "What is this?" all you had to do was show the official permit printed on the back of the tape cover.
But there was another aspect to "She'r-o-Erfan" as well. Some claimed it had a political message. And in Iran when someone claims something has a political message, it's usually not in favor of the Islamic Republic. The Talk of the Town was so widespread that it even got the attention of the Majlis.
During a free-speech period, aired live on radio before the start of Majlis sessions, one deputy scolded the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry for issuing a permit for "She'r-o-Erfan". The deputy claimed the tape mocked the Islamic Republic because it included a particular Rumi poem.
In that particular poem, "Benmaay rokh", Rumi longs for a garden, desires the beloved, moans about "pharaoh's" oppression, cries out to Moses and the mythical Persian hero, Rostam, for salvation, and seeks "human beings" in a land full of "demons and beasts." Just a poem? Just a coincidence? The fuming Majlis deputy didn't think so.
The Culture and Islamic Guidance minister at the time was none other than the current president, Mohammad Khatami. He defended his policy of giving a freer hand to artists, including musicians. When criticized in the cabinet about permits issued by his ministry for musicians carrying "corrupting" musical instruments, it is said that Khatami's reply was: "The music you hear on the radio and TV isn't played with pots and pans."
Here are three tracks from "She'r-o-Erfan". Music composed by Jalil Andalibi, performed by the Mowlana Group. Enjoy
In RealAudio format. Get it here.