Khatereh Parvaneh sings again, for women only
August 14, 2001
I've seen showers that only women can use, salons that only women can
go to and I've even heard of a hospital for females alone when those crazy
goats in parliament were talking of starting one. But this one I had not
even dreamed of: a concert performed and attended only by females. It sounded
too bizarre to be real. "Do they ask the guys standing outside to cover
their ears?" I ask a friend.
The idea of going to something that would resemble a hamaam-e zanoone
is sick. But in the end, the voice I am eager to hear wins over all those
thoughts and on Thursday, July 26th I find myself standing in front of Talar-e
Roudaki ,which under the mollas, for a reason I can't quite figure out,
is called Talar-e Vahdat, without anyone giving a damn. "How can I
find my way to Talar-e Roudaki?'' I've been asked a thousand times, but
never Talar-e Vahdat.
The staff there, who are always males wearing light green, have given
way to females for this exclusive performance. There is not a man in sight.
I feel like I've stepped on another planet and I know I don't like the change.
Once inside the main hall, things are even more different. A concert
I had planned to attend looks more like a fashion show. "This is sick,"
I tell myself a million times. And I wonder what has brought these people
all the way here today. The chance to show off their wardrobe and pretty
hair? Boredom? The love of music?
But when the singer comes on stage looking older and more wrinkled up
than her pictures, when she opens those lips to let out that heavenly voice
that has been bottled up for two decades, and I see the tears rolling down
the face of the old lady sitting beside me with that awful that tank top,
I know that none of those reasons would be complete.
Khatereh Parvaneh sounds as beautiful as she did when she first stepped
on stage more than 30 years ago. Bringing to life Parvaneh's memory better
than anyone on earth. I am not an eyewitness, but I have all of my grandfather's
tapes and records that clearly tell me that.
The crowd can't stop applauding, laughing and crying at the same time.
For at least the next two hours, all things can be forgotten.
She is singing again like the old days but the only difference is that
this time, she's only allowed to sing to half of her admirers. Above her,
are two portraits of the inseparable duo which are everywhere -- from hospitals,
to cemeteries, to restaurants and concert halls -- looking back at each
of us, laughing their heads off.
Parvaneh goes through the old songs, my favorites being those that have
been written by a mysterious, incredible cleric, who in a very unclerical
kind of way has written some of the most beautiful pieces of Iranian music
ever. And I know if I could go back a 100 years, I would have greatly enjoyed
hearing Sheida sing away while playing on his tar.
Parvaneh sings Khaleghi, Tajvidi, Sheida and more. And looking at her
eyes you can tell that each one brings back wonderful memories: First love,
a summer's day, a wholehearted laugh, and more. Her eyes are sad, filled
up with a kind of gham that is indescribable.
What would I have done to see her perform ages ago, when she and all
these listeners here were young and full of life. The struggles and burdens
that have so quickly wrinkled up so many of the women sitting in this room
have not left her unscarred either, and maybe that's why all these people
sing along in soft whispers, knowing that she too feels their pain.
Sometimes she allows her crowd to sing along -- moments they impatiently
anticipate. And how they've kept every single word fresh and unforgotten
is a mystery which I can't quite figure out, until I hear Percy Bysshe Shelley
answering me: "Music, when soft voices die, vibrates in the memory."
And now, looking at this scene makes me understand those words better than
She's a crowd pleaser, and willingly takes and gives back the love she
is receiving. She sings the songs they ask for, even those not listed in
the program, despite the fact that she has a hard time standing on her feet.
But all good things must come to an end, and when she finishes her last
song, it's time to go.
The number of flower bouquets she is showered with is unbelievable. But
she finally turns to leave, walking a few steps... and comes back telling
us that she'll sing us one more song if we promise to sing along, as if
she doesn't want to go either; she wants to stay up there as long as she
can. She sings "Ey Iran" and Khaleghi I know, is watching us with
the greatest joy.
She finally leaves. And I pray for the "Bahar-e Delneshin"
she sang about. I pray for the day when all these women here can look the
same way they do now when they walk outside those doors. The day when they
can comfortably hold any hand they please and listen away without having
those two frightening, watchful eyes staring at them.
Najmeh Fakhraie is a 18-year-old student in Tehran.