This is a late tribute to a great Iranian singer. I hope you will enjoy reading it and get a better understanding of who Foroughi Foroughi was and what he thought and feel.
More than two years have passed since the death of Fereyfoun Foroughi in Tehran. What urges me to share this little prelude with you is purely for personal reasons. I also would like to see it as a small window to view a singer whom I believe was a special man, despite his relatively short life and little artistic output.
I was sixteen when I escaped from Iran. Foroughi was never a pop idol of mine for some reason. However, Foroughi became an artist that I listened to and admired during my time in exile, until exile became home.
It was early in 1981, only few months away to my clandestine departure from Iran to Turkey; in search of freedom in new unfamiliar horizons. A late call from a friend woke me up. He invited me to go to the Cage, then a discotheque. I didn't need much convincing; enthusiasm for nightlife always won me over.
At the Cage there were Tehrani youths. The same crowd who hung around Bazaar Safavieh. Those who dressed and looked sheek and sleek with funky haircuts, Italian leather shoes, baggy trousers, and generally spruced up 24 hours a day; your typical sossools you might say. I noticed Foroughi was sitting not far from the dance floor. He looked thin, contemplative and quite.
It was late and good number of people had gone. The flashing, dancing lights were turned off and music ceased to blast. I heard someone, addressing the small crowd, saying don't leave, Foroughi is going to perform for us. Somebody passed him his guitar and he began to tune it up, holding a cigarette between his lips.
I was eager to hear him live. That was probably one of his last public performances. What was he going to sing I wondered? I was vaguely familiar with only one of his songs, “Ghooza-e Paa”. But he sang no Persian songs. Instead he chose Lennon and MacCarty's “Let it be”. His powerful and passionate voice did not do any injustic to that great song. I don't think he ever sang anything he did not feel or identify with wholeheartedly.
Later in Europe I met a guy who knew Foroughi personally. He was a witness to his search for truth and freedom, two things that preoccupied Foroughi's whole being and often plunged him into the abyss of emotional turmoil and instability. Through his personal account of Foroughi's life I felt I journeyed with him and shared some of his anguish and despair.
Foroughi was a very talented artist. He played the guitar and the piano and wrote and arranged his own music. Although he has left behind a very small quantity of work, his artistic merit is evident. He belongs to the same generation of universal artists like, Nick Drake and John Martin who still have a loyal cult following.
Most of Foroughi's lyrics is a direct reflection of his personal journey through life. They have universal qualities about them. Like the poems of Omar Khayyam, they are simple, melodious and profoundly metaphysical. They express the troubled, anguished heart of a sensitive man who thinks deeply about important issues in life.
Foroughi loved his country, culture and people, but at the same time he was in a spiritual exile and in constant search for meanings that would sooth his quivering heart.
Foroughi was renowned for his unconditional acceptance of people, people who came from very diverse backgrounds. He mingled with ordianry folks and treated people with great love and respect. But despite this, Foroughi was too aware of his lonliness and he searched and rummaged through the pages of his life searching for meaning.
Foroughi's welcoming of strangers also suggests a desire to meet his Shams or Messiah one day. A favorite song that he used to perform in private functions was “Yeknafar Meeyaad ke Man Montazer-e Didanesham” (“Someone Will Come; the One I'm Waiting for”), a song similar to Simon and Gurfunkel's “Over Troubled Waters”.
Like a bridge over troubled water I will ease your mind.
Although this song was not written by him but he had a special fondness for it.
Foroughi once left Tehran with a friend to take refuge in the country. He was determined to let the simple rustic lifestyle set him free, to become absorbed in the land and let his passion get consumed by it.
Mekhaam deeg-e rahaa besham Sadeh beria besham Zaminamo shokhm bezanam Na khoob besham nah bad besham
These lyrics stemmed from his personal experience. He longed for an unselfconscious state of being where the chauvinism that is usually attached with both states did not exist any more. The attainment of this Nirvana would have freed his imagination to roam freely in the realm of God, Nature and the Universe, like that bird in his song “Geraftar” that eventually broke free from the boredom of his existence and enjoyed the excitement of flight again.
Foroughi was a tortured idealist. He returned from the countryside, not finding his Arcadia, but a new song, ” Qariyeh“.
Foroughi was aware of the migration of people to the West. Some of his friends also had left the country. But he had a very strong attachment to the country of his birthplace. When people inticed him to leave Iran and experience the culture and lifestyle in the West, he sang back to them,
Man az tabaar-e paak-e ariaa-ee Ghashangtarin qasideye rahaa-ee Vaas-e raftan kheil dere del man injaa assir-e
Foroughi knew who he was and where he belonged. But on the other he wanted to break free from the limitations that were imposed on him as a free thinking human being.
Unlike Farhad, he never displayed any fascination with Islamic Iran. But his personal proclivity were with whatever he believed were part of his Arian cultural heritage. And if you pay good attention to his lyrics you will realise he prefered to use Persian words, instead of Arabic. But his rebellious Arian soul often found no alliance in the people that he loved and associated with; to a point that he felt like a stranger in his own country.
Messl-e lokposht to khodam qaayem shodam
deeg-e hichkas delamo nemibar-e
Despite this, Foroughi never left Iran. I wish he had. He sank deeper into his shell and became a recluse. He continued his masochistic lifestyle until he died in October 2000.
Whenever those hard, often unanswerable questions about the meanings of my own existence pounded my head, I always remembered the song Foroughi sang in the Cage before I left Iran, as if he sang it just for me.
Let it be
When I find myself in times of trouble Mother Mary comes to me Speaking words of wisdom, let it be. And in my hour of darkness She is standing right in front of me Speaking words of wisdom, let it be. Let it be, let it be. Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.
And when the broken hearted people Living in the world agree, There will be an answer, let it be. For though they may be parted there is Still a chance that they will see There will be an answer, let it be. Let it be, let it be. Yeah There will be an answer, let it be.
And when the night is cloudy, There is still a light that shines on me, Shine on until tomorrow, let it be. I wake up to the sound of music Mother Mary comes to me Speaking words of wisdom, let it be. Let it be, let it be. There will be an answer, let it be. Let it be, let it be, Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.