Do you ever feel like you need to be more Iranian? That's the question one of my friends asked me as we're having dinner and listening to Googoosh's latest album, “Akharin Khabar” (Latest News).
By going about your preferences and expectations without touting your ethnicity, are you debasing your cultural background, or simply letting it be one, among many of the elements of your makeup? How important should your heritage be when you cast your opinion about a distinguished living celebrity? What exactly does it mean to be a loyal Iranian? Does it mean you should dismiss your preferences to the benefit of good old days? Isn't that an immobile behavior in this complete dynamic life?
These are the questions I ask myself as I receive some hostile feedback from my roundtable discussion with friends, in response to what I've stated about Googoosh's newest work. As the night goes on and good wine has its effect, the discussion intensifies. I'm now being accused of being Westernized. At this point I feel like I must soften my position, or being called “an infidel” is surely just one more glass of wine away.
At this point I'm quiet, but continue to ask myself: Why does it seem utterly impossible for my friends to have an unbiased opinion? Is it because of who Googoosh once was, who she has become in recent years, or maybe a bit of both? How does one separate opinion on the artistic quality of this album — from who she is as a person? She has never been just another singer. Intentionally or involuntarily, her music has always been only one part of what she offers as an entertainer.
For one moment I thought the answers have to do in part with the interaction between the passionate nature of Persian culture and the static spirit of Iranian music. So I decided to take a politically correct position and responded:
“This is not a bad album, but I wouldn't be surprised if someone told me Googoosh did this album before the revolution.” Then immediately add, “That means the quality of her voice and her ability to perform at the same standard is still the same. But it also means the form and framework of her music has stayed the same which is not all that bad if no progress is expected from her.”
At this point everyone is unusually quiet, maybe not interested in further discussion, maybe sleepy. I felt a little safer but my thoughts led to more questions. In the days after, these questions kept circulating in my head and I felt I was in need of finding an answer for my important question. “Why am I less of an Iranian if Googoosh's new album didn't meet my expectations?”
Googoosh, relatively speaking, has immense public support and stacks of natural skills. In the modern age and in the crazy LA music market, the first instinct is to look around independently and free of any outside influences (even if they come from beloved ones), assess producers, songwriters, and composers to find out who meets Googoosh's standard. The good old games of “Who-Knows-Who”, do not work to the extent they used to.
Almost every Iranian loves Googoosh, in one way or another. Love is love, but with that comes responsibility for the object of ones attention, even if that love comes from a less of an Iranian.