I was invited to attend Dariush's concert in Los Angeles last month. Despite my love for Iran and its culture, I had never liked nor learned to appreciate Iranian music. I always found them quite depressing and repetitive. I realize my knowledge is limited and my stubbornness had kept me away from Persian music and musicians of the past and the present.So did I want to attend Dariush's concert? Absolutely not!
To be perfectly frank, I had no idea who Dariush even was. For the past few days before the concert I kept hearing his name everywhere and the only famous Dariush I did know was the Persian King. What's worse is until the day before his concert, I kept mistaking his name with Shahram and once Sattar.
You see I was born in Iran and raised in San Francisco with a European education and culture. Even while in Iran we never heard Persian music at home. There was always classical music in the house and from time to time Sinatra, Iglesias and a few other “sappy romantics” as they were my mother's favorites.
I had two older brothers so my first music experience were Pink Floyd and Deep Purple. Of course I went through the disco era as well. In fact the day I received my set of drums on my birthday, my oldest brother inaugurated it to the sounds of Deaf Leopard completely kicking it and putting his foot through it. In the meantime my second brother accompanying him with his latest tennis racket that made the best guitar had turned it into mere pieces of wood and string from the impact of the wall.
I must admit I was an accomplice having joined their band. I had turned my tambourine to shreds. Later, in my own teen years I was a follower of The Sex Pistols, The Clash, New Order, Depeche Mode and today I still have not outgrown Techno.
So did I know Shahram? Absolutely not! He was not exactly in the same caliber as the pistols! By no means do I claim that my music was better than someone else's. I actually believe the concept of “To each their own”. I also advocate personal taste. My groups were just what I grew up with and therefore used to.
After constant persuasions from my husband — an ex concert pianist who is an expert interpreter of Beethoven and Chopin — I agreed to go to the concert. After all, I would like to see Iranians and learn more of my culture.
As we walked in late through the concert hall, Shahram was already singing. We sat next to my husband's family who had already been there since the start. I sat next to my new aunt Shahrzad. We had excellent seats and could see the stage, the artist as well as our surroundings.
The auditorium was full and loud. People were dancing, singing, clapping — anything to show their joy. I actually could not hear the lyrics from Shahram himself, though his followers knew them well. So far it was like any other pop concert.
As I looked closer at the audiences I noticed something that is quite typical of our culture. I have to say that the Iranians at the concert were impeccably dressed. They looked as if they had just stepped off the runways of Paris or Milan however as always they also have a fault. They are always over dressed for the wrong occasion! Considering that this was a pop concert and not the opening of the opera, many women were dressed as they were Oscar nominated for the female lead! Harry Winston would have been proud!
I sat in my seat quietly absorbing the trance that this man had over his fans. I looked over to Khaleh Shahrzad seating to my right. I could only see her left cheek. With the flashing lights on her face, I could see the wet, shiny shadows from her eyes to her chin. She had transcended to her past.
I was seeing her, the teenager who grew up with Shahram. She absolutely glowed. I couldn't imagine her being anywhere else that night. I could see that her trip from Northern California was a pilgrimage and she had to come. She had to be reminded again just once more of that time long passed. I was more moved by her passion and love at that moment.
I looked around to see other people and noticed the same — not just from the women but the men as well. It was beautiful! Khaleh Shahrzad was one of many. An entire generation from her time who shared her memories. However this did not end there.
There were people from all generations. There were people much older than Khaleh Shahrzad and people as young as teenagers who were not even born during Shahram's peak. Yet they were just as loud singing and dancing along. Khaleh Shahrzad was there with three of her sisters and her brother. All enjoyed the show and Daii Shahrdad walked away with the sexiest coarse voice I had ever heard!
I spent most of the night observing the people and learning about the artist through his fans' eyes and their hearts. It was amazing to see the kind of power this man had over the people. Who were these people and who was this man? I couldn't keep my eyes off the audience.
My eyes wondered from one row to the next, from one man to another woman. Each wiping their tears, loved ones holding them and still they could not stop singing. I was seeing the scene in a warped fast-forward and within seconds, I found myself in tears. By no means was I emotional over the same reasons as Khaleh Shahrzad and everyone else there. No, theirs was purely nostalgia.
Perhaps it was the memories of their youth long gone, passions for life free of worry at the time and certainly the loss of their country — Iran. Perhaps it was seeing again someone whom they grew up with and looking at Shahram's face, which no longer was as they remembered him. He now was aged with experience, pain and success of drug free. However, looking into his eyes, they saw him as they knew him and hence saw themselves. It was love. It was a therapy session.
Shahram was magnificent. Simply being who he was and what he had accomplished in his youth and gathering his followers from then, he brought out their emotions or simply unleashed what was there all along. With every beat or every beginning of his songs, he reminded his fans of what song he was going to perform next and then all I could hear was a roar. One loud roar as all the audience had become one.
With the number of people in the hall, the unity between the countrymen was strong. If that night was proof that Iranians can come together and be part of something – anything, even a concert, well I wonder how did we ever fall apart? How did we loose Iran?
Why are we so attached to nostalgia and to our past? Most of the time it only reminds us what once was and now no longer is. In essence how is that a good thing? So do we still prefer to be reminded of then even if it pains us to remember today? Why is it that as human beings we cannot let go? Even as we proceed to our future we still carry our pasts.
Yes I was in tears. I cried not because of the memory I shared with him, but because a combination of him and his fans pressed the button in me that reminded me I am an Iranian as well. And yes I love Iran and its people regardless of the short time I lived there or how improper I speak the language. After all since my return to Iran three years ago, I have seen more of Iran than any Iranian I have met.
As Shahram carried the pre-revolution Iranian flag on stage, even I appreciated being included in this ceremony, this reunion. Attending the concert showed me another side of our people and our culture that I had never been introduced to. So do I know who Shahram is now? Maybe not yet, but at the very least I have an idea now what he means to his fans.