First Iranian Traditional Folk Entertainer: Haaji Firooz

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M. Saadat Noury
by M. Saadat Noury
15-Mar-2011
 

 

 

Haaji Firooz is the most famous among the traditional folk entertainers, who appears in the streets and alleys of the cities in Iran in the days preceding the Iranian New Year known as Know Rooz, aka Nowruz (NR). In this article the story of Haaji Firooz as the First Iranian Traditional Folk Entertainer will be studied and discussed. 

His different names
Haaji Firooz (HF) is also known as Haji Firuz, Hajji Firouz, Haaji Nowruz, Hajji Piruz, Khawja Piruz, and many others. It should be noted that Haaji or Haji in here is just a form of address and has nothing to do with the Islamic Hajji, like using 'sir' to address a gentleman in English without the person being a knight in the technical sense. 

How he entertains people?
HF entertains people by singing traditional songs and dancing and playing his tambourine. He blackens his face, wears very colorful clothes, usually but not always red, and always a hat that is sometimes long and cone-shaped. People of all ages gather around him and his troupe of musicians and listen to them play the drum, saz or kamancheh and dance. Those who are impressed with the troupe's performance shower it with coins and paper money.
Sometimes HF appears with a group of friends and relatives. Uncle Nowruz (in Persian: Amou Nowruz), a distant relative of HF is responsible for giving gifts to the children much like Santa Claus. (Iranian author Naser Enghetaa believes that the correct term for that relative is Baba Nowruz). He makes their wishes come true and ensures that they are happy and healthy for many years to come.
Often, some well-to-do Iranians invite HF and his group to their home to perform for their wife and daughters who would otherwise never see them in action on the streets and alleyways. Here the group plays popular folk music, performs a variety of comic routines, and tells jokes. At the end of the performance the group is invited to a delicious NR meal and is nicely compensated for their contribution with the NR gift (in Persian: Eydi). 

His songs
His songs, which are quite traditional in wording and melody, are also very short repetitive ditties. Here are some samples of those songs:
1. Haji Firouz-eh / Saal-i ye rooz-eh حاجی فیروزه / سالی یه روزه
Hameh midunan / Manam midunam همه میدونن / منم میدونم
Eyd-e Nowruz-eh / Saal-i ye rooz-eh عید نوروزه / سالی یه روزه
(It's Haji Firouz / only one day a year
Everyone knows / I know as well
It is Nowruz/ It's only one day a year)
2. Arbaab-e khodam salamo aleykom, ارباب خودم سلام و علیکم
Arbabe khodam sareto bala kon! ارباب خودم سرتو بالا کن
Arbabe khodam be man niga kon, ارباب خودم به من نگا کن
Arbabe khodam lotfi be ma kon ارباب خودم لطفی به ما کن
Arbabe khodam boz boze Ghandi ارباب خودم بز بز قندی
Arbabe khodam chera nemikhandi? ارباب خودم چرا نمی خندی؟
(Greetings my very own lord
Raise your head my lord
Look at me, my lord
Do me a favor, my lord
my very own lord, the billy goat
Why don't you smile, my Lord)
3. Beshkan beshkaneh, beshkan! بشکن بشکنه، بشکن
man nemishkanam, beshkan! من نمیشکنم، بشکن
Inja beshkanam yaar geleh dareh اینجا بشکنم یار گله داره
unja beshkanam yaar geleh dareh اونجا بشکنم یار گله داره
in siahe bichareh cheghadr hoseleh dareh این سیاه بیچاره چقدر حوصله داره
 

Various hypotheses on the origin of Haaji Firooz

1. Iranian scholar Ali Akbar Dehkhoda wrote that, “HF is a person who blackens his face, plays tambourine, and sings. He entertains people and his messages for them are that the spring has arrived and the Iranian New Year is in the corner. He may resemble Santa Claus”.
2. In an Interview, Iranian film director and researcher Bahram Bayzai said that Ancient Iranians believed that there were some guardian angels called as Farvashi. HF most likely represents the Farvashi of joy and celebration and he is a distinct pedlar (in Persian: Doureh Gard) who also sings and brings happiness.
3. Iranian author and poet Mahmud Kianush noted that, “The traditional herald of the NR season is called HF. He symbolizes the rebirth of the Sumerian god of sacrifice, Domuzi, who was killed at the end of each year and reborn at the beginning of the New Year”.
4. Iranian author and researcher Mehrdad Bahar (MB) wrote that the figure of the HF is derived from ceremonies and legends connected to the epic of prince Siavash, which are in turn derived from those associated with the Mesopotamian deities of agriculture and flocks, Tammuz (Sumerian:Dumuzi). Later , he claimed that HF’s blackened face symbolizes his returning from the world of the dead, his red clothing is the sign of Siavash’s red blood and the coming to life of the sacrificed deity, while his joviality is the jubilation of rebirth, typical of those who bring rejuvenation and blessing along with themselves .He speculated that the name Siavash might mean "black man" or "dark-faced man" and suggests that the black part of the name may be a reference either to the blackening of the faces of the participants in the afore-mentioned Mesopotamian ceremonies, or to the black masks that they wore for the festivities. MB, however, failed to produce any reliable sources.
5. In his article on traditional Iranian New Year or NR, Iranian scholar Iraj Bashiri wrote that, “The month during which Nowruz celebrations are held is an extraordinary time in the life of the community. In ancient times this aspect of NR was so prominent that the mayors of towns were literally displaced by the most victorious person in carrying out the commands of Ahura Mazda and his six holy immortals. This victorious (Piruz) Khawaja or lord was given the rule of the realm for the period. As a part of his duties, Khawaja Piruz saw to it that all the people of the realm were provided with the amenities and joy that were due them”.
6. Iranian scholar Mahmoud Omidsalar referred to HF as a character of traditional Iranian minstrel.
7. In an online article, Iran Zamin Website referred to HF as a person who can bring joy and laughter to the Iranians and their families during NR holydays. Here is a part of that article: “The appearance of HF is related to creating a happy atmosphere in the families. The New Year’s Day must begin with joy, happiness and laughter so that during the rest of the year the families will continue to be happy. If the families are not happy, the Farvahars who are guests of the families will leave the households which may result in the loss of abundance and blessings from the household. It is for this reason that during these days there are people with funny makeup and joyful songs who will bring laughter and joy to families and with their comical jests and songs bring laughter to houses, streets and market places”.
8. The Website of Historical Iran (WHI) speculated that, "Another theory about the origin of HF is that he represents Pirooz Nahavandi (PN), an Iranian soldier who served under Commander Rostam Farrokhzad. Taken captive as a slave by the Arabs, Pirooz, a Zoroastrian, gradually earned the Arabs’ trust by expressing an interest in Islam. As a result, he managed to get lose enough to Omar to assassinate him. His captivity in Saudi Arabia could have earned him the title Haji, while the lack of the letter P in Arabic would have changed his name to Firooz. His referring to his master in the course of his singing hints at his captivity and slavery while his jubilant nature and almost taunting tone of his, questioning his master why he isn’t laughing, would represent the celebration of avenging the Persian defeat at the hands of the Arabs". Similar online stories on PN have been also published by Wikipedia Encyclopedia. Both WHI and Wikipedia, however, did not introduce any documentary support for the notes on PN.
9. In an interview, Iranian author Massoume Price noted that, “Ancient Zoroastrians believed that every living being had a guardian angel, and they called them Farvashi. They believed their Farvashi would again descend to Earth for a reunion with its counterpart. So they believed that these spirits were coming down. Everybody did spring-cleaning. They cooked lots of food and even drinks. They had wine. They prepared all these for the spirits to come and consume. They burnt fires on the rooftops and also outside their doors, basically to make sure that the spirits knew they were ready to receive them and also because fire is a protector. They wanted to make sure that the forces of Ahriman did not attack spirits. They had many of parties and shows. Performing arts were very popular at the time in Iran, and they actually played a lot of the mythologies and stories, especially in respect to NR. For example, what we have today as HF, was the ancient protector of the dead, and that’s why he has a black face and red clothes. People would dress up in red and darken or blacken their faces, pretending that they were coming back form the underworld, from the world of the dead”. 

Epilogues
1. More research works are needed to elucidate the true origin and historical background of HF.
2. In addition to his various performances, HF may be also a messenger (in Persian: Aavarandeh-e Payam) for the feast of Chaar Shanbeh Souri since in some of the older songs he used to sing that, “I’m Haji Firooz and I’m also igniting the fire (in Persian: Haaji Firoozam man, Atash Afroozam man)”
3. Listen to one of the old song on HF as performed by a group of Iranian singers here.

نوروز پیروز

Manouchehr Saadat Noury, PhD

References
Bashiri, I. (2001): Online Article on the Persian Nowruz
Bayzai, B. (2009): Online Interview on the Origin of Haaji Firooz (in Persian)
Dehkhoda, A. A. (2009): Online Definition of Haaji Firooz,(in Persian Dehkhoda Dictionary, Loghat Nameh-e Dehkhoda)
Esfandiari, P. (2004): Online Interview with Massoume Price on Philosophy of Iranian New Year
Enghetaa, N. (2009): Online Note on the Origin of Haaji Firooz (in Persian)
Historical Iran Website (2011): Online Article on Haji Firouz
Iran Zamin Website (2004): Online Article on Haji Pirooz (Haji-Firooz)
Kianush, M. (2004): Online Article on the New Year's Ceremonies and Traditions
Omidsalar, M. (2002): Online Article on Haji Firuz
Saadat Noury, M. (2010): Online Article on Happy Moments of the Iranian New Year (Know Rooz)
Saadat Noury, M. (2011): Various Articles on Persian Culture & First Iranians
Wikipedia Encyclopedia (2011): Online Articles on Hajji Firuz (in English & Persian)
Wikipedia Encyclopedia (2011): Online Notes on Pirouz Nahavandi and Abu-Lu'lu'ah
Youtube Website (2011): Song of Haaji Firooz by a group of Iranian singers (in Persian)

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All-Iranians

در توضیح حاجی فیروز

All-Iranians


فیلمی در توضیح حاجی فیروز از متن نوشته شده توسط ناصر انقطاع

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTa2qb_2W8M


M. Saadat Noury

Dear AI

by M. Saadat Noury on

Thank you for your nice words and for your informative comment. Please accept this in return  حاجی فیروز http://www.loghatnaameh.com/dehkhodaworddetail-f73283d51c9547348741e453ae23dec5-fa.html


All-Iranians

Dear Dr Saadat Noury

by All-Iranians on

In their online article on “Sal-e No Mobarak”, Iranian writers Golbarg Bashi and Hamid Debashi mistakenly referred to Haji Firouz as the “Deeply racist figure of Blackface Hajji Firuz” or as “A remnant of African slaves that were bought and sold and made into an object of ridicule at the same time”.

Those guys should read your insightful article and learn more!