The Golha Programs

Jane Lewisohn. (2008).Flowers of Persian Song and Music: Davud Pirniā and the Genesis of the Golhā Programs Although the concept of these programs was an idea original to Pirniā, it should be mentioned that the major inspiration and model behind what later became the Golhā programs, long before the first recorded program (the ‘Immortal Flowers,’ Golhā-ye Jāvidān series of 157 programs) was broadcast on Iranian National Radio on March 21, 1956, came from dervish séances and gatherings of Sufi musicians held by Iran’s ex-ambassador to Italy, Nezām al-Soltān Khwājanuri in a villa in his garden in the village of Qalanduyak, today located in Lavāsan in northeastern Tehran.


Golha program


 Golha Programs.Khwājanuri was himself of dervish persuasion and a great patron of all the Sufis in Iran. In these weekly gatherings, a number of eminent musicians, singers, as well as many notable men of letters and scholars participated. Th ese included such notables and luminaries as master musicians Mortazā Mahjubi (piano), ʿAli Tajvidi (violin), the Intizām brothers, Abu al-Hasan Sabā (violin etc.), and virtuoso master Hosayn Tehrāni (goblet drum, “tombak”). Dāvud Pirniā himself regularly attended and participated in these séances. Darvishes from all paths and orders were invited to participate in these gatherings. A great sense of egalitarianism and unity prevailed among its participants, with generals or viziers, as well as their wives, sitting shoulder to shoulder with servants, wandering dervishes, and working people. The gatherings were devoted to listening to Persian music, singing and declamation of poetry, as well as the discussion and interpretation of the meaning of classical Persian poetry. The participants in these gatherings wanted to somehow broaden or make the fruits of these gatherings more widely available. Many different solutions were fielded, from writing a book, to taping the gatherings, to putting on live concerts and performances. Eventually the idea of using the national radio was chosen.In a radio interview re-broadcast in 1975 (originally broadcast on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of the Iranian National Radio), Dāvud Pirniā described the history of the Golhā programs.26 He related that the Iranian National Radio formally invited him to come to the Radio, where he proposed the idea of a program called Golhā-ye jāvidān (Immortal Flowers [of Song and Verse]) to his friend Parviz ʿAdl. Th e idea was readily accepted and accordingly, the first program was broadcast on March 21 (Nowruz), 1956, with the collaboration of master Setar player Ahmad ʿEbādi, the composer and violinist ʿAli Tajvidi and the singer and composer ʿAbd al-ʿAli Vaziri. As Pirniā relates, this first program, which was only ten minutes long, consisted of a short discussion of the poetry of Hāfez, followed by declamation and singing of three verses from a ghazal by Hāfez, which were: Salām-i cho bu-ye khosh-e āshenāʾi/ bar ān mardom-e dida-ye rowshanāʾi Dorud-i cho nur-e del-e pārsāyān/ bedān shamʿ-e khalvatgah-e pārsāʾi Nemibinam az hamdamān hich bar jāy/ delam khun shod az ghossa, sāqi, kojāʾi? Like a fragrant breeze of loving intimacy, may salutations go to that pupil of the eye that gives brightness to all eyes! Like the light in pious hearts, may greetings go to that candle burning in the hermit’s retreat! None of my friends do I see alive and still in place. My heart is gutted with grief. Cupbearer, where have you gone?In the second program of the ‘Immortal Flowers’ series that was broadcast, Gholām-Hosayn Banān sang Rumi’s famous ghazal beginning with the verse: Man mast o to divāna/ mā-rā ke barad khāna I am drunk and you are mad, who shall take us back to home? This was preceded by a discussion and description of Rumi’s Divān-e Shams, which at that time was not well known among the general public in Iran,29 the announcer clarifying that it was composed by Jalāl al-Din Rumi, not by a separate author named Shams. Th e third program was devoted to Saʿdi, the fourth to ʿErāqi, containing the following verses from a ghazal by him:Hama shab bar āstānat shoda kār-e man gedāʾi Be khodā ke in gedāʾi nadaham be pādshāhi Sar-e barg o gol nadāram, ze che ru ravam be-golshan? Ke shanida-am ze golhā hama bu-ye bivafāʾi. Be kodām mellat ast in, be kodām mazhab ast in Bekoshand ʿāsheq-i rā, ke to ʿāsheq-am cherāʾi?Each night I lie upon your threshold like a beggar, By God, I’d not renounce this beggary for a kingdom. Why should I go to the garden? I care nothing for any leaf or rose, For from every rose I’ve only imbued the scent of faithlessness. In which religion, in which denomination is it permissible To kill a lover on the charge of being in love? Dāvud Pirniā concludes by remarking that ʿErāqi’s Divān, just like Rumi’s Divān-e Shams, was not particularly well-known in Iran during the 1950s, and in fact only a few members of the literary elite had any idea of who ʿErāqi was.



 Golha Programs[/caption] Each program of the Immortal Flowers of Song and Verse (Golhā-ye jāvidān) began with a signature tune played on the clarinet by Mohammad Shir-khodāʾi in the musical mode of Mokhālef-e sehgāh, followed immediately by these verses from Saʿdi’s Golestān that appropriately served to set the mood: Be che kār āyadat ze gol tabaq-i? Az golestān-e man bebar varaq-i. Gol hamin panj ruz o shash bāshad Vʾin golestān hamisha khwash bāshad. What use are trays of flowers? Take a petal or two from my rose garden. Roses last but a few days, yet this rose garden Of mine will stay perpetually in bloom.Each program concluded with the words: “Th is has been an immortal flower from the peerless rose garden of Persia Literature, a flower that shall never perish. Good night” (In ham goli bud jāvidān az golzār-e bi-hamtā-ye adab-e Irān, goli ke hargez namirad. Shab khosh!). In this fashion, verse by verse, song by song, poet by poet, these programs served to reintroduce the heritage of Persian poetry to the entire population of Iran. In this respect, the first series of radio programs, the Golhā-ye jāvidān, which were largely intended to introduce the literary and poetic heritage of Persian literature to the general public, did achieve their aim. Although these programs were well received and appreciated by modernist intellectuals, the unlettered general public and traditionalist Sufi mystics, after some time Dāvud Pirniā came to realize that they were so-tospeak too ‘heavy’, too ‘intellectual’ for the broader taste of the general public. As a consequence, he decided to produce another program called ‘Multicolored Flowers’ (Golhā-ye rangārang) with more diversity in literary content, that would contain not only classical Persian singing (āvāz) and poetry, but also modern poetry, popular romantic ballads (tarāna), and tunes and songs (tasnif ). It was in this rangārang series of programs that most of the great classical vocalists and of the last half of the twentieth century, such as Marziya, Gulpāyagāni, Shajāriān, Nāhid, Elāha, Parvin, Iraj, and Simā Binā, made their debut, and as a consequence of which they later became acclaimed. As the name suggests, ‘Multi-colored Flowers’ contained a diverse repertoire of the classical poets such as Hāfez, Saʿdi, ʿErāqi, Rudaki, ʿAttār and others, as well as contemporary poets like Rahi Moʿayyeri, Moʿini Kermānshāhi, Bizhan Taraqqi, Monir Tahā, Simin Behbahāni, Torāj Negahbān and many other well-known figures of contemporary Persian literature. Th e Golhā-ye rangārang contained not only classical dastgāh compositions but also some of the most memorable songs (tasnif ), composed by the likes of Ruh Allāh Khāleqi, Mehdi Khāledi, ʿAli Tajvidi, Parviz Yāhaqqi, Hosayn Yāhaqqi, Homāyun Khorram, Jahānbakhsh Pāzuki and many more. In addition to this, the Golhā-ye rangārang preserved and revived the works of composers and poets such as ʿĀref Qazvini, ʿAli Akbar Sheydā and Gholām-Hosayn Darvish Khān, to name but a few. The rangārang series thus combined classical and contemporary poetry and musical compositions, featuring some of the most memorable songs of the twentieth century. Th e first program in the series of 481 programs that began with number 100 opens with a poem by Rumi, followed by some verses by Sāʿeb Tabrizi. Th en came a poem composed in a classical manner by the contemporary poet ʿEmād Khorāsāni (d. 2003), before concluding with a famous song composed by ʿAli Akbar Sheydā and sung by Marziya. Suratgar-e naqqāsh-e Chin, Row surat-e yār-am bebin Yā surat-i barkesh chonin, Yā tark kon suratgari. Oh you, the portrait painter of China, Go gaze at my love’s comely visage. Either paint an image as good as hers, Or leave off all pretence to portraiture. The signature line of each of the rangārang programs concluded by invoking blessings upon the listener: “Th is then has been a few multi-coloured flowers from the peerless garden of Persian Literature. May joy and cheer always be with you.” (In ham chand goli bud rangārang az gulzār-e bi-hamtā-ye adab-e Irān. Hamisheh shād va hamisheh khosh bāshid). Th e next two programs which Dāvud Pirniā set up were entitled: ‘A Green Leaf’ (Barg-e sabz) and ‘One single flower’ (Yek shākha gol). The Green Leaf (Barg-e sabz) programs featured 312 programs each ranging from 20 to 45 minutes, consisting solely of declamation of mystical poetry from the great classical poets, followed by the formal singing (āvāz) of their poetry, without any popular rhythmical songs or ballads (tasnif / tarāna). In terms of profundity of Persian Sufi themes, erotic and theo-erotic images and ideas, the Green Leaf programs comprise a veritable treasury of classical Persian poetry; as a collection, the Barg-e sabz programs form a kind of classical Canon of Persian mystical song and verse that have yet to be rivaled in their wide-ranging literary and musical diversity, in arrangement of theosophical and erotic topics, and in tasteful selection of poets and poetry. Each program opened with the following mystical verses (attributed to Farid al-Din ʿAttār): “Open your eyes so you may see the epiphany of the Beloved displayed upon each wall and door. When you behold this vision, you will declare: ‘He alone is Lord in all the land’.” (Chashm bogshā ke jelva-ye deldār dar tajalliʾst az dar o divār. In tamāshā, cho bengari, guʾi: laysa fiʾl-dār ghayrahu dayyār). Th e first Green Leaf program featured Hasan Kasāʾi (ney), Sayyed Javād Zabihi (vocals) and Jalil Shahnāz (tār), with poetry by ʿAttār and Rumi. It opened with a declamation of ʿAttār’s celebrated ghazal beginning: “Tonight, I will set out tipsy and dancing, in hand a pitcher full of wine dregs, and go down to the street where the wild man is, and there gamble away all existence” (ʿAzm-e ān dāram ke emshab nima-mast/ pāy-kubān kuza-ye dordi be-dast// Sar be-bāzār-e qalandar dar neham/ pas be-yek saʿat bebāzam har che hast).The main part of program was comprised by Zahibi’s powerful singing of a ghazal by Rumi, before concluding with a Sufi apology: “Th is then was a green leaf, a humble dervish’s gift. May the Most High (ʿAli) watch over you.” (In ham barg-e sabz-i bud, tohfa-e darvish. ʿAli negāhdar-e shomā).The same two sentences continued as the regular signature of all the other Barg-e sabz programs produced under Pirniā’s direction, with the declamation of the abovementioned verses always comprising the program’s prelude. As its name suggests, the ‘One single flower’ (Yek shākha gol) programs concentrated on one individual theme for each program; these were shorter programs, each of 12-18 minutes’ duration, with 465 programs being broadcast in all. Th ematically they were devoted to the introduction of a particular poet, whether classical or modern, or a particular composition, event or musician. In particular, they introduced such poets as Vahshi Bāfqi, Parvin Eʿtesāmi, Amir Firuzkuhi, Naziri Nayshābori, Malek al-Shoʿarā Bahār, Āzar Bigdeli, Mansura Atabāki (Zohreh), Parvin Dawlatābādi, along with their bio-bibliographical data to name just a few. Finally, there were the Desert Flowers (golhā-ye sahrāʾi), 64 programs of 10- 30 minutes of traditional folk tunes from the various regions and ethnic groups of Iran. Th ese tunes had been first collected and then orchestrated by great musicians such as Ruh Allāh Khāleqi and Javād Maʿrufi.

 Golha Programs The second important factor behind the Golhā programs’ success was the support, complete confidence and respect shown Dāvud Pirniā by Nosrat Allāh Moʿiniyān, who was both Minister of Information and Head of the National Radio at the time. Without his support, Pirniā would not have had the independence—whether culturally, intellectually or financially—to produce programs of such high quality and lasting calibre. Th irdly, there was the matter of his own economic independence. During the eleven years that he worked on the Golhā programs, Dāvud Pirniā survived on his own independent income and was never paid a regular salary for his service at the Radio. Often, in the spirit of Persian chivalry (javānmardi) he would have lunch brought to the Radio from his home for the musicians, singers and other guests.In fact, the creation of the Golhā was completely separate and independent from the rest of the operation of the Radio in Iran during the 1950s and 60s under Pirniā’s direction, both in respect to content and budget (both of which unfortunately became a bone of contention after Mr. Moʿiniyān left the Radio).Fourthly, Pirniā’s genius, intellectual acumen and educated literary tastes must be taken into account. He took great care in the production of the Golhā, sometimes listening to, editing, demanding changes and revisions in a program as much as thirty times over. One of his assistants told the present author that, while working with Dāvud Pirniā, he had listened to most of the programs so often that he has most of them memorized to this day.On most days Dāvud Pirniā’s office would be filled with the great and the good of Persian society who would come to listen firsthand to the latest Golhā programs, offering their remarks and opinions. Th ey would bring along blank tapes in hope that, if they were lucky, they might obtain a personal copy of a particular program for themselves. In addition to attending to and responding to letters from listeners, Pirniā also enlisted the opinion of his friends and guests and took great stock in their comments in refining the production of the programs. He solicited the services of all the eminent scholars then living in Iran (e.g., Badiʿ al-Zamān Foruzānfar, Jalāl al-Din Homāʾi, ʿAli Dashti, etc.) in composing program notes for individual poets.The Golhā orchestra performed only one public concert, which was held in the open air at the then Hilton Hotel in benefit of the victims of the Lār earthquake in 1960.Dāvud Pirniā even famously charged the performers for attending the concert. After ten years of devoting himself to the Golhā, Pirniā retired from his position at the radio for personal reasons. He continued to practice law and to write articles in various journals until his death of heart failure in 1971.