Fereydoun Farrokhzad: The Journey of a Persian Intellectual From Being An Object of Lust To Political Activism

Fereydoun Farrokhzad

Fereydoun Farrokhzad  was a singer, poet, TV and Radio Host and gradually an iconic opponent figure. He was the symbol of pre revolution İran with his TV programme called “Mikhak-e Noghrei” (Silver Carnation)  and brother of the famous Persian poet Forough Farrokhzad  and  Pooran Farrokhzad.

Related image

Pic: Forough Farrokhzad

Farrokhzad was born in Tehran in 1938; he proved himself in a great spectrum of disicplines and he had to leave his country as the new regime could only offer him being a living dead and was assasinated in Bonn where he lived in asylum  probably by the secret service of Iran.

Farrokhzad was born in Chahar Raheh Gomrok  which was a neighborhood of Iran. He was the 4th child of 7 children. He went to Germany and then Austria for his university which was the faculty of political science and PhD studies.

He had an ambition to poetry and singing since his early youth. This ambition was realized in 1962 when he was in Germany and his poems were published in two German newspapers. In fact this was a type of challenge for him as German was not his native language he had to go beyond his limits and finally succeeded to publish poems which were the diamonds of his mastership in a foreign language. He published a poem book named Fasleh Deegar (An Other Season) which won a poem prize in Berlin. In 1966 he had the opportunity to have a chance to make a music and comedy radio program which covers the musical scene of whole Middle East  including Iran for the radio and TV broadcasting company of Munich.

In 1967 he began his musical career in Europe by presenting Persian Folk Music in a modernized way. He also joined the competition part of the music festival in Austinburg and became the winner. He completed his PhD and married with Ania Buchkowski and the couple had a son named Roustem.

In 1967 he returned to Iran. In that time as a result of the education policy of Iran, people who were educated abroad were granted with an official job if they returned to the country. He joined an interview to become an academic staff in the University of Tehran. Nevertheless in the stage of acceptance he changed his mind and began a new career in the Iran National Radio and Television Company with the reference of Reza Ghotbi who was the director in the company.

In one of his first TV programmes the famous actress Maria Schell (also the sister of  Maximilian Schell) also atttended. Farrokhzad became the centre of attention when Maria kissed him in the broadcast. This was really something for Persian audience in 1969. In those years there was an economic welfare and modernization transition  in Iran; but the cultural phase was still pending and radio & television were the agents of modernization in Pehlavi dynasty. Farrokhzad was a perfect figure in spreading modernity via broadcasting. Therefore that became the first time he attracted the hatred of Mullahs in Koum.

Image result for Maria Schell fereydoun

In 1969-1970 period he recorded his first single and the single was released by Royal Records. The songs called “Shab Bood, Biadan Bood, Zemestan Bood” (It was night, it was desert, it was winter) and “La Loo La” were compiled in this single.  The first edition was of  100.000 copies, and was sold out at the very first week. The second edition which was 300.000 copies was also sold out quickly. His royalty percentage from his records also rose from  25 % to 50 %.

Farrokhzad  continued to make records with the label of Royal till the second half of 1970s. He recorded 45 rpm records in the chronological order given below :

 

  • “Harki Nadone Man Midonam (Who Loves Me)-(C: Parviz Ghiasian L: Karim Mahmoudi) – Keh Mara Doost Darad (Who Knows?) (C: Parviz Ghiasian L: Karim Mahmoudi)
  • “Peseram” (My Son) (Recorded again; this is the first version.) –Khodaa Haafez Ania (Goodbye Ania) (He wrote this song to his first wife.)
  • Daro Va Nemikonam (I Don’t Drink) (C: Arazm, L:  Elami) – Gham Toodele Man Mimireh (My Heart Cries For You) (C:  Arazm, L:  Elami) (On the cover of the single the iconic photo of Farrokhzad rising his fist was used fort he first time)
  • Aftab Mishavad (Sun Rises) (Poem : Forough Farrokhzad C: Fereydoun Farrokhzad)-Baad Az Man (After Me) (Poem : Forough Farrokhzad C: Fereydoun Farrokhzad) (A Chanson Style Composition)
  • Pedare Eshgh Besoozad (The Father of Love) (L: Akbar Azad C: Parviz Ghiathian)- Eshghe Man Bargard (My Love Comes Back) (L:  Kareem Fakour) (Traditional Persian)
  • Baghe Setareh (Garden of Stars) (C: Iraj Janati Ataie, C: Anonymous) – Morghan Ghamgin (Sad Chicken) (L: Iraj Janati Ataie, C: Anonymous)
  • Az Man Nakhah Ashegh Besham (I Want To Fall in Love With You) (L: Iraj Janati Ataie)- Chera Heechkas Nemikhas Namikhad Harfamo Bavar Bokoneh (Why Doesn’t Anybody Want To Believe?) (L: Iraj Janati Ataie, C: Babak Bayat)

 

Plus this list we know that Farrokhzad  has two more singles that we don’t know about its content)

Farrokhzad also contributed to an LP which contains the poems of Forough Farrokhzad with her own recorded voice. The booklet of the LP also contained their mutual letters between brother and sister. The LP was titled as “Only Sound Remains” and was published by an other important record company of Iran called Ahange Rooz. This LP was published as CD by Barbad Music in 2003. The album starts with Sabre Sang that is performed by Fereydoun and goes on poems read by him and his sister.

Following his first TV experience he acted in a film named  “Del-haye bi-aram” (Restless Hearts) which was contributed by a Turkish film company called Yıldız Film in 1971.  Although Yıldız Film had a commitment to contract Emel Sayın the famous Turkish singer to act as the headliner , the firm couldn’t keep its commitment and another actress who is credited as Sahar took the role. This “Sahar” is probably Seher Şeniz who was a famous sexplotation actress of Turkey. Because of the actress change and other production failures the film gained a only a few attraction in the box office.

Farrokhzad reached a cult status with his new TV Show “Mikhakeh Noghrei” during 1970s. This Show was followed by “Jom’eh Bazzar” (Friday Bazaar). In these tv shows he introduced many of the Persian musicians to the Persian audience. Among these singers there were Sattar, Shohreh, Shahram Solati, Ebi, Morteza, Rouhi Savoji, Hamid Shabkhiz, Leila Forouhar, Saeed Mohammadi and many others.  During the Show he recorded solo songs to perform in the programme. He also used playbacks of other singers’ songs to make duet with them where he also displayed a theatrical performance while making duets using different and extravaganza costumes. Marjan (Ki Seda Kard), Shohreh (Tak, Omadi), Ramesh (Afsoos, Tak, Moondanam az Boodanet ) and  Nooshafarin (Ghabl az enghel Ab) were some examples from these fascinating duets.

After 1975 we couldn’t observe any vinyl record of Farrokhzad as at those times vinyl was rare and the cassettes gained much popularity. We define a cassette of him in collaboration with Saeed Mohammadi. Saeed and Farrokhzad also made tours and albums together when they were in exile in Europe. We couldn’t figure out if his TV hits such as “Salaam”, “Avazeh Khan Nah Avaz” (This World Today is Mess), “Ashyaneh” (Fiddler On The Roof)were published in cassette format in Iran, it is confirmed that these songs were included in some compilation albums in abroad with other songs recorded in Europe. Some of these compilations are  “Memories 1-2”, “Pesaram”, “Safar Bekheir”  ve  “Shab Bood Biyaban Bood”, “Daro va Nemikonam” and these albums can still be heard in digital music platforms. On the other hand he had a cassette album which was released in Iran called “Aftab Mishavad” (The Sun Rises) where the songs that had lyrics of his sister Feroough were composed in chanson style. This cassette also denotes that his relation with Persian monarchists was only tactical thing and he was a closeted socialist.

Farrokhzad’s appearance reminding hairy sexuality of 1970s such as the one of Burt Reynolds and his elegant look in formal tuxedo created an aura of a modern educated Persian man that covered both elegance and male sexuality at the same time. While being  a symbol of lust for women, he was at the same time a matter of restlessness for a group of men in a spectrum of jealousy to hatred which is applicable especially for the mullahs.

He was an attraction figure for women following his divorce with his first wife. His life was a book of gossips and the famous Persian singer Giti and Turkish singer and celebrity Emel Sayın were among these ladies. Once Emel Sayın  came to Tehran to act in the film called Acı Hatıralar (Bitter Memories)  and she also came to attend a concert which was supported by  Farah Diba aiming to make aid for the people survived from Van Eartquake in Turkey. She participated the scene with Modern Folk Üçlüsü (Turkish Kingston Trio) . In the same period she met Farrokhzad in the TV building.  They ate dinner together and Emel Sayın returned to Turkey giving a promise that she will come back. She kept her promise and returned to Iran and joined Farrokhzad’s “Friday Bazaar”. They also spent an entire week together. Their photographs were all over Iran’s press including the famous Kayhan newspaper. After this discrete week the couple never came together again. In the film called Acı Hatıralar she sings a Persian song and announces the composer of the song as “Feridun Hosnut” which is probably denoting Farrokhzad.

According to M. Sadr, Sadr watched Sayin in the Cabaret of Stars and visited her after the Show. Sayın asked for Farrokhzad whom she thought had a struggle in exile and sent him a watch as a present. Sadr submitted this watch to Farrokhzad but because of his concerns about his safety he coludn’t g oto Turkey to see Sayın again. (http://art-ghadimiha.blogspot.com.tr/2013/08/blog-post_3153.html#more).

 

Farrokhzad’s relations with Iran TV was in decline after 1977 as he had to end his Show Friday Bazaar and to work for education TV. Farrokhzad’s last contracted programme was “Two Hours with Fereydoun Farrokhzad” At the times of revolution the restrictions also began to affect him. At those times concerts, beauty contests were canceled. Despite his 100 programme contract, he could only be on air for 4 programmes because of the cancellations. At these times his spending and costs couldn’t meet the income of the programme.

After the revolution Farrokhzad restlessly began to wait for the exposures of the revolution. In this period the artists were called to the court to give information about their activities before the revolution. Farrokhzad was also invited and forced to sign a commitment that declares he won’t perform any artistic stuff. Till 1981 he had to stay at home with his mother writing and making translations that he would never publish in his own country.  While some of his musicians friends radically changed their thoughts,  others had left Iran at the same time with the Shah.  The semi civil democracy in the first years collapsed in 1981 when Abolhassan Banisadr dismissed from his duty and Mullahs had the full control on state. By this incident the hope for the recovery of Iran fully collapsed and Farrokhzad left Iran using the Turkish border.

He flought to Paris using Turkey and began to stay in a cheap hotel in Paris. Between 1982-1984 he gave concerts and made performances. The name of his shows was “Mikhak-e Noqreyi Shekaste” (Broken Silver Carnation) which was a melancholic reference to his old Show in Iran. In this period Farrokhzad began to use politics in his shows even it was in a small percentage. This was something new for his audience as Farrokhzad  was not known as a political figure by his old audience in Iran. He had analyzed the impacts of Karl Marx’s thoughts on state and the church in GDR when he was making his PhD thesis, but when he returned to his country he was began to be known as an entertainer. The ones that knew him all aggree on his patriotism but are not much clear about his thoughts on Pahlevi Regime. On the other hand it is known that he was not a opposition figure. However he had some criticizing declarations against US on Vietnam war and atomic bomb on Japan but we con’t consider it as a regime opposition as middle left was popular in Iran at those days.

In his days in Germany he declared that he had left wing tendencies and he supported Willy Brandt and  Helmut Schmidt while he also supported monarchists as a solidartiy of anti revolution parties. On the other hand he didn’t hesitate to address the monarchists with those words: “Current regime already emposes its thoughts to the crowds, please don’t try to impose yours to this audience.” (  http://iranpoliticsclub.net/poetry/warmates/index.htm).

He began to work for Pars TV located in L.A. This TV channel was founded in 1987 for Persians in exile and made advocay for human rights. He hosted famous Iranian musicians in exile and one of his guests was Viguen who was the founding father of Persian Pop Music.

He published a book in Los Angeles; in an interview he declared  that he felt ashamed to publish his book in a city that he perceived as a desert.

After a while he returned to Germany. He toured all over Europe and his concerts in Copenhagen and Royal Albert Hall, UK attracted a great attention. He gave his last concert in Canada, Vancouver only 10 days before his death.

In his last few years his political rhetoric became sharper and sharper. He began to make programmes in Voice of Iran Freedom Flag which was founded by monarchists  named “Hello Neighbors”.

He didn’t feel the need to make an auto-censorship to his rhetoric therefore he made long political speeches between his songs which were opposing Khoumeini and regime in Iran. He made fun of Khoumeini’s thoughts about sexuality in his famous Royal Albert Hall concert and that triggered death threats against him. He even helped the operation to transfer Persian soldiers who were taken as hostages by Iraq to Europe.

In 1991 he took the headliner role in the movie “I Love Vienna” which was considered anti –Islamic  by Iranian authorities. He played the role of an extremist Islamist in this film which  was screened in Stocholm Film festival and got positive critics.

His last poem book was called “I Will Die of Adulation” and it was also criticizing the theocratic regime of Iran. All these progresses increased the death threats and the nightmare happened in 3th August 1992:  Farrokhzad was expecting some guests for that day. He took them from the train station and cooked some food for them. His grocer remembers that he was pensive that day. Two days later he was found dead at home in a blood lake. He was stabbed 37 times in mouth with a kitchen knife. This was a signature like the death of 100 Persian opponents like   Shapour Bakhtiar former Prime Minister who were killed also in that way. The murderers were never found, probably they were not sought.

After the death of Farrokhzad articles were printed to underestimate the violence against him. In one of these articles it was stressed that Farrokhzad was gay. As being gay was a cause to execute someone to death according to Iran laws, it could  be easily used to make Persian people to see his death as a legitimate one.

Although long years have passed since the death of   Farrokhzad, he was never forgotten and his charisma went beyond being a singer and showman and expanded to a personality that symbolizes patriotism and the real owners of Persia. Farrokhzad’s life and his unclarified death became subject to a documentary called “Fereydoun’s Saga”.

Farrokhzad with his multidimensional skills and acquis  proved that the fate of Iran could be different and a modern and secular Iran is still probable. Today the ones that support the mottos of “Free Iran” or  “Persian Renaissance” have a lot to learn from the experience of this brave man.

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