Pharaway Records has been for a long time giving the opportunity to make discoveries via its large catalogue. In addition to a great variety of psychedelic and Anatolian Pop albums from Turkey, it also explorers the countries such as Afganistan and İran.
Pharaway has released pre-revolution Iran pop, funk, rock and psychedelic vinyl compilations since 2013 in stability. In addition these compilations each which were containing two LPs, the label also released a kind of “best of” of funky king Shahram Shabpareh, funk and easy listening sitarist icon Mehrpouya and Ramesh who is the heroine of our article. In similar periods Finders Keepers released Googoosh LP and Pomegranates compilation; while “Now Again” pressed Kourosh vinyl.
My first acquaintance with Ramesh in my personal musical adventure was because of that compilation LP. As I put stylus on the record a music of groove and psychedelia flowed inside my heart. By this way I began to trip through the memories of Ramesh in the collective mind of Iran and also through her reconstructed identity where the reality was not found adequate.
After watching several Youtube videos and making endless searches, I discovered a lady who had many things to tell but avoiding herself to speak openly as she seemed to sense about the coming collapse and vandalism in Iran. I also discovered a satisfied singer who was happy to scream in her recording of “Moondanam Az Boodanet” as a highly spoken protest, but a bit withdrawn when she turned her face off the camera at the moment of that scream came from her playback.
There was an acquis of record covers and internet information and therefore with some type of research questions which were accurate according to my perception, I began to examine the semi mythical story of Ramesh. For Iran of which the culture was destroyed following 1979 revolution, the modernist paradigm could only have the chance to be sustained in its diaspora.Therefore the era before 1979 contains the near past mythology of the country. On the other hand the deep seeded Persian civilization gives path to Persian intellectuals despite the revolution. Especially the Persian diaspora continues a cultural path without the restrictions of the theological state; on the other hand isolation from the home country causes a historical interruption and the blanks in the history are filled by the myths.
The legend of Ramesh was made up from a fake sexual preference rumour which was used in liner notes of a compilation LP. According to that fiction story, Ramesh was killed by stoning after 1979 Revolution. Although it could be a good opportunity to give Ramesh a charisma of a fallen angel of western LGBT world, it was corrected by videos and other stuff which could be found on web and therefore I had to chance to know that she was now a retired woman in USA.
So thanks to both, I had the chance to really know Ramesh . Ramesh is a musician and singer who had an education of traditional Persian music. In that context, she reminds of us Neşe Karaböcek in Turkey, who had an eclectic personality between east and west. The difference was Ramesh’s gradual transmission to western type of music and her new phase was also reflected in her live performance where she performed with a western type of band as well. She started her recorded career in 1964 with Persian and Azeri music, and gradually began to use western elements in her music. During her transformation she also became a strong rival for Persian Super Star Googoosh.
Ramesh is one of the children of 1953 coup in context of music and social background. In 1953 Mohammad Mosaddegh who was the first democratically elected minister was thrown away from power after the coup in 19th August 1953 and thiss coup was supported by MI6 of Britain and CIA of USA.
Mosaddegh gave the order to examine BP’s accounts and to make an evaluation for BP’s access for petroleum of Iran. On the other hand BP resisted this order and as a result the parliament declared a regulation for the nationalization of BP’s investment in Iran. This regulation triggered the coup.
As a result of the coup Reza Shah Pehlavi came to office again and in this new period a new process began for the adaptation of western civilization. While the welfare increased, also the question of migration from rural areas to city appeared with all its problems. This shift in population was also one of the causes of the 1979 revolution in addition to dictatorship of the Shah.
The golden age of Persian pop music was lived in 1960s and 1970s in Tehran where a relatively western type of life was in place. In this period the music market in Iran presented a great spectrum of musical genres and one of the representatives of Persian Pop was Ramesh Azar Mohebbi (b. 13 November 1946) who came from classical Persian music roots.
Ramesh who began her recording career in 1964 was a performer of Persian music which consisted of the elitism of Persian, Indian and Azeri influenced genres. Popular music of Iran began in 1950s but it was not in line with popular trends of western music till 1965. 1960s when Iran began to be developed and was even considered as the rival of Japan also brought Iran urbanization and therefore western music.
Ramesh also experimented western music in her traditional context like the experiments performed by Suat Sayın, İsmet Nedim, Orhan Gencebay and Vedat Yıldırımbora in Turkey. She used sometimes western instruments and sometimes western rhythms in her traditional performance. In this period which starten in 1966, we can hear western rhythms such as rhoumba and bossa nova and also the sounds of a surf guitar and a Combo organ in the music of Ramesh.
These shy attempts of westernization became more table in 1968 when she began to use a complete western harmonization. She made duets with Aref, Manoocheer and Vigen sang for the Persian movies as the voice of the actress. In this era she performed the compositions of Ostaad Ataollah Khorram. Khorram began her career with giving his compositions to Vigen who was the first pop star of Iran .
In 1971 -1972 period, she also began to make recordings with a studio orchestra where brass set was also in place. “Khorshid Khoonoom” was the first recorded material of Ramesh in funk. “Delakam” was also an opening gate for the typical funky sound of Ramesh with its wah wah guitars. In 1973, she made her official entrance to rock music with Ghorooba Ghashangan which included hard drum beats and its intro with wah wah guitars. While the main melody was continuing as an Azeri moogam, the orchestration led the song to the far west with its organ and wah wah guitar lines and riffs. The harmonica used in the song also gave reference to soundtracks of Ennio Morricone made for spaghetti westerns.
Ramesh confirmed her consistency for brass dominated funky pop with “Tohmat” . During her transition period to funk with hybrid pieces, the traditional base of the songs were usually of Azeri background.
Eskender Moforadzade’s composition Namaz was also an example from that period. The recording technology in Iran began to improve as of the period 1973-74, and this improvement had a lot of influence in the westernization of Ramesh’s music.
When we live a mood of latin funk in “Delam Barat Halake”, we also experience a gay spirit in “To Barooni To Aftabi” with its bossa nova rhythm blended with analogue synthesizer. “Dard Ashengi” also surrounds our ears with its jazz guitar, sudden stops and ve brasses. She returned to her brass funk style although she also made epic folk ballads like Ghesmat.
“Nagoo Naa” was also a ground breaking piece in 1974-75 period of Ramesh. With this song funk became an already experienced and natural element in Ramesh’s music. “Nagoo Naa” was also the beginnning of her collaboration with the famous composer and arranger Manouchehr Chesm Azar. Azar as one of the most outstanding composers of modern Persian music worked with Dariush, Googoosh and Sattar in addition to Ramesh and still an active and a productive musician .
In the same period she also recorded “Pishwas” which was a progressive pop ballad with polyphonic vocal overdubs. While in “Ziyarat” , she made a fusion of Indian and Persian pop with her usage of tabla, she gave an example of an early type of usage of drum machine in ”Vasiyat”.
Babak Afshar is an other contributor as a composer and an arranger in this period especially with his “Khap Khoob Man”. Babak also made an arrangement of “Ka’an Azzaman” in the name of “Tabestoon” which was a composition of Rahbani Brothers which was previously performed by Fairouz for Ramesh.
One of the hits of Ramesh was “Asmar Asmar”which was known as a mutual folk song of Kurds and Azeris also known as “ Esmer Yârim” in that period. The arrangement and the harmonization of the song also belonged to Manouchehr Chesm Azar.
In 1976, the most energetic song of Ramesh was released: “Moondanam Boodanet”. The composition and the arrrangement belonged to Manouchehr Chesm Azar. “Moondanam Boodanet” was a trademark of Ramesh where rock and funk created a perfect fusion. Now there was a woman persona who could scream with a music formed of brass and wild guitar solos. Although she bows her head in a shy manner on her TV appearance, she had opened the doors of certain things in Iran even though what she opened would be limited with the music of diaspora.
In 1977 Ramesh appeared with a more native music called “Eshgh Gonahkar”. This composition was leaded by strings with a dynamic performance of disco days and was quite affected by both eastern and western music. The slide guitar also had put a signature in this composition.
In “Vasvaseh” Ramesh becomes a Persian Dalida with progressive pop song with Rhodes solos, drum attacks, and a streaming bongo. The song is almost a lesson to all musicians on how a good arrangement and a composition should be. This composition also belongs to Manouchehr Chesm Azar.
“Roodkhooneha” which was Ramesh’s most screened hit on Iran TV was a composition of Sadegh Nojooki. It was a great hit of Ramesh with Moog, brass and bongo furry.
“Montazer” is one of the rare Ramesh compositions with Azeri moogam with an arrangement of strings and back vocals. It was a good sample of western and eastern fusion with the tar usage in the transition phase of the song. In “Sazesh” we witness an other Ramesh piece with Moog.
“Afsoos” was an other composition of Manouchehr Chesm Azar which also found its place in a Beyaz Kelebekler (White Butterflies) cassette with Turkish lyrics and this cassette was released in Germany. This song was performed in a Fereydoun Farrokhzad TV show as a duet with Farrokhzad like “Moondamat Boodanet” which was released in the Pharaway Records’ Ramesh album.
“Tak” was also a duet she made with Farrokhzad and released as a single. The flip side of this single was “Nish” which had an Arap and eastern influences in its arrangement.
We don’t know exactly when she moved to Los Angeles after 1979 Revolution on the other hand this escape period sholuld have been a quite one as the rumors that she has been stoned to death have been openly expressed.
Happily I discovered a youtube video filming her in her LA concert in Tehran Cabaret in 1984. She was performing in her glamour suits with a group where Manouchehr Chesm Azar was also performing.
In the year 1996 she made an album called “Jahane Sevom”. This album was produced in the limitations of diaspora. In the year 2003, she took her place Faramarz Aslani’s album on his composition of Rumi poems called “The Beloved is Here”. In this album she collaborated with Aslani and Dariush and made her best performance after 1979 and made her final known recorded performance.
In 2003 she made a farewell concert with a big band. In this concert she gave refrence to her good old “groove” and resigned from performing. After her resignation, the only voice heard from her was an interview aired from Pars TV which was located in USA and making broadcasts for the Persian audience.
Although the resignation of Ramesh continues, she is also discovered by new audiences from all over the world everyday. Her compilations were printed by Caltex which is a Persian record company resides in USA. These albums are avaibale on streaming platforms such as Sptify, Tidel and iTunes. Besides these albums, Ramesh’es appearances on TV can be viewed on youtube which is open to public use.
Although Ramesh was not a typical group music singer, she lived and made her audience live every experimental musical transformation for a singer who came from a traditional background. She displayed a fusion of 1970s Persian pop of eastern and western elements with funky impacts containing intros of east blended with quite experimental western interventions by the help of talented and visioned arrangers and composers.
While creating this funky Persian pop, she used Azeri Persian music in a great deal. Her local and native attitude was widely supported by wah wah guitars, brass, strings and synthesizers. Her melancholy in vocals and funky attitude made Ramesh’s music a unique one. If she was parrtly forgotten by Persian audience, the reason is mostly the deformation of the intellectual background that could perceive her experiments and attitudes in musical creation.