Rangarang: Where Pre-Revolutionary Iranian Pop and Jewish Broadway Musicals Come Together

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The other day I was auditioning newly-arrived cd’s in my car and in the cd changer was a new 2-cd compilation of pre-revolutionary Iranian music called, as you may have guessed,  Rangarang:  Pre-Revolutionary Iranian Pop (Vampi Soul).   Rangarang (trans: colors or rainbow) was the name of a popular TV show in Iran at the time, a TV station still available online.  The first cut on the cd is called “Aashianeh”, which means “nest”.  It was sung by a charismatic and popular Iranian singer named Fereydoun Farrokhzad (b. 1938, d. 1992).  What struck me first was the melody:  I’d heard this somewhere before.  I racked my brain trying to remember what this song was.  Finally I realized that it was the melody of the song “Tradition” from the popular 1964 Jewish musical Fiddler on the Roof.   Fiddler was set in Tsarist Russia, and had one of the longest Broadway runs of any musical.  I guess it isn’t that surprising to find an Iranian version sung in farsi.    Pre-revolutionary Iran, despite the authoritarian rule of the Shah, was modern, cosmopolitan, and very Western, so it’s very possible that the catchy and uplifting song made its way to Iran.  There were also many Jewish people living in Iran, who later joined the exodus of people who fled after the 1979 revolution.

Whereas Fiddler celebrated the joys of peasant life and Jewish tradition in Tsarist Russia,  Fereydoun Farrokhzad’s life ended in tragedy.  A very popular TV/Radio host, singer, entertainer, writer, and poet, he was forced into exile after the Islamic Revolution and moved to Germany.   He was also openly gay.  He moved to Germany, where he became an activist working against the new Islamic government run by the Ayatolleh.  Because of his activism and popularity, he was brutally murdered in Germany by the revolutionary henchman  in 1992 at the age of 53.

His song “Aashianeh” is lively and full of joy.  It sounds like a wedding celebration.  All Iranians old enough to have lived through the 1979 revolution know it.   The spirit of the song comes through loud and clear, even if one doesn’t speak a word of farsi.

Here’s  a clip from the famous Jewish song “Tradition”  from Fiddler:

And here’s a link of  Farrokhzad singing the same song, with equal joy:

Finally, the song “Aashianeh” from the new Vampi Soul double cd.[audio:http://blogs.kcrw.com/music/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/1-01-Aashianeh-2.mp3|titles=1-01 Aashianeh 2]