Flowers of Persian Song and Verse: the Golha Website and its Supporters

Jane Lewisohn

The Golha Project began in early 2005 with a small pilot project supported by the Iran Heritage Foundation, the British Institute of Persian Studies and the Department of Music at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. The inauguration of this pilot project was particularly indebted to the backing that it received from Professor Keith Howard, Head of the Department of Music, SOAS at that time, whose help then and now we gratefully acknowledge.

Following the success of the pilot project, and with the support of the Department of Music at SOAS and the Endangered Archives Programme (EAP) of the British Library, the first phase of the project was launched. In 2006 the EAP funded the Golha digitalization project with a generous grant that made possible the collecting and digitalizing of the Golha Radio programmes. In July 2007, a digital copy of the complete collection of the Golha archive was deposited in the British Library’s World Sound Archive.

Throughout this period, the Iran Heritage Foundation (IHF) also very generously backed and supported the project in various ways. First and foremost, the Golha Website Project would therefore like to thank the IHF for their many years of support and funding for the development of both the first and second phases of the Golha database and website. Much of the financial backing and institutional substructure of this project has been generously provided by the IHF since 2008. Without the IHF’s commitment to reviving the ideals of the Golha programmes by providing a comprehensive database and establishing a research archive that would recreate the programmes on a special dedicated website, this entire, vast project would probably be still be languishing on some hard drive, utterly beyond anyone’s access.

Among the leading officials at the IHF, the project is particularly indebted to the present and past expert managerial counsel generously provided by Aydin Azizzadeh, as well as to the constant support and guidance given to it by Vahid Alagaband and Roshank Dwyer, Directors of the IHF, and also we remain much obliged to Farhad Hakimzadeh a former director of IHF for his encouragement during its early stages. The project deeply thanks all four of them both for recognizing the significance and importance of the Golha Project when it still only existed in the realm of ideas. We are grateful for their ongoing support.

The project would also like to thank DISMARC for supporting the publication of the CD: Flowers of Persian Song and Music: The Gulha Programmes. (London: SOASIS catalogue No. 20., 2009) that was published accompanied by a 16-page booklet of liner notes.

The Golha project is also grateful to the British Academy for granting Dr. Leonard Lewisohn (Iran Heritage Foundation Fellow in Classical Persian and Sufi Literature, and Senior Lecturer in Persian, Exeter University) a British Academy Research Development Award (BARDA), enabling him to devote a whole year (January 2010-February 2011) to editing and checking the facts on the bio-bibliographies of the (over 150) performers of the Golha programmes, as well as editing and checking the (over 500) bio-bibliographies of the authors and poets of the Golha programmes (each entry comprising between 500-3500 words), and helping to check the typed transcripts of the programmes against the original sound-files to ensure their accuracy and consistency. Altogether, this biographical material comprises approximately 650,000 words in English and Persian. The Persian transcripts of yhe programs span over 2000 pages. During 2010 he travelled to Iran twice to help out on these and other aspects of the project.

The Golha project would also like to thank the Parsa Foundation for their generous funding which facilitated the completion of the second phase of the Golha project during 2011/2012. Likewise, the project expresses its thanks to the British Institute of Persian Studies (BIPS) for its kind grant which facilitated the final payment to the team of research associates and technicians in Iran for their work on the project during 2011, thus making it possible for them to complete the audio marking of the programmes. The Golha Website Project remains very thankful for BIPS’s past and ongoing support.

The Golha Project would also like to express its gratitude to Mr. Rick Darbandy who painstakingly typed the first draft of over two-thirds of the Golha programmes from their original audio tapes and added to these typescripts his own valuable descriptive notes. Mr. Darbandy’s studious research on the Golha programmes has been invaluable use to everyone involved with the Golha Website over the past five years. He has been very generous with his time and advice, and his support for the project is much appreciated.

Thanks are also due to the renowned ethnomusicologist Alireza Miralinaghi and eminent musician Siamak Bana’i, both of whom worked tirelessly on the Golha website, researching and composing the biographies of all the various performers mentioned in the Golha programmes. Aside from the resources of his phenomenal memory, Mr. Miralinaghi generously put his substantial personal archive of music-related publications and recorded recollections of – sometimes even personal communications with – the Golha performers at the project’s disposal. From the very start of the Golha project, both experts generously gave their invaluable support to it and freely contributed their advice on artistic, technical and musicological matters.

Likewise, Furuq Bahmanpour’s generosity in permitting the project to use her extensive photographic archive of Iranian musicians and performers, thus greatly enhancing the visual aspect of the project, is very much appreciated. Thanks also go to the eminent scholar Muhammad Reza Purjafari for bringing to the project his expertise in Iranian regional dialects and willingness to review and copyedit the orthography and diacritical marks of the transcripts of the Golha-yi Sahra’i programmes. The project is also very grateful to Dr. Mehdi Baghi for bringing his expertise to the translation of the biographies of over 250 performers and over 560 poets in the Golha programmes from Persian into English.

The Golha project is also indebted to various institutions in Iran for their help and cooperation with the project over the past four years. In particular, the kind collaboration and warm enthusiasm shown for the project by Mr. Moradkhani, Director of the Museum of Music in Tehran, is greatly appreciated. Likewise, Mr. Khojasteh, former Director of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) Radio was especially generous with his time, kindly offering his advice on research methodology as well as facilitating the Golha project’s access to the IRIB archives. In the same spirit, the curator of Artists’ House (Khana-yi honarmandan) in Tehran granted the project access to the Rasuli Audio Archive housed in their collection, for which we are very grateful. Dr. Shahin Farhat, Head of the Department of Music, University of Tehran also generously contributed his advise and expertise, sharing his personal substantial collection of Golha programmes with the project, which we very much appreciate.

All lovers of Persian music, and in particular those labouring on the Golha project, remain eternally indebted to all the performing artists, announcers, musicians, poets, singers, songwriters and scholars, whose immortal works and performances comprise the Golha Radio programmes. In particular, we must acknowledge the debt we owe the genius of the original producer of the Golha programmes Mr. Davoud Pirnia, for having touched the hearts of so many lovers and scholars of Persian music and literature with these marvellous productions. We are grateful to the original artists and performers who participated in the Golha programmes, many of whom generously shared their recollections and memories of the programmes, and, in some cases, freely bequeathed their own private audio archives to the Golha project and gave detailed interviews to the project that we eventually hope can be transcribed and translated and made available on the website. We are also very grateful to Golnoush Khaleghi Ackert for putting her father, Rouhollah Khaleghi's oeuvre at the disposal of the project.

Among these, the project would like to thank various members of Davoud Pirnia’s vast extended family. We are grateful to Daroush Pirnia – one of Davoud Pirnia’s sons – who during the very early stages of the project kindly shared his recollections of his father and memories of various musicians and artists who contributed to the Golha programmes. Likewise, Bijan Pirnia, another son of Davoud Pirnia, who served as the original announcer of the Children’s Programme (Barnama-yi kudak) broadcast on Iranian Radio from the 1950s onward, which was also originally conceived and produced by Davoud Pirnia, was very generous with his time. Bijan Pirnia was his father’s constant companion during the time when the latter directed the Golha programmes at the Iranian National Radio in the 1950s-70s; he also often accompanied his father on visits to friends, poets, intellectuals and artists instrumental in the composition of the Golha programmes. We remain grateful to him for sharing with the project his recollections of his father and his father’s colleagues, as well as for providing photos and other artefacts from his personal family archive for the project to photograph or copy. Gitty Dokht, Mehr Dokht, and Mahin Dokht, the three daughters of Davoud Pirnia, also graciously shared their memories of their father during the course of our research, generously and enthusiastically supporting the project. Likewise, Farokh and Sharokh Pirnia (Davoud Pirnia’s two other sons) also shared their recollections of their father and his work on the Golha programmes with the project.

Several authorities on classical Persian music among Davoud Pirnia’s colleagues also provided the project with valuable insights and information regarding the Golha programmes. In this respect, we must mention Dr. Mo‘in Afshar, who in collaboration with Davoud Pirnia, produced and directed the Children’s Programme (as well as several other programmes) for Iranian National Radio, having been Davoud Pirnia’s colleague at the Iranian National Radio from the beginning of the first Golha-yi Javidan programmes. He generously shared his memories as well as provided several introductions to key people involved in the production of the Golha programmes. Likewise, Bijan Farazi, Davoud Pirnia’s close colleague and collaborator on the Golha programmes, was not only generous with his time and the sharing of his memories but also magnanimously put his personal collection of Golha programmes at the disposal of the project. Nusratu’llah Mu‘iniyan, former Director of Iranian National Radio, who was responsible for the complete reorganization of the radio during the 1950s-60s, overseeing what today is known as the radio’s ‘Golden Age’ (1955-66), also kindly shared his time and recollections of Davoud Pirnia’s work on the Golha programmes with the project.

Manuchihr Aryana, another close friend and colleague of Davoud Pirnia, who played a very supportive role in the selection of the poetry used in the Golha programmes, and Dr Shah-Husayni, an instrumental member of the Writer’s Committee at the Iranian National Radio who understood the intricacies and raison de etre underlying the vetting process for poetry selected to be broadcast, both generously shared their expertise and memories with the project. One of Iran’s greatest modern poets and one of the most prolific song-writers for the Golha programmes: Rahim Mu‘ini-Kermanshahi, also generously shared his insights and memories. Over the course of several interviews and visits to his house, he kindly donated the complete collection of his voluminous literary works to the project. His son, Husayn Mu‘ini-Kermanshahi, a song-writer and musician in his own right, who has catalogued, documented and published his father’s oeuvre, likewise put this collection at the disposal of the project and made himself available to answer questions, helping to unravel some of the problematic issues concerning the production of the Golha programmes.

The Golha project is particularly grateful to Hushang Ibtehaj (nom de plume: Sayeh), one of the most famous contemporary poets of Iran. During his period as Director of Music at the Iranian National Radio in the 1970s, Sayeh was responsible for the production of the ‘Fresh Flowers’ (Golha-yi Tazeh) as well as the ‘Bouquet of the Week’ (Golchin-i hafta) programmes. Having played a very active historical role in producing the Golha programmes after Davoud Pirnia’s retirement, on numerous occasions he volunteered to assist in the Golha project by sharing his memories, observations and insights about his work in Tehran at the radio. He not only constantly offered his kind support for the project, but put his entire private archive at the disposal of the project, for which we remain immensely grateful.

Most of the great performers and artists who participated in the Golha programmes who are still alive, generously shared their insights with the project and allowed us to record their memories for posterity. Among these can be mentioned not only famous poets and song-writers such as the great Mu‘ini-Kermanshahi mentioned above, song-writers such as Turaj Nigaban and Bijan Taraqi, but also the celebrated radio announcers of the 1950s-70s whose voices were loved and cherished by millions of Iranians for decades on a weekly basis, all of whom also kindly shared their memories and contributed their insights about the Golha programmes. These include Azar Pazhuhesh, Fakhri Nikzad, Firuza Amir-Mo‘izz and  Shahrukh Nadiri, to whom we are exceedingly grateful.

The Golha project would also like to acknowledge the help of a number of Iran’s foremost singers— Muhammad Reza Shajarian, Akbar Golpaygani, Elahi, Nasir Ma‘sudi, Nahid Da‘i-javad, and Ahdiyya Badi‘i—who kindly agreed to give interviews and share their expertise and advice with the project. The project is also very much indebted to a number of the great musicians and composers who worked on the Golha programmes. These include Mahmud Zu’l-funun, Parviz Yahaqqi, ‘Ali Tajvidi, Homayun Khorram, Farhad Fakhradini, Faramarz Payvar, Jahanbakhsh Pazuki, Rahmatu’llah Badi’i, ‘Ata’ullah Khurram, Jalil Shahnaz, Hasan Kasa’i, Hasan Nahid, Farhang Sharif, Javad Lashkari, Firidun Hafizi, Mansur Nariman, Hushang Zarif, Parvin Salehi, Mrs. Vaziri-tabar, and Muhammad Isma‘ili, as well as Mr. Nikugar. Mr. Nikugar was one of the original sound technicians who worked on the Golha programmes at the Iranian National Radio, and whose collaboration with the programmes continued through all their phases up to the end of the Golha-yi Tazeh programmes in 1979.

A great debt of gratitude is also due to the Golha team of research associates and technicians, both in Iran and the West, without whose efforts the project would have never been completed. In particular, the project would like to thank Mina Saket for her expert composition and compilation of biographies of over 500 poets featured in the Golha programmes. Likewise, the project is also grateful to Faraz Minui for his specialist electronic marking of the melodic systems (dastgahs) and melodies (gushaha) in the programmes, and owes a great debt to Saleh Pazouki who coordinated the team of eight other Iranian technicians occupied in the electronic marking of the audio files of the Golha programmes, while he himself also contributing to marking the audio files as well.

The project is also extremely grateful to a number of specialists in Persian Literature and scholars who assisted over the course of several years in editing the transcripts of the Golha programmes. Among these can be mentioned Dr. Parvaneh Niktab who freely volunteered her time to copyedit transcripts and check the poetic allocations of the Golha-yi Rangarang programmes. Muhammad Reza Jozi, the eminent scholar of Islamic Studies, also devoted much time to editing the Golha transcripts, conducting research on and identifying the names of those poets whose verses grace these programmes. The project is extremely grateful to Dr Sohila Saremi, a scholar who has devoted her career to research on the classical Persian Sufi poetic tradition, who also worked on copyediting the Persian transcripts, while checking and researching the attributions of the poems in the Golha programmes. The project is also indebted to Hamid Jahanpour, and Parvana Dadkhah who also spent years doing the same. We are also grateful for the hard work conducted by Hushang Forughmand, Shahid Ghomshie, and Marzaie Jara’i and her team in completing the complicated and delicate task of uploading the Persian transcripts of the programmes up on to the Golha website.

The project is also greatly indebted to Hilla Fayzpour and to Layla Mo‘ini for their expert transcription of audio files of certain Golha programmes. We are extremely grateful to Ehsan Tavakkol who spent over a year (and is still preoccupied with) transcribing the musical notes for the ballads and folksongs (taranas) featured in the Golha programmes (that is, musical notes unavailable in any printed source). We would also like to acknowledge the great work carried out by Parvana Dadkhah in copy-editing, proof-reading and uploading these musical transcriptions, as well as for help in uploading photos of artists and performers who participated in the programmes to the Golha website.

We would also like to thank Dr. Sorab and Dr. Amir-Sadri for allowing the Golha Project use of and access to their personal audio archives. A huge debt of gratitude goes to Ali Boustan who did such a beautiful job designing the Golha CD A New Years’ Bouquet (London: Iran Heritage Foundation 2010) and to Mehrdad Shawqi who designed the graphics for the interface of the Golha website.

Lastly the Golha Project wishes to thank Paul Tipper and Ian Fusco-Fagg of Dijit New Media Ltd. in London for their many years of hard work on programming the Golha database and website.