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World Music Legends

Googoosh

By j. poet
Published October 9, 2005

Arabic

Between 1970 and 1979, Googoosh was Iran’s top pop star, combining the sophisticated vocal power of a Barbra Streisand with the trend-setting of a Madonna. At her height, Googoosh generated the fan devotion of a Marilyn Monroe or an Elvis Presley; her albums were best sellers in Turkey, Afghanistan and Central Asia. She was so popular in Tajikistan that she received more votes in that country’s first democratic elections than any of the legitimate candidates.

Googoosh appeared regularly on Iranian television, performing songs that combined exquisite Iranian poetry and classical Iranian music, with arrangements drawing on such international influences as Brazilian samba, Cuban rumba and Spanish flamenco. From the age of 10, the singer also starred in a series of successful films, giving Iran a heroine comfortable with Western-style worldliness. She set the style for a generation of young women; they wore mini-skirts after she did and followed her to the hairdresser when she cut her tresses short in 1975.

Then came the Islamic Revolution, which forbade music and sent many musicians and intellectuals into exile. Googoosh was one of the few who decided to stay, but the result was that one moment Googoosh was an international star, the next she was almost a prisoner in her own apartment. At first, the Ayatollah Khomeini placed a ban on all music, but cassettes by Googoosh and other pop and folk artists could still be found on the black market and were played discretely in cafés and marketplaces. Eventually the regime allowed traditional musicians to perform and record, but female singers were not permitted to perform for male or mixed audiences because, according to the religious authorities, female voices corrupt men.

Googoosh started singing when she was two years old. Her father, Saber Atashin, led a troupe of performers that traveled throughout Iran, entertaining in both cities and small villages. When Atashin discovered his daughter could sing, he put her into the act. As a result, Googoosh received little real schooling but developed a stage presence and the ability to form a bond with her audience.

Googoosh is actually an Armenian boy’s name; her birth certificate lists her first name as Faegheh. “I don’t know where the name comes from,” the singer said. “Since I was a child, everyone always called me Googoosh.”

In 1960, at the age of 10, Googoosh came to national attention when she appeared in Fereshteye Farari, a film by Gorji Abadia. By the time she was a teenager, some of Iran’s best known poets and composers were bringing her material to record. Early in her career, during the reign of Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlevi, Iran underwent a period of modernization. There was personal freedom, especially for the middle and upper classes, but the underworld controlled much of Iran’s nightlife. Although Googoosh had a successful career, she found herself owing money to t

Recommended Recordings

 

Best Of Googoosh Vol. 2: Mordab (Caltex)

Best Of Googoosh Vol. 3: Doe Mahi (Caltex)

Zoroaster (Kia Entertainment Group)