After a week of meetings at the UN celebrating the 58th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and Women's History month, running around Manhattan with our subway system undergoing construction, and seeing my clients to support their emotional well-being, I thought it was time for me to take a break and enjoy some time to myself. When I found out that my childhood hero, Iranian pop singer Googoosh, would be performing at Colden Auditorium in Queens College on March 15th, I knew this would be the best way for me to unwind. After all, she was a legendary woman in the history of Iran and with my involvement in the CSW it couldn't have been a more perfect time to celebrate. I longed to hear her voice as she had been banned from performing in Iran for over 35 years and broke her silence by touring in the US starting in 2000.
I walked into the auditorium astonished to see over 2,000 people spanning all ages and generations. The minute Googoosh blessed us with her beautiful voice, tears started rolling down my face. It was such a nostalgic experience. I was with 4 of my Iranian girlfriends, a Muslim, Christian, Bahai, and Jew, ready to enjoy our night, but there I was, crying. Can you imagine going to a concert and crying from memories of your youth? Hundreds of smart phone cameras were flashing throughout the audience, colorful lights brightened up the stage, and the music coming through the advanced sound system charged us all with what seemed like everlasting energy. Through the power of music, Googoosh was able to bring up memories of the sweet childhood I had in Iran. Those who grew up in my generation would go to see her perform, anxious to see what earrings she'd be wearing, how her hair was styled, and the color of her miniskirts. Googoosh, to us was like Iran's Madonna and busted moves like Michael Jackson. She was banned from bringing entertainment to her faithful Iranian fans since 1979, and was now singing to an audience spanning 3 generations with her freedom in America. I felt like we were travelling time and it was so bittersweet.
As I looked around, wiping my face from tears, I took note of how diverse Googoosh's audience was. College students who were not yet born at the height of her career in Iran, were dancing with each other, and I had a flashback of myself dancing with my friends in the golden days of our youth. I saw an elderly lady tapping her cane to Googoosh's tunes. Others around me were smiling, with tears trickling down their face too. Googosh greeted the audience with "Happy Nowruz and Happy Purim!" and I thought about the resilient diversity of Iran when I was growing up. Would Iranian youth ever be able to hear Googoosh in Iran again?
Even Googoosh's American band was full of diversity. We were taught to embrace diversity, a value long instilled in us since King Cyrus' time, and it was evident Googoosh upheld this legacy. Her guitarist and keyboardist were from Iran, pianist and bassist from Armenia, flutist from Venezuela, American drummer and producer, and Puerto Rican percussionist. They harmonized all their sounds to produce a Turkish sound, which Googoosh channels from her father's ancestry.
Out of all the changes experienced in Iran after 1979, I believe the loss of music such as the music of Googoosh is one of our more tragic losses. Experiencing the joy of her music once again reminded me how necessary it is for people to be able to enjoy music in their lives, not only the freedom of listening to their genre of choice, but of performing as well. Music has therapeutic abilities and is a healthy way to express grievances and joys. Music documents and brings emotions to life. I can imagine the people of Iran, especially the young people, long for the freedom music can bring into their lives.
Even after being banned from performing in Iran, Googoosh continues to sing about her love for her country through her newfound freedom of touring in America and around the world. She sang her newest song for us, dedicated to child labor. According to Article 27 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and share in scientific advancement and its benefits
(2) Everyone has the right to protection of moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author
In honor of Women's History Month, I want to highlight Googoosh, this legendary singer of Iran, and her dedication to pursuing music and the arts. She has enchanted Iranians for over 6 decades. If her concerts around the world have such a positive impact on people, can you imagine if she has a concert in Iran what joy it would bring to the people? Do you all think President Rouhani could honor Article 27 and allow Googoosh a homecoming concert?