City of Tales

My parents, my oldest sisters, and even my sister who was only two years older than me were all dressed up to go see the play, Shahr-e-Ghesseh (City of Tales) in Tehran. They wouldn't take me. "No little children are allowed." I couldn't understand what made my older sister eligible and not me! I begged, I stumped my feet, and I cried, but it was no use. They wouldn't take me. Later that year, my father bought the gramophone record of the play for me and brought it home to make up for the hurt I had felt that night. Years later I watched it on television, and for years to come, its recording became a part of my nearest and dearest possessions, traveling the world with me, wherever I went. To this day, every now and then, I pull out the CD and play it to myself in the car, treating myself to a true story. The most unforgettable Iranian musical, now a part of Iranian tradition and memorabilia. There continues to live a sadness in me that Bijan Mofid had to die so young; that he didn't stay around to enjoy the fact that his creation has continued to live on for 40 years. Even when I ask young people whether they have heard Shahr-e-Ghesseh, they tell me they have. What other piece of music, art, or Iranian culture do I know that has reached so many Iranians inside and outside Iran across all ages? In writing and directing his Shahr-e-Ghesseh, Bijan Mofid created what is likely an artistic miracle in every sense of that word. My mind is brimming with memories and nostalgia about him and about Shahr-e-Ghesseh these days. Listen here.


Farideh said...

Shahr-e-Ghesseh & nostalgia.... I used to read it for my children when they were still children. Apart from its nostalgic values, of course, as you said, it has artistic values too and again, as you said, as you said, what a pity we lost Mofid so soon but I am thrilled that in Iran we still do have young - and I mean VERY young - talents & lovers of art. You should see the enthusiasm of Iranian youth during the Fajr festival. Iranian youths are great example for "wanting" & "acheiving". They fight with "Chang-o-dandan" to see, enjoy, critisize and LEARN art. They stand (and sometimes sleep on pavements)to get tickets for film & theatre events. As French say: "Chapeau" for them!!!! My hat to them too. Meanwhile, I am happy that I have (ta ettelaye sanavi!) access to your comments' page. (goosh-e Sheytan kar!) Be ghole khodet: be good my dear and keep sharing your goodness with us. Buy Mahvash Azhir's (this is how she spells her name I guess)CDs as a gift from me to you. Promise to pay you when when we see each other, hihihi.... But, we might, you know.... who knows? Life is full of surprises. Surprise is the joy of life, sometimes good and sometimes bad. Let's make the "good"s more than the "bad"s. We can,you know? If we WANT !!!!

Babak said...

I think Shahr-e Ghesse is interesting particularly for Iranians leaving abroad showing the value of culture and identity.
When I was 4, my uncle bought the cassettes for me. I used to listen to it weekly as if I could play it by myself when I was playing with my toys!
I am still mocking it:
نامَه داری... تو راهَه... يَک زن لاغر اندام دشمَنَتَه... دشمن رو سياهَه..

ا. ش. said...

دلتنگی در خاطره ها، در زمانی رفته از دست، وقتی به آن فکر می کنیم خودمان را در همان شرایط می یابیم. اما ... غبار زمان، واقعیتی که گویی از آن گریزی نیست! آیا به واقع چنین است؟
نازی عزیز به سلامت باشند!ء

احسان said...

You got it right about Bijan Mofid. He was a miracles worker in the way he created Shahr-e Ghesseh. Amazing work. I like it so much. Do you know that none of those songs were folklore? He wrote them.
At one point I had memorized the monologue of the donkey, you know:
آخه مام واسه خودمون معقول آدمی بودیم...حالیته؟
هر چی که بود، آدم بی غمی بودیم

I love it so much. Also, the rouzeh piece:
گریه کنین مسلمونا ... گریه کنین ثوابه ....

Anonymous said...

سلام و ممنون نازی جون برای یادآوری خاطرات
خیلی خیلی ماندنی و جالبه ...
می گم از جناب مسعود خبری نیست؟
انشالله که همه دوستان خوب و خوش باشند...راستی دستت درد نکنه همه خونه تمیزه و مرتب به به!


Anonymous said...

Shahr-e-ghesseh ...
brings back so many wonderful memories. thank you Nazy joon for reminding me -


آدم گلابی said...

it truly is the story of not only one nation & its norms and culture, but of many similar societies. i read ur post to my mom and we decided that we wanted to watch it again. good thing i have it on CD. so its tonite's project.
khoob bAshi Nazi jAn

آدم گلابی said...

And by the way thanks for the nice comment, i know that you are well familiar with those knots...

Mersedeh said...

Salam Nazy Jan,
Shahr-e-Ghesseh...hmmm...Is it timeless? Yes. Is it a classic? Absolutely. I guess it is a lot of things to a lot of people and it is generally speaking an enormous NATIONAL TREASURE for Iran...but I bet you didn't know that when I was little, I used to listen to it all the time and I mean ALL THE TIME as in the way kids now have Cinderella or Barney playing on their portable DVD players, etc..or Gameboys or whatever the new toy is!...and back then, I really thought it was a storybook for kids! My mom used to play it for me and I just could not get enough of it! As you know, I moved around a lot growing up in my childhood, so I did not spend all of those years in Iran, but my playing hours were always to the background sound of Shahr-e-Ghesseh....and when she would say "baleh, bacheh-ha, ..." I always felt like she was talking JUST to me!...

When I got older, I learned to appreciate it in an entirely different way, for entirely different reasons, but the love story still remains, and I am just as attached as I always was and I still feel like that voice is talking just to me!

Thanks for bringing it up!
(I wish the DVD was better quality)

مانا said...

من هم بچه که بودم از صبح تا شب شهر قصه گوش میدادم ولی به جز قسمت گریه زاری موشه.از اون قسمت و ریتم غمگینش بدم میومد

Nazy said...

Salam Bar Farideh-ye Aziz:

Indeed, the immeasurable exuberance and interest of young Iranians in the arts is a point of pride for me, too. I remember loving the sight of a young person walking across the street with a saz case or a daf case, or the occasional tombak case, thinking to myself that when we were young, we could never see such widespread interest in music.

Yes, we can, Farideh Jan, yes, we can! Thank you for that uplifting note! Yes, we can.

Nazy said...

Salam Bar Babak-e Aziz:

Boy, I'm glad to see you here again! Khoone-ye no mobarak! I really like the new look of your blogs.

Shahr-e Ghesseh is awesome. Like I said, most Iranians know it, and are in love with at least parts of it. The song, Na Digeh, is a favorite in almost all family gatherings around me, and there is nobody who doesn't know that song.

The rest is a tale close to everyone's heart in some quirky, strange, and nostalgic way. Bijan Mofid created a masterpiece which unlike most other artistic masterpieces in the world, can be enjoyed by very ordinary people, touchable, understandable, and easily comprehensible. Thanks for sharing your nostalgia with us.

Nazy said...

Salam Bar Alef Shin-e-Bozorgvar:

I can never guess anymore when you might show up! You have become illusive, my friend!

You are right. Time only matters to the extent that we age and find ourselves short of it. Past is past and now is what matters the most and how we feel in it, and what we can do to bring change at this moment.

My look at my past is always with joy and celebration of memories as the mosaic of my existence and character. No regrets. No sighs of wondering "what if?" I believe that in every moment of my past I did my best and all that I could do and today I should hope to be able to do the same.

Zendegi abtani kardan dar howzcheye aknoon ast....

You honor me with your presence. Thank you.

Nazy said...

Salam Ehsan Jan:

Recently I listened to an audio tape of a program prepared in the wake of Bijan Mofid. In it his brother, Bahman, was talking about how Shahr-e-Ghesseh went from an idea in Bijan Mofid's head into becoming what it became. He said that even before he gave the players their scripts or told them about their roles, he insisted that they exercise strenuously, jumping from heights, and doing acrobatic-like movements onstage. Yes, he did write all of the musical score by himself, and played the instruments that went along with it. I know a whole lot of trivia about that play by now. Did you know that Aghamoosheh was Houman Mofid, his youngest brother? For close to one year he and his company practiced, and then for the next year they performed to an almost empty hall, before he was able to take it onstage in Sangelaj Theater (25 Shahrivar). It was after it had been staged that it went to Shiraz Arts Festival (Jashn-e-Honar-e-Shiraz).

The storyteller, Jamileh Nedaee, was his wife then, and it is her voice that is forever remembered as the best storyteller ever.

Simply amazing, that's what I think. Be happy Ehsan and see you really soon!

Nazy said...

Salam Marzieh Jan:

Thank you so much for your wonderful and positive vibes. Yes, I accomplished much not just in the garage, but in the kitchen, with my paperwork, with my tax preparation, and with laundry and ironing, too! It was an amazing weekend and I won't lift a finger to do anything for days to come, as a result!

I miss Masoud, too. He visits my other friends and writes in Neda's blog (Banooye Jashnvareh Zemestani), but he hasn't been back to visit me for a while.

I am honored when people come to read me and participate in the discussions. When they disappear on me, I get sad, but I keep on writing as best as I can, hoping that they will come back again soon.

I miss my friend, Serendip, something awful. I am sure when she is ready, she will come back and let us all enjoy her very special brand of thought and experience and reflection.

I miss all those who come very intermittently, hoping that they will all come back soon. I write to hear from people. That's all the joy of blogging for me.

Thanks for provoking thought, Marzieh.

Nazy said...

Salam Shideh Jan:

Welcome back and thank YOU! Shahr-e-Ghesseh is amazing. One of a kind and precious. Be happy Tehran Shake Jan and my best to Shawhin.

Nazy said...

Salam Golabi Jan:

I'm so glad you shared the post and the love for Shahr-e-Ghesseh with your loving mother! That's superb!

Your recent blog post really moved me Golabi Jan. Thank you.

Nazy said...

Mersedeh, Mersedeh!

Did you see I posted your picture which you gave me to cheer me up?! It's absolutely beautiful.

Now, you are a woman full of surprises, Mersedeh Jan! I would never have guessed you to be a Shahr-e-Ghesseh child! Ha Ha, that is really sweet! Of course the storyteller was talking only to you! Of course each and every Iranian feels like that play is done only for them! That is the strange thing that happened with the play. It was a stage performance which for whatever reason was no longer able to live onstage, so it became audio, and instead, went into people's solitary psyche!

I miss you. Can you please come up this weekend?

Nazy said...

Salam Mana Jan:

Chetori doostam? Indeed, we must not forget that Shahr-e-Ghesseh was really an adult play, intended to hold a mirror to its audiences, showing them the ways they lived and thought and talked. There were bits of it which were frightening to me, too. I really disliked the ending and what happened to Agha Fileh.

Play the happy parts for Shaya, sometime. Keep the flame going Mana Jan.

Be happy Unforgettable Mana.

بانوي جشنواره زمستان said...

اوووووووه من دير اومدم و فکر کنم که رفتي

Nazy said...

Salam Neda Jan!
Nope, you're not late at all. You're never late! We just live on two sides of the earth, that's all!

I was just telling my friend on the phone that I have recently picked up a bad habit which I must soon kick! I take my other laptop downstairs to check things out one last time before I fall asleep! Isn't that just awful? I need to stop that one right away. But, alas, it helped me to see you! I hope you are having a good day in Tehran.

bijan said...

What a nostalgic post!
I saw it on TV back home. I was very young, perhaps in high school. The play mesmerized me. I think like many boys my age, we all fell in love with Khaleh Soskkeh. I used to show off, imitate and play the Mullah, almost as good at the actor on TV! I uttered, “azizam, malousam, ghashangam…”, with the same deep voice and accent! Yes it truly was a great and original work of art deserving many accolades.
I wonder if the play is legal or forbidden on Iran now. I also wander who played the Khaleh Soskeh in the play on TV and how old she was at the time.

Nazy said...

B i j a n!

Where have you been?! I'm so glad you came back, or that I wrote something to make you say something!

Shahr-e Ghesseh is banned in Iran, because of the jokes about the mullah in it. I will share a sad story I know about that with you.

After the Revolution, there was a brief time when all political convictions could be voiced publicly. Everyday in front of Tehran University, there were hundreds of people selling books, music, newspapers and other material pertaining to their political beliefs. It was really an amazing and short-lived period of time in Iranian contemporary history.

One of the pieces of music which was always played aloud on Shahreza (Enghelab) Avenue, opposite Tehran University, was Shahr-e-Ghesseh, especially the part where the mullah, not a favored character in the play, was singing his piece. This was really hard for Bijan Mofid, who was still living in Tehran at the time. It brought so much attention to him which he wasn't pursuing at the time. He felt Shahr-e-Ghesseh wasn't just about that mullah, but faults, shortcomings, and quirks about all of us as a nation. In a sad way, Bijan Mofid was harrassed for something he had created over 10 years earlier, unable to control the distribution and use of his work.

Like I said, Shahr-e-Ghesseh became a property of every Iranian, even to the detriment of its creator, at least for a little while. He did manage to leave Iran later, ending up in Los Angeles during a time of chaos and uncertainty in the Iranian community in that area. He was lost and could not find himself or happiness again in what felt so foreign and so strange to him.

It was a sad ending for a true artist who could have done so much more, had he lived a happier, healthier and longer life.

I will try and find out about Khaleh Sooskeh and her whereabouts and tell you! I do have access to a reliable source on the subject.

Be good and happy Mohandes Bijan, and please come back again soon! You were gone entirely too long.

Anonymous said...

Nazy jaan

Thanks for this, although it’s made me extremely sad!


Nazy said...

Salam Shahireh Jan:

You honor me by coming back. I am always using your photographs, and thinking about the heart and mind behind the lens, the one that could see the beauty of Iran as it is.

I am sorry the piece made you sad. By now you probably have figured out the relationship between Shahr-e-Ghesseh's creator and the dancer whose story I have been telling. Afshin has told me several stories about his father, and my sadness about him has grown as a result of those stories.

Heif shod, that's all I can say. Please come back, as my sad posts are few and far-in-between! It is always a pleasure to have you as a guest! Happy Valentine's Day!

Fariba said...

Dear Nazi

thanks for Shahre Gheseh. i love it too. i remember listening to it for the first time, decades ago, when i was a kid. it was a summer night, and a friend of my parents had brought the records from Tehran with him. we sat around the Gramaphone in their yard in Rafsanjan, and listened to it. i was really fascinated. i know most of its dialogues by heart.
thanks again

Nazy said...

Fariba, Fariba, Fariba:

I just love the way you show up sometimes! It's as though the absence was not there and you were right here all along! Well, such is friendship. It has an invisible dimension, called continuity, where even if you haven't seen each other for a long time, when you do, it feels like you were there all along.

I'm glad this post brought good memories to you. I believe Shahr-e-Ghesseh is timeless and a national treasure for the very same reason.