The Persian Jam
Behzad, Bijan, Dr. Zari, Shari, and Reza.
Anahita, Hooman, Dr. Taheri, and Manouchehr Khan Ghanbari.
I went to see my Persian Literature teacher, Dr. Zari Taheri, in Berkeley last night. She has been living in Tokyo at for the past several years, where she researches and teaches Persian literature at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. Once or twice a year she returns to her home in the Bay Area and during the summers she teaches a Persian poetry class for a few weeks at UC Berkeley, which is attended by her adoring students (more like fans!). This time she had a short visit and we only had a chance to see her last night for a few hours at one of our classmates’ home in Berkeley. Of course, Zari is always equipped with Persian poetry to disarm us and we were willingly ready to abandon the “party” to join her in another “class” as she pulled out her little Khayyam book and started to read Khayyam’s poems for us. But what happened instead was a lot of fun! People pulled out their musical instruments and assembled a small, but complete musical group who picked up on the Khayyam poetry and started playing and singing for the rest of us. Someone even danced to the tune of the sweet jamming session! What is it with Iranians and poetry and music? I don’t think anyone can adequately define a “Persian Jam,” where everybody joins with whatever talent they have (and even without it as in my case!), to fill a small corner of time and presence with an age-old tradition, something which feels very pagan in nature? I mean even when there are no musical instruments and no scholars in attendance, even the smallest of Iranian gatherings could spontaneously turn in the direction of a night-long musical event, so very sweet and so nostalgic. I suppose other nationalities and ethnic groups engage in spur of the moment musical activities like this, too, but nothing feels as right to me as this, The Persian jam. Has this happened to you, too? What songs do you sing? It’s all music of love to me.