“I don’t really go on the internet, it’s like a ouija board, it’s like letting someone into your head, behind your eyes.” William Bevan.
I was lost, deep in the internet, and I can’t remember exactly what I was looking for when I spied the track on Youtube’s sidebar; Zia ‘Helelyos’ Iranian Funk, it said. Click. It was beautiful just because of how strange it was; a rolling, and no doubt funky, drum beat, horns blowing a hypnotic, cyclical melody, and an Arabic vocal that started off in deep, baritone restraint yet soon exploded in an octave-stretching show of pure ebullience.
After some digging it turned out this track was featured on a compilation called Pomegranates a few years back, released on Finder Keepers with the subtitle ‘Persian Pop, Funk, Folk and Psych of the 60s and 70s’. I soon found the whole thing, sat back and listened. Despite the immediate shock of the unusual of Zia’s ‘Helelyos’, the tracks that really stood out were by an Iranian singer called Googosh, whose songs are sultry, otherworldly ballads; her voice a crystalline, emotive echo over synthesized basslines and traditional percussion. In her day, Googoosh was one of the most popular singers in the Arab world, probably as famous as Paris Hilton, except with the cool and talent of a Sandie Shaw, she was the first woman in Iran to wear hot pants, cut her hair like Jean Seberg in À Bout De Souffle and famously made a reference to engaging in fellatio in a film;her singing career was cut short though, in part due to the restrictions of the Iran’s post-revolutionary government on women performing in public and compounded by her refusal to leave Iran and move abroad, instead marrying a florist.