Newsletter

Iranian Association of Boston

Mahnameh
The Monthly Publication of The Iranian Association of Boston
Issue No. 82/December 1997
Published by Manouchehr Madani-poor
Edited for the IAB web site by N. Fotouhi

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IAB NEWS

    On Sunday November 23, 1997 the members of IAB met with the IAB council to review the existing funds and donations in order to map out the future direction of this organization.  It was decided that more emphasis should be put upon the prompt establishment of a "House of Iran" in the greater Boston area.

    In the next few months, the IAB council will be researching the logistics of this project.  As you know, members have donated generously over the last three years.  IAB will continue its fundraising efforts to bring this dream into a reality.

Please feel free to send us your comments and feedback regarding
"House of Iran"

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Shab-e Yalda by O.D., abridged by N. Fotouhi

    Shab-e yalda, is a winter solstice celebration whose origins are as old as Iran itself.  The word yalda comes from Syrian, meaning birth; hence it is the night (shab) of birth.    It is not known how or when this Semitic word entered the Persian language.   Winter solstice celebrations all over the world are marked by themes of birth or rebirth.  The Iranian shab-e yalda celebrates the long awaited emergence of the Sun from the longest,  darkest, and possibly the coldest night of the year.

    Traditional customs that are linked with this celebration are symbolic.  At sunset, the celebrants light bonfires outside their homes bringing light and warmth to the darkness and cold of winter.  Inside their homes, families gather around the korsi and keep vigil until sunrise; staying awake by reciting poetry, telling stories, singing and dancing.   What is consumed on this night is also symbolically significant: summer fruits, mixed nuts and dried berries or ajil-e shab-e yaldaWatermelons for example, not only a favorite on this night, are particularly significant because they are an exclusively summer fruit.  They have been set aside and saved for this celebration.   The ajil-e shab-e yalda features dried raisins, watermelon seeds or dried pumpkin seeds and nuts, thus symbolizing the bounty of a good harvest.  Sharbat, a summer drink traditionally made from fruit syrups, as well as tea and wine are also served.

Iran makes it to the World Cup in France by K.  Kohanlou & S. Vaghar, translated & abridged by N.Fotouhi

    It was 4 a.m.  We were listening to Mr. Parizi on The Voice of Iran.  It was the World Cup pre-qualifying soccer match between the national teams of Iran and Australia.  In an earlier match played in Iran, these two teams had a tie game. Many sportscasters were confident that Australia would win this match, since they had the home court advantage.   At the beginning of the second half, Australia scored another goal.  At that point we were ready to give up any hope, and we were almost ready to turn off the radio.   Twenty minutes before the end of the game, Iran's halfback, Baghery, scored a goal.  Five minutes later Ali Dayee made a superb pass to the famous forward, Khodadad Azizi, who in turn scored the second goal.  This happily resulted in Iran's victory since in these games each goal in the opponent's court is counted twice.  You can imagine how we slept like babies after the game!  It is noteworthy to mention that Ali Dayee has been selected as one of the World Team forwards after this game.  This soccer victory belongs to Iranians all over the world.  We hope for a great victory in France.  Thank you guys!

Classical Persian Music by Zahed Sheikholeslami, translated & abridged by N. Fotouhi

    Art and music, in every culture, are deeply influenced by the specific characteristics and traditions of that culture.    In order to properly identify classical Persian music, one must consider the unique elements in the instrumental compositions, our history, and the relation and influence of other styles of music.  This brings out the following questions.   Which style of music do Iranians consider their own?  What is this style?   Where has it evolved from?  How is it composed? Where will the future take this ancient art form?

   Persian music, after a long period of dormancy during the Safavid dynasty, was revitalized during the Zand dynasty.  Later, with the reign of the Qajars, especially that of Mohammad Shah and Nasseredin Shah, Persian music developed a new and unique discipline.  The musical performers of this period began to create new nomenclature and designation to their songs and music.  However, some of the nomenclature given are often erroneous and somewhat incomplete.  One of the more common terms used, for example, is moosighi sonnati (traditional music).  This term does not sufficiently describe this particular music since there are also many local and tribal musical compositions that are considered traditional.  There is only one kind of music in Iran which has both national and traditional characteristics.  The name "classical Persian music" is  the correct designation for this music.  Classical Persian music has been taught for the last one hundred and fifty years by the great masters.  Various regions have also adopted specific names for their unique style: Bayatt Turk, Bayatt Kurd, Isfahan, Shostari, etc.

    Classical Persian Music is inspired by songs recorded in the memories of the experts.  This style of music is based on technical milestones which recognize the beauty of its repertoire.  Over the last century the masters have collected this music and renamed it "radiff".   Radiff is a collection of Persian traditional melodies which have been categorized in a specific fashion.  These melodies have been played throughout Iran and are often passed on from generation to generation.  It is important to note that these melodies are collectively uniform.  They are called "goosheh".

History of Radiff

    Despite great attention to architectural and decorative arts during the Safavid dynasty, Persian music was all but lost.  There is no mention of specific musicians from this era in our history.   During the short reign of the Zand dynasty, music began to resurface as an art form, and eventually blossomed during the Qajar period.  Radiff was compiled and shaped at this time.  At the time of Mohammad Shah's reign we come across names like Khoshnavar: ostad (master of) kamancheh, Hassan Khan alias Santoor Khan: ostad santoor, and Ali Akbar: ostad tar.

To be continued....

Recipe of the Month: Zereshk Polo ( Rice with Chicken & Dried Currants)

Ingredients:
1 medium chicken: cleaned, skinned and quartered
3 medium onions
5 cups Basmati rice
1 cup dried currants (washed)
1 egg
5 tablespoons plain yogurt
8 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup vegetable/canola oil
2 tablespoon sugar

saffron prepared with water

   Begin by rinsing the rice in cold water thoroughly.   Place rice in stock pot or any bottom heavy pot and fill with water (water should fill 3/4 of the pot).  Add some salt and bring the water to a boil.  Add the rice and boil until the rice is no longer crunchy, and before it gets too soft.   Drain the rice into a large colander and rinse lightly with cold water and let it drain completely.  In a mixing bowl mix 3 serving spoons of the rice, the egg, the yogurt, and about 2 tablespoons of the saffron/water mixture.  Put 3 tablespoons of oil in the stockpot and use this mixture to line its bottom.  Put the remainder of the rice on top of this mixture.  Close the lid tightly, placing a clean dishcloth between the pot and the lid.  Cook for approximately 1- 1 1/2 hours on low heat on the stovetop.

    Meanwhile, sauté the prepared chicken with the onions and some oil for a few minutes on medium-high heat in a sauté pan.  Then lower the heat and simmer the chicken for about 20-30 minutes; salt and pepper to taste. (You can add a celery stock or bay leaf as a bouquet garnis when the chicken is simmering).   Then, remove celery/herbs and add 2 tablespoons yogurt, 4 tablespoons butter, and some saffron/water mixture for color.  Simmer the chicken on very low heat until the rice is ready.  When ready to serve, remove any excess skin and bones that may be left on the chicken.

   In another small sauté pan, sauté the washed currants with some butter, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 1 tablespoon saffron/water mixture for about 2 minutes and set aside.

    To serve, alternate placing 2 serving spoons of rice in your platter with 1 tablespoon of currants and a layer of chicken.  Continue until you have removed all the rice.  (You can also pour some of the juices of the chicken from the sauté pan onto your rice platter for extra flavor).  At this point you should have a thick layer of crusty, crunchy and golden rice at the bottom of the pot which can be removed by either turning the pot upside down, or by breaking it into smaller pieces.

Submit your favorite recipe!

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P.O.Box 64
Newtonville, MA  02160

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