May 09, 2006

The first step to achieve excellence and fulfillment is to self heal.

Exclusive Interview of Aref Mohammadi with Dariush Eghbali, Iran-Javan

Even though I have had many discussions with specialists and professionals in the Iranian community in Toronto on the subject of social maladies, young Iranians know me more as a film critic. Therefore, when the see me at a setting away from movie theaters, they are puzzled. I have done my best to address social issues either through film reviews or through my discussions and interviews with specialists. The basis for this interview is my deep respect for Dariush as an artist who has not been indifferent to our social maladies, especially for all the tireless efforts of this legend in bringing awareness and educating the public with regards to the disease of substance abuse, a disease that he himself had been suffering from for many years, not to mention his own love for cinema and his experience in film, as well as his affinity and belief in spiritual literature and his use of Such literature in his own art.

Any one can have a dream that eventually becomes reality. Did Dariush dream of becoming a singer from the beginning or was it a coincidence?

Dariush: "In reality, becoming a singer was not my goal; I actually think that I was born a singer (laughing). I had an immense affection for singing as a child. As I look back, I cannot help but wonder about the thought process of a child of 4-5 years of age in relation to music. I would sneak into the living room and play old 33rpm records of such artists as Rashid Behboodof on a turntable or eagerly delight in listening to music on the radio.
Those, I believe, were inherent desires and affinities which drew me to singing and thus my statement that I was born a singer (laughing). Aside from this, coincidences and relationships resulted in my entering the world if performance professionally."

I heard you had performed on stage as a very young child?
Dariush: "I started performing on stage from the age of 9. At the age of 11 I had an orchestra composed of 7-8 musicians and we would perform at school functions. Thus my earlier statement that the flow of events drew me more to this profession. Like a tiny stream that ended in the vast sea."

Do you remember the first time you performed professionally?
Dariush: "The first time was in a program called 'Shesh o Hasht' produced by Farshid Ramzi in the National Iranian Television. I performed with a group of other young Iranian artists such as Kayvan, Afshin, Neli, Masis and Onik. Now if you are referring to a live performance, I believe it was at a night club called 'Shofoofeh NO' in Teheran where I performed with a professional orchestra."

In an interview with a magazine in the 70's you had made a comment along the lines of: 'I dreamed of fame….' How do you feel about that statement now?
Dariush: "That feeling stems from my younger years. Imagine how someone becomes a celebrity over night, is surrounded by thousands, it is a shock to your system. May be at that time, being in that atmosphere was quite difficult and stressful. However, as years went by, this issue became kneaded in my being. At that time, I was faced with issues that were very strange and awkward. I was being criticized for my choice of songs, some would make comments such as “ what is this kid saying? Some would compliment me, some would admonish me. I was constantly bombarded by the masses reactions. I was very young and many young artists who reach fame will face the same reactions, be it positive or negative, which at times can be somewhat disappointing. I believe that fame is a phenomenon which should be used in constructive rather than an abusive manner."

Since I am a fan of cinema, I will direct my next few questions in that direction. You performed in a couple of films at the height of your fame. Films which were categorized as core films in the Iranian cinema. You worked with directors such as Cyrus Alvand and Farzan Deljoo. Were you a fan of cinema?
Dariush: "I was and am very fond of cinema. It is a very intricate art. I never claim to have acted; I believe that I experienced an art. As I look back and examine that period and the art, I can see the minute and intricate details that this art entails more maturely. In those days, any time an artist would become famous, producers and investors of box offices would start hunting them down and I was one of those who was captured (laughing). I experimented with 2 films and unfortunately this experience did not continue. I would have loved to have worked with a professional acting coach to enrich my performance abilities."

One of the movies you made was 'yaran' directed by Farzan Deljoo. What is interesting is that at the height of your fame, you gave the soundtrack of the movie to Fereydoon Forooghi. Why?
Dariush: "What an interesting question, thank you for bringing up this issue.
The truth of the matter is that the movie 'yaran' was going to be a collaborative effort with Farzan Deljoo and as you see I only have a very short appearance in that movie. Unfortunately at the time my experience in film was very limited and I was not handled in a very constructive manner. Mr. Darzan Deljoo and Amir Mojaehd were quite far from being kind and did not honor our contract to the fullest. Once 15 minute of the movie was filmed, I asked these gentlemen to address our contract and finalize the financial aspect of the contract. This conversation resulted in them leaving and never looking back.

I told myself that they are working with me on this unfinished movie, only to find out that they completely changed the scenario of the entire film, based upon those 15 minutes, so that there would be no need for me. Interestingly enough, as I believe in an equilibrium and justice in this universe, this incidence coincided with my arrest by Savak and my imprisonment in Evin penitentiary and on the opening night of the movie at Capri Movie Theater, thus a loss for the producers."

Let's go back and talk about Pop music. Now a days we hear about the death of words in the Iranian pop music. As an artist who values the depth of every word in your music and has never surrendered to anything less than perfect in exile and has never sacrificed your path, what are your thoughts on this subject?
Dariush: "I believe that a flood is on its way and you cannot stop it in its path. It is carrying everything with it and imitation has become an integral part of our music. The absence of a source of supervision has contributed to this issue. Years ago in Iran, there was such a supervision, which oversaw and implemented the intricate values. Now a days, due to the lack of such entity, lyricists and composers are involved in superficial and simple works which you refer to as the death of words. Although I believe that each and every energy in this universe has its own position and role. Dariush has his own audience and will continue honorably and faithfully on his path. Our music is living very tumultuous times as is our country. The reason for this death of words can also stem from a slack in efforts as well. Instead of using words and music as sharp and effective weapons in a constructive manner, they are being abused and I have no idea when this will end.

I cannot help but refer to the role of the media outside of Iran, their role in advertising these types of music, the flow of presentation, the stature of presentation etc… In the past, in Iran, each type of music, from pop to traditional and folkloric had its own place and value. I believe that now a days, the media is promoting simple mindedness."

I would like to stress the fact that this simple mindedness has resulted in banality. The lyrics that have entered our pop music from a culture of lampoon, where responsible artists and intellectuals have tried to erase them from the younger generation, unfortunately are widespread in the Iranian cinema within and the Iranian pop music on the outside.
Dariush: "It is unavoidable; there is nothing you can do about it. Here is where the responsibility of an artist can be the key. May young singers become live baits of music production companies all in an attempt to reach fame. As I stated, there are those artists who work very hard not to fall in to the same trap."

I believe that creation is the born from pain. In the same manner in which in the past poets and lyciricist and famous singers created such works of art that will eternally be revered, works of art created in an atmosphere of limitations and injustices. However, we are witnessing the same individuals, away from Iran, faced with a different genre of pain, who have not been capable of creating similar work of arts... I can refer to such individuals as Shahyar Ghanbari, Iraj Janati Attaii, and Ardalan Sarfaraz, of course this is my personal opinion and I would like to hear your point of view?
Dariush: "After the revolution, many of our lyricists, poets and composers immigrated to different parts of the world, away from each other. Before this mandatory migration, we would sit together and intermingle and exchange feelings and thoughts in the creation of a work of art. But now, each and every one of us ended up in a different part of this world, as the remote links of a broken chain. I would like to stress the fact that all of us left our country with a heavy load of anxiety and uneasiness. We entered into multi colored societies with different backgrounds and dialects which resulted in many psychological blows to our system. But in spite of all these emotional and physical upheavals we were supposed to survive and make a living and move on. The side effects of all these issues are still apparent. For example, I have an acquaintance who left Iran after the revolution. He worked quite hard to take care of his family for over 25 years even though he was from a wealthy family and has been financially well off now, he has never been able to relax. He has never reached the point where he would contemplate the fruits of his hard work and slow down. This feeling of anxiety and uncertainty of the future has stayed with us.

Let's go back to your original question, I believe that our lyricists continue along the same historic paths, however, what has changed is the lack of mature and ideal performers and vocalists. Meaning that the ingredients for a final ideal product, from the music to the composition, to lock the entire product are missing. Each one of the individuals is still the same, although their horizons and experiences have become more in depth and their visions have grown vaster, but the proper collaboration is missing. The co-mingling and fruitful and constructive collaboration is non existent.
A little while ago, after many years, I spent about 6 days with iraj janati attai in Paris. We were like two souls who had found each other, we realized how fulfilling it was to complement and fulfill this dispersion.

At any rate, the flood of what you refer to as banality is running its course, and many of those creative individuals you mentioned are observing it, thinking to themselves what they wished for is quite apart from what actually happened."

Given that it has been years since you began reciting spiritual poems during your live concert performances and you even produced an album by the name of Rumi, I would like to elaborate on the effect of spirituality on your life and your work.
Dariush: "Spirituality is a burrow into one's being and and analysis of the inner self, one’s core of existence. After 55 years of living, I am as a broken jug, looking for the missing pieces. Spirituality is a vast ocean, how grand to be endowed with a single drop of it. You will see life and living from a different perspective. I am not saying that I have not studied it or that I am foreign to it. I am happy that I have a special relationship with my supreme power, which is quite grand and magnificent for me, I feel him near me at all times. I converse with him and share my deepest inner thoughts and he is watching over me. It is quite a grandiose feeling to be constructive."

Who has had the most profound influence on you?
Dariush: "I am very devoted to Rumi; my relationship is very simple and harmonious with him. When I examine his work, I can feel the depth of his knowledge with regards to humanity and self evaluation and self realization. For example when he says: 'listen to the flute..."
He means that from birth, we lose touch with our core, that you should never forget where you come from, and you should do your best to get in touch with your core. We are but an angstrom of a vast universe, and each and every one of us has a responsibility in a lifetime, as short as a bubble. Then let's find out what this responsibility is. I believe that the world of spirituality is the cure for all ailments and the mend of all wounds. I have gone through many painful journeys and when I got introduced to spirituality I felt as I walked into a magnificent universe. This universe has no need for alcohol, drugs and pills. One has to reach the depth of it with no fear. As Rumi says: 'don't be afraid of the world....'
This fear is a phenomenon kneaded into us, and if you identify it and destroy it, you will find true inner peace. People usually live for the tomorrows, whereas life is these seconds that pass us by as we speak. I always think that worldly belongings, homes and expensive cars, luxuries, don't really belong to you and I. Let's try and remodel our inner homes and come in peace with our inner self , let's make up with our inner being. May be spirituality is a vast sea, a drop of which has been God's gift to me."

Do you have any future plans to produce albums similar to Rumi?
Dariush: "Yes, I am working on a unique project using Rumi's work to create a form of meditation through music. I am working on a similar project on Hafez's poetry as well."

Famous individuals and celebrities have for many years been a symbol for the younger generation and their individual life patterns and choices have directed the youth in that manner and fashion. For example, a young man was telling me that ever since he had heard that Behrooz vossooghi has turned to Sufism, he has studied it and he has noted that his life has completely changed. Whether we want to or not, and agree or disagree, individuals such as you, who have become legends in their own time can and have affected the course of the lives of many, willingly or unwillingly, some in a positive manner and some otherwise. What you have just stated regarding spirituality can affect many worldwide and entice them into studying spirituality and change the course of their life, helping them step into light from a dark past. This has also been a manner in which some have ruined lives in the process of making a business for themselves. What are your thoughts in this matter?

Dariush: "That is exactly why there needs to be extensive research before one's thought processes are followed and emulated. Our literature is full of recommendations and teachings which can be quite constructive and fulfilling. I always recite the beautiful spiritual poem:

Show your inner gems, that is the epitome of true excellence
Find your inner self within you,…
Stop pointing the shortcomings of others
Attempt to cure yourself,……
Listen to my recommendation; come into peace with the universe
With the exception of the ill wishing negative spirits.
That is the epitome of excellence.
Once you tie your hands with self serving means
Untie them on your own that is the epitome of ….

At any rate, this instinct is like a rope and you, a prisoner of your inner self.
And I believe that only spirituality can cure this instinct and return it to the priceless gem that it truly is. Sometimes we are after valium for inner peace, where these pills are but temporary bandages on our superficial wounds, what about the deeper wounds?

We need a master key for a more in-depth treatment and healing, this master key is spirituality."

As an individual who had suffered from the disease of addiction for many years and chose to cleanse yourself from the disease with a lot of determination, what have you been able to do for your fans all around the world who are suffering from the same ailment? How have you transferred your experiences so that others in need can benefit from them?
Dariush: "I have been working for over 4 years with the objective of presenting awareness, education and means of prevention with regards to the social maladies widespread in our society, especially those who have chosen to cleanse themselves. I started with a weekly radio program. Currently, we have a television program by the name of Ayeneh, which is being broadcasted through satellite televisions. We have established a non profit organization, which along side addressing social maladies, we also prepare documentaries. Many contact us from all around the world, who seek help to quit substance abuse. We present them with the most effective way, based upon their lifestyles and needs, and put them in touch with those who have recovered from this disease.
I have performed for them for over 35 years, now I would like to know how much credit I have with them. I do indeed know that we are living in an atmosphere of disbelief and distrust. Many have come and gone and abused our people's trust with their futile slogans. I, on the other hand, have learned from the mistakes of others. My objectives are sound and clear, although my speed may not be fast, but that is irrelevant. I have begun a journey and will not stop. I ask those individuals who are attempting to slow me down and stop this journey with their selfish, self-centered destructive ways.
At this time, singing does not fulfill me. Our countrymen can annihilate the disease of substance abuse, which in my opinion is the mother of all social maladies. These pains are theirs and denial is futile."

How has people's reception of your social activities been?
Dariush: "I think you should some research on our programs. Our programming aired through NITV can also be watched on the internet and has been very well received. Our goal is to bring awareness to the International institutions with regards to the plight of our countrymen. Should you wish to know more about our goals and objectives please visit our sites: