Tuesday Obituary: Faramarz Aslani

Tuesday Obituary: Faramarz Aslani

by Sahar Tavakoli

You who carry the dust of each journey on your wings : Faramarz Aslani has died alongside winter, aged 78. The singer and songwriter was born in Damavand, Iran on July 13, 1945 and passed away on Nowruz, 2024 in Maryland, United States.

He began his career writing for the trilingual Journal de Téhéran. Aslani had completed his journalism degree at University College, London. At the Journal, he wrote articles in English. These are not, broadly speaking, strange accomplishments, but they are strange for Aslani. He is remembered not for his journalism but for his musical compositions, set to or otherwise inspired by the ghazals of 14th century poet and mystic Khaajeh Shams o-din Mohammad Hafez-e Shirazi.

It is unclear how Aslani came to know folk singer and spinto soprano Pari Zanganeh, whether the connection had been made through his journalistic work or his involvement in the folk-music scene. Possibly it was a bit of both. What is known is that Aslani caught the attention of the President of CBS Records International at a party held by Zanganeh, that his debut album Occupation of the Heart was released by the label in 1977, and that his second, ‘Be yaad-eh Hafez,’ or Hafez, a Memorandum, came out a year later.

There was something plain about Aslani’s voice, not in the sense that it was ordinary but rather that it lacked contrivance, that it was unembellished and uncomplicated. Like Kourosh Yaghmaei, Aslani sang about the mystical. Unlike his contemporary, however, he did so without veering psychedelic. He was heartfelt like Dariush Eghbali without the sap,* resonant but never commanding like Mohammad Noori

His sound wasn’t honeyed. Nothing was dulcet. His voice poured out of him like water, clear and refreshing and pure.

Maybe it is for this reason that Aslani is so often assigned in early-level Persian language classrooms. Always the same song: ‘Age Ye Rooz’ or If One Day. Here, in his most well known composition, Aslani’s articulate vocals are partnered with rather literal lyrics: If one day you decide to leave without announcement, I’ll be left wondering and alone. No metaphors to decipher, no idioms to parse; a straightforward lesson in the conditional tense. For a non-native audience, the song also has a certain orientation. Written in D minor and with a chorus that stretches all of its alef’s and vav’s, it hits somewhere between campfire guitar and tahrir. My own favourite, though, is his ‘Parastoohaa-yeh Khasteh;’ Wearied Swallows, the fourth verse of which recalls the Damavand alleys of Aslani’s youth and from which the opening to this obituary is taken.

Aslani is survived by his wife, Marjan Fakki-Aslani, his daughters, Phaedra and Roxana, and by the swallows that still fly in formation in Tehran’s increasingly polluted skies.

*He’s just so mopey, like oh my God we get it, you have feelings. There, I said it. Iranians: do your worst.

Sahar Tavakoli writes The Stopgap’s late news (10 letters). 

Tip Sahar