lit. “Flowers Program”; a series of radio programs on music and poetry, on the air for almost twenty-three years (March 1956 to February 1979), which aimed at illustrating the perennial thematic and aesthetic relationships between poetry and traditional music in Persian culture.


GOLHĀ, BARNĀMA-YE, (lit. “Flowers Program”), a series of radio programs which was on the air for almost twenty-three years (Farvardin 1335-Esfand 1357 Š./March 1956 to February 1979) and which aimed at illustrating the perennial thematic and aesthetic relationships between poetry and traditional music (musiqi-e sonnati or aṣil) in Persian culture and enhancing their appreciation by the general public. The program underwent considerable changes in style and management, and its long history can broadly be divided into three periods: 1956-67, when Dāwud Pirniā (Figure 1) initiated and directed the program; 1967-73, with Moḥammad Mirnaqibi as music director and Rahi Moʿayyeri as literary director (Pežmān Baḵtiāri succeeded Rahi after his death); and 1973-78, when Hušang Ebtehāj as literary director and Fereydun Šahbāziān as music director directed the program. The inclusion of the plural of the word gol (flower) in the title Golhā was effectively redolent with the symbolism of perfection attributed to a judicious combination of Persian poetry and music which the programs sought to evoke. To achieve this aim, they combined music and poetry in a variety of patterns and combinations. They included declamations, recitals, and vocalizations of poetry; brief biographical accounts of Persian classical poets; and poetic commentaries accompanied by solo instruments, ensembles, or orchestral arrangements based on Persian traditional music.

An earlier radio program called the “Festival of Songs and Melodies” (Festivāl-e āhanghā wa taṣānif, 1332 Š./1953) has been mentioned as a possible prototype for this broadcast (Behruzi, p. 431). However, the idea and practice of a radio program and its possible format with a mixed content of poetry and music can be traced to the private sessions held in the early 1950s at the homes of some of the leading members of the Anjoman-e Oḵowwat (q.v.), including ʿAbd-Allāh Enteẓām (q.v.) and Dāwud Pirniā (1279-1350 Š. /1900-1971). The founder of the program, Pirniā, served as its director for over a decade (1956-67). He was educated at the French École St. Louis in Tehran before studying law at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, but he was always passionately interested in Persian poetry and music and acquired a deep knowledge of both.

Pirniā was fully cognizant of the long history of shared aesthetic values and reciprocal relationships between literature and music in the long history of Persian culture and was further aware of the perceived mystical (ʿerfāni) aspect of classical Persian lyric poetry (Naṣirifar, 1991, p. 27). By regular radio broadcasts of Barnamā-ye Golhā, Pirniā intended to preserve, to celebrate, and to disseminate these values and relationships. The availability of new recording technology enabled him to edit musical performances and improve upon previous live radio performances (Naṣirifar, 1998, II, p. 529). To achieve his goal, he drew on the expertise of some of the most famous mid-20th century master vocalists, instrumentalists, songwriters, and literary commentators in Persia. The musicians and the commentators, representing a variety of musical styles, and critics and poets belonging to differing schools of Persian poetics, brought to the program an artistic depth and expanse hitherto unknown.

Under the informed guidance of Pirniā, the Golhā programs were unique in featuring and appropriately dramatizing the long chain of antecedents of Persian poetry and music in a new, effective, and enduring way. The programs were subsequently known collectively under the generic title of Golhā, but they included six separate programs, each of which, save one, retained in its title the richly symbolic word gol: Golhā-ye jāvidān (Eternal Flowers), Golhā-ye rangārang (Flowers of Many Colors), Barg-e sabz (The Green Leaf), Yak šāḵa gol (A Flowering Branch), Golhā-ye ṣahrāʾi (Flowers of the Field), and Golhā-ye tāza (Fresh Flowers).

1. Golhā-ye jāvidān. Among the programs celebrating the Persian New Year (Nowruz) in 1335 Š./1956 there appeared a new one, Golhā-ye jāvidān, deliberately combining poetry and music (Behruzi, p. 431). The first program was recorded by Asad-Allāh Peymān in the studio of the Directorate General of Culture and Art (Edāra-ye koll-e honarhā-ye zibā-ye kešvar) with a clarinet performance by Moḥammad Širḵodāʾi, which became the signature tune of the program. Golhā-ye jāvidān was presented under the artistic direction of Dāwud Pirniā, with the cooperation of the master setār player Aḥmad ʿEbādi (q.v.) and the vocalist and tār player ʿAbd-al-ʿAli Waziri (the setār being a traditional four-stringed instrument with a wooden sound-box and the tār a six-stringed lute with a skin-covered sound box played with a metal plectrum). The ten-minute program included a brief commentary on the celebrated 14th-century lyric poet Ḥāfeẓ, a recitative of one of his ḡazals beginning with the appropriate line, “Greetings to you, greetings fragrant as the scent of friendship” (salām-i čo bu-ye ḵᵛoš-e āšnāʾi. . .), and ʿEbādi’s lyrical solo performance. The second program featured master vocalist Ḡolām-Ḥosayn Banān who sang verses from the 13th-century mystical poet Rumi. They were well received by poets, musicians, intellectuals, and the general public and formed the basic model for other Golhā-ye jāvidān programs that followed (Behruzi, p. 436).

The initial success of Golhā-ye jāvidān made it possible for its subsequent sessions to be longer (thirty to forty-five minutes) and its offerings more varied and extensive. They would consist essentially of four basic components: (1) an introductory melodic segment in the mode (dastgāh, q.v.) of Segāh performed with qaraney by Moḥammad Širḵodāʾi; (2) a recitative of verses from a particular poem from Saʿdi’s Golestān (q.v.), emphasizing the metaphorical and associative connections between poems and flowers and contrasting the eternal life granted poetry’s flowers with the transient life of natural flowers: beče kār āyad-at ze gol ṭabaqi / az golestān-e man bebar waraq-i / gol hamin panj ruz o šaš bāšad / w’in golestān hamiša ḵᵛoš bāšad, imparting the idea that “the freshness of nature’s floweris passing and mortal; take a leaf from my Golestān which shall remain fresh forever”; (3) commentaries on the life and works of a Persian classical poet such as Hāfeẓ, Saʿdi, ʿErāqi, ʿAtṭār, or Neẓāmi, and Persian traditional instrumental and vocal music (Behruzi, p. 431); and (4) a conclusion of each session with the remark: “This was another flower from the unique flower-garden of Persian literature, an eternal flower” (in ham gol-i bud jāvidān az golzār-e bihamtā-ye adab-e Irān—gol-i ka hargez namirad).” Although the production of this program was terminated after Pirniā’s resignation in 1967, repeat broadcasts of its recorded sessions continued until halted by the February 1979 revolution.

Devoted to the propagation of classical Persian poetry and poetics to a wide audience, the recitatives and commentaries on poetry were important components of Golha-ye jāvidān. The proper declamatory style and poetic resonance were primary concerns of the recitatives. For many years, Ṣadiqa Rasuli, known as Rowšanak, became well known and appreciated for her vibrant poetry declamations on the program. Later, Firuza Amir-Moʿez, Šamsi Fażl-Allāhi, Āẕar Pažuheš, Asad-Allāh Peymān, Taqi Rowhāni, and, from time to time, a singer fulfilled this function. The commentators included literary scholars, music theorists, and poets such as ʿAli Dašti, Badiʿ-al-Zamān Foruzānfar, Jalāl-al-Din Homāʾi, Dāwud Pirniā, Loṭf-ʿAli Ṣuratgar, Ziāʾ-al-Din Sajjādi, and Rāhi Moʿayyeri (Nawwāb-e Ṣafā, p. 584).

Among the masters of traditional instruments who contributed to the 157 Golha-ye jāvidān broadcasts and recordings were: the virtuoso ney (Persian flute) player Ḥasan Kasāʾi; the violinists and composers Mahdi Ḵāledi, ʿAli Tajwidi, and Ḥosayn Yāhaqqi; the pianist and composer Mortażā Maḥjubi; the tār players Loṭf-Allāh Majd and Jalil Šahnāz; and master tombak (single-headed drum) players Nāṣer Eftetāḥ and Ḥosayn Tehrāni. Acknowledged master vocalists of Persian traditional singing also participated, such as (in alphabetical order): the inimitable Ḡolām-Ḥosayn Banān; Jalāl Tāj Esfahāni; Akbar Golpāyagāni; Esmāʿil (Adib) Kᵛòānsāri; Maḥmud Maḥmudi Ḵᵛānsari; and Ḥosayn Qawāmi, known as Fāḵtaʾi. These vocalists all possessed lyrical and elegiac styles which well suited the longing, nostalgic, and often melancholy character of classical āvāz (unmeasured singing part of a dastgāh) and Persian classical lyrics, and were all devoted to the ideal of safeguarding Persian traditional music in its genuine received form.

2. Golha-ye rangārang. This program was a natural outgrowth of Golhā-ye jāvidān. It closely followed Golhā-ye jāvidān’s artistic rationale and aims. However, it replaced the emphasis of Golhā-ye jāvidān on instrumental solos with orchestral arrangements of compositions in modal traditional Persian music. The orchestral arrangements were written for traditional instruments (tār, santur, ney, kamanča, tombak, etc.) as well as non-traditional musical instruments (violin, piano, cello, clarinet, etc.). The composer and music theorist Ruḥ-Allāh Ḵāleqi; the pianist and composer Jawād Maʿrufi; and the master violinist, music theorist, and teacher Abu’l-Ḥasan Ṣabā conducted Golhā-ye rangārang’s orchestra. Among the thirty composers and songwriters, both past and contemporary, whose works were performed for 581 recordings and broadcasts of Golhā-ye rangārang were (in alphabetical order): Ḥabib-Allāh Badiʿi, Ḡolām-Ḥosayn Darviš, Maḥmud Ḏu’l-Fonun, Farhād Faḵr-al-Dini, Mahdi Ḵāledi, Ruḥ-Allāh Ḵāleqi, Homāyun Ḵorram, Mortaz µāMaḥjubi, Jahāngir Morād Ḥosām-al-Salṭana, Mortaz µāNey-Dāwud, Farāmarz Pāyvar, ʿĀref Qazvini, Anuširavān Ruḥāni, Abu’l-Ḥasan Ṣabā, ʿAli-Akbar Šeydā, ʿAli Tajwidi, ʿAli-Naqi Waziri, and Parviz Yāḥaqqi (Behruzi, pp. 433, 438, 439).

In addition to the singers who had participated in Golhā-ye jāvidān by performing the āvāz, other singers performed both the āvāz and metered compositions (taṣnif) for Golhā-ye rangārang. Notable among them were (in alphabetical order): ʿAbbās ʿAfifi, Darviš Amir-Ḥayāti, Eqbāl Āẕar (Eqbāl-al-Soltān), ʿAhdiya Badiʿi, Simā Binā, Vigen Derderiān, Elāha (Bahāra Ḡolām-Ḥosayni), Nāder Golčin, Maleka Ḥekmat-šeʿār, Ḥosayn Ḵᵛāja-amiri (Iraj), Marżiya (Ašraf-al-Sādāt Mortażāʾiān), Nāṣer Masʿudi, Parvin (Zahrāʾ Monfared), Purān (Faraḥ-doḵt ʿAbbās-Ṭāleqāni), ʿEzzat Ruḥbaḵš (Raz µi),ʿAbd-al-Wahhāb Šahidi, Moḥammad-Rez µāŠajariān (Siāvoš), and Kuros Sarhangzāda.

Attracted by Golhā-ye rangārang, contemporary lyricists wrote songs for the program. Those who contributed included (in alphabetical order): Jamšid Arjomand, ʿAli Aštari, Moḥammad-Taqi Bahār (Malek-al-Šoʿarā), Hušang Ebtehāj, Parviz Nātel-Kānlari, Rahi Moʿayyeri, Manučehr Moʿin-Afšār, Raḥim Moʿini-Kermanšahi, ʿEmād Ḵōrāsāni, Esmāʿil Nawwāb-e Ṣafā, Moḥammad-Ḥosayn Šahriār, Monira Ṭāhā, Bižan Taraqqi, Abu’l-Ḥasan Varzi, Kayumarsò Woṯuqi, Bahādor Yagāna, and Zohra (Manṣura Atābaki).

Later, Golhā-ye rangārang produced as its offshoots the following programs:

3. Barg-e sabz. This program offered 312 broadcasts and their recordings, each consisting of a poetry recital accompanied by music and followed by an āvāz section in one of the seven traditional modes but without a taṣnif (Behruzi, pp. 438, 432).

4. Yak šāka-ye gol. This program produced 465 broadcasts and their recordings. A biographical sketch of a poet accompanied by music and followed by a song without an āvāz section constituted each program (Behruzi, pp. 438, 432).

5. Golhā-ye ṣaḥrāʾi. This program offered 62 programs of regional and folk songs (Behruzi, pp. 438, 432). The program debuted with the young singer Simā Binā. Born in Birjand in Khorasan province, she sang the regional music of her native region. In time, other folk-singers, such as Nāṣer Masʿudi, who sang songs from Gilān in the Gilaki language, followed her.

6. Golhā-ye tāza. This program was initiated under Ebtehaj as literary director and Fereydun Šahbāziān as music director and offered, between 1973 and 1978, some 201 poetry recitals and āvāz sections, mostly without a measured song (Behruzi, pp. 432, 438,).



The Golhā programs exerted a tremendous influence in Persia and, to some extent, also in other Persian-speaking countries. First, they popularized Persian classical poetry and made a vogue of it, particularly among the middle class and the affluent social elite. They boosted appreciation of Persian poetry at a popular level to a degree never before achieved. Second, they brought masters of traditional music to public notice and bestowed on them the dignity that they deserved as artists. This should be seen against the background of earlier times, when musical performers were considered mere “entertainers” with a lowly rank in the social hierarchy (they were referred to as moṭrebs, often with a pejorative connotation). The Golhā programs not only made most of them household names, but also provided them with a fairly secure basis of income through remuneration or regular appointment. Third, they drew wide attention to and popularized the traditional corpus (radif) of Persian music. Fourth, they introduced variations in the hitherto somewhat rigid arrangement of the different sections of musical performances. A convention had been established according to which a full performance of a dastgāh would begin with an instrumental introductory section (piš-darāmad), which would briefly go through the major gušas (melodic types) of a given mode. It would be followed by the āvāz, that is, the unmeasured vocal part, accompanied by a solo instrument, using a ḡazal for its lyrics. It normally began with the first guša of the mode (darāmad, lit. “entrance”) and would go through different gušas, reaching an emotional pitch and ending with a descending guša (forud). The solo instrumentalist would occasionally introduce a virtuoso four-beat section called čahar meżrāb in between gušas. The āvāz would be followed by a measured song (taṣnif), and the performance would end by a fast tempo piece (reng), normally of a joyous mood, suitable for dancing. The Golhā programs often broke with this arrangement by introducing declamatory sections, alternating āvāz with taṣnif, omitting some sections altogether while lengthening or abbreviating others, etc. Thus musical performances became more varied and more flexible in arrangements and broke free of their rigid conventional frame. The Golhā programs also popularized local folkloric music, many themes of which were used as compositional elements for orchestra. An indirect influence of the Golhā programs was the encouragement they afforded many people to learn to play musical instruments, now that the profession’s stigma had been removed. More importantly, the programs revived and revitalized the long-standing fusion of Persian poetry and music. Earlier attempts by F orṣat-al-Dawla of Shiraz (q.v.; see also BOḤŪR AL-ALḤĀN) and Moḵber-al-Salṭana Hedāyat (see his Majmaʿ al-adwār) had been of limited effect. The affinity between Persian poetry and music can be traced back to the most ancient times. We find the oldest example in the very hymns of Zoroaster, the Gathas. In Sasanian times, poetry and music were so intertwined that apparently poetry was composed only within a musical framework (Bahār; Christensen; and Yarshater, pp. 62-63, who speaks of the “marriage” of Persian music and poetry in the Sasanian period and describes them as “Siamese twins”; cf. Tāriḵ-e Sistān, p. 210; Šams-e Qays, p. 166). The tradition continued in Islamic times, and it has been argued that the Persian ḡazal was essentially meant to be sung and that this explained a number of the features of the ḡazal such as varied themes in a single ḡazal and their apparent incoherence (Lewis, pp. 89-95).

For a music sample, see Kāleqi, Ey Irān.

For a music sample, see Kāleqi, Mey-e nāb.


This article is based in part on interviews with a number of the poets and musicians involved in the production of the Golhā programs.

Published sources. Mortażā ʿAbd-al-Rasuli, “Dāwud Pirniā,” Rahāvard 5/18-19, 1988, pp. 286-92.

Moḥammad-Taqi Bahār, “Šeʿr dar Irān,” Majalla-ye tufān, 1928; repr. in M. Golbon, Bahār wa adabiyāt-e fārsī, Tehran, 1972, pp. 29-35.

Šāpur Behruzi, Čehrahā-ye musiqi-e Irān, 2 vols., Tehran, 1993.

Nelly Caron and Dariouche Safvat, Musique d’Iran, Paris, 1977, p. 214.

ʿAbbās Eqbāl, “Musiqi-e qadim-e Irān,” in idem, ed., Šeʿr wa musiqi dar Irān, Tehran, 1987, pp. 11-12, 70-71, 73, 131-32.

Samira Ebrāhimi, Delšodegān: tarānahā, sorudhā, wa taṣnifhā-ye melli, Tehran, 2000, p. 9.

Franklin Lewis, “Reading, Writing, and Recitation: Sanāʾi and the Origins of the Persian Ghazal,” Ph.D. diss., 3 vols., University of Chicago, 1995.

Iraj Maleki, “Vābastagi-e šeʿr wa musiqi,” in Šeʿr wa musiqi dar Irān, Tehran, 1987, pp. 125, 130.

Ḥosayn-ʿAli Mallāḥ, Peyvand-e musiqi wa šeʿr, Tehran, 1988, p. 94, 98-101.

Ḥabib-Allāh Naṣirifar, Mahdi Ḵāledi, Tehran, 1991, pp. 22, 27.

Idem, Golbāng-e Golhā: šeʿr wa musiqi, 2 vols., Tehran, 1998, p. 529.

Dāwud Pirniā, radio interview in April 1965, cited in Naṣirifar, I, pp. 54-60 and ʿAbd-al-Rasuli, pp. 289-92.

ʿAli-Moḥammad Rašidi, “Tarāna-sarāyi dar Irān,” in Ketāb-e māhur: majmuʿa-ye maqālāt-e musiqi I, Tehran, 1991, p. 35.

Esmāʿil Nawwāb-e Ṣafā, Ḵāṭerāt-e honari, Tehran, 1998.

Ḥasan Šahbāz, “Bedrud bā mašāhiri ke raftand,” Rahāvard 5/18-19, 1988, pp. 284-86.

Šams-al-Din Moḥammad b. Qays Rāzi, al-Moʿjam fi maʿāyir-e ašʿār al-ʿajam, ed. Moḥammad-Taqi Modarres-Rażawi, Tehran, 1957.

Sāsān Sepantā, Čašmandāz-e musiqi-e Iran, Tehran, 1989, p. 233.

Aḥmad Tafażżoli, Tāriḵ-e adabiyāt piš az Eslām, Tehran, 1997.

Ehsan Yarshater, “Affinities between Persian Poetry and Music,” in Peter Chelkowski, ed., Studies in Art and Literature of the Near East, Salt Lake City and New York, 1974, pp. 59-78.

(Daryush Pirnia with Erik Nakjavani)

Originally Published: December 15, 2001

Last Updated: February 14, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. XI, Fasc. 1, pp. 92-95