DELKAŠ, Stage name of ʿEṣmat Bāqerpur Panbaforuš (b. Bābol, Māzandarān, 1303 Š./1924; d. Tehran, 1383 Š./2004) popular Persian singer and actress of the mid-20th century. Delkaš’s distinctive vocal style and the purity and operatic expanse of her alto range quickly elevated her to artistic as well as popular acclaim. She was recognized for her mastery, intuitive grasp, imaginative interpretation, and emotive projection of the traditional vocal repertoire of Persian music (radif-e āvāz) and its melodies (guša). She was also extremely appreciated for the vitality and versatility of her vocal innovations and passionate rendering of through-composed love songs. Her popularity began with her interpretation of folk songs of her native Māzandarān, whose essential characteristics she stylized and made entirely her own. Her renown as a singer led to a successful film career as an actress for a decade (1950-60).
Formal education. Delkaš was one of ten children born into a family of modest means in Bābol on the southern shores of the Caspian Sea. After her father’s death, her mother sent the twelve-year old ʿEṣmat to live with her married sister Mawlud in Tehran (Golestān). Before coming to Tehran, Delkaš had only attended the traditional maktab,where she had learned certain passages from the Koran by ear and rote memorization (Delkaš, p. 55). Soon after arriving in Tehran, despite her age and at her own insistence, Mawlud registered ʿEṣmat in the first grade at the Ordibehešt elementary school. Delkaš’s formal schooling did not exceed the fifth grade. Nonetheless, learning to read and write and her extraordinary imagination, sensitivity, and intelligence provided her with a primary but lasting appreciation of the general poetics and musical patterns of Persian that would later culminate in her pristine rendering of musical qualities of Persian classical poetry and modern lyrics (tarāna).
Musical education. Delkaš’s earliest experience of vocalization was listening to her mother’s recitations of the holy scriptures from the Koran. She also heard the religious chants and the rich, vibrant folk songs of her native Māzandarān (Nakhjavani). In the fifth grade, a violinist and music teacher known to her as Mr. Ẓahir-al-Dini, discovered the potential of Delkaš’s remarkably accurate alto voice while she was learning to sing patriotic songs (Nakhjavani). At his behest, Delkaš began her apprenticeship in music with master of tār (six string, skin-covered instrument using a metal plectrum) and music teacher ʿAli-Akbar Šahnāzi (De1kaš, p. 55). Ẓahir-al-Dini subsequently introduced her to the director of the Department of National Music (Edāra-ye musiqi-e kešvar), ʿAli-Naqi Waziri (q.v.) and the assistant director Ruḥ-Allāh Ḵāleqi. Waziri and Ḵāleqi were both musicians, composers, musical theorists, and exigent teachers. Ḵāleqi, too, recognized the musical quality, wide range, unusual volume, and the depth of Delkaš’s young alto voice. He chose the promising professional name Delkaš for her. “Delkaš” denotes “attractive” but is plurisignificant and semantically resonates in many registers in Persian. In this case, Ḵāleqi specifically chose it, because it is also appropriately the name of a melodic, metered segment in the mode of Māhur. Ḵāleqi also assigned Delkaš as a student to the singer and tār player ʿAbd-al-ʿAli Waziri.
ʿAbd-al-ʿAli Waziri, a former student of ʿAli-Naqi Waziri, introduced Delkaš to the traditional vocal repertoire. Delkaš, who did not read music, began her training by learning the modes (dastgāh) and their metered melodies (guša)by listening and rote memorization as she had done earlier with Koranic scriptures at maktab-ḵāna (Nakhjavani). He also taught Delkaš elements of the new declamatory style of singing, that is the precise pronunciation of vowels and their musical qualities, and enunciation of poetic diction. She received breathing lessons and learned how to articulate clearly poetic sequences in cadenced musical phrasing in the recitatives of classical Persian poetry. Thus ʿAbd-al-Ali Waziri methodically handed down to Delkaš what he himself had learned from his own demanding teacher. His instructions laid the foundation of Delkaš’s later exceedingly discriminating, even “obsessive” (Ṭoluʿi), concern with the selection of appropriate ḡazals for her āvāz performances and lyrics of her songs. Delkaš also acquired expertise in playing the setār (long-necked, four-stringed instrument with a sound box cover) in the style of master player of setār Aḥmad ʿEbādi (Nakhjavani).
Musical Career. Delkaš’s auspicious debut as a singer aired on Radio Tehran in 1945. A brilliant former student of virtuoso violinist and respected music teacher Abu’l-Ḥasan Ṣabā, the violinist and songwriter Mehdi Ḵāledi and his ensemble accompanied her (Behruzi, p. 12). Thereafter, they performed each Sunday evening between 20:30 and 21:00 and often on Friday mornings between 11:30 and 12:00 until 1952. The ensemble, which included both Persian traditional and Western bowed, wind, and percussion instruments, would begin and end with a song of varying length (4 to 8 minutes) in a certain mode and the two segments would be segued by āvāz and instrumental solo sections in the same mode as the song. De1kaš’s nascent vocal style closely coincided with the new stylistic simplicity, economy, and elegiac strands that characterized Ḵāledi’s style as a violinist and songwriter. The predominantly plaintive love lyrics of Rahi Moʿayyeri, Esmāʿil Nawwāb-e Ṣafā, and Parviz Ḵaṭibi complemented and enhanced the new musical aesthetics and stylistics of the singer and the songwriter.
Delkaš and Ḵāledi’s productive musical collaboration ended over creative differences in 1952 (Behruzi, p. 189). De1kaš’s unique, plangent, but quite often exuberant and fast-tempo style as a vocalist continued on the radio after leaving Ḵāledi’s ensemble. In the following years, her voice found its varied expressions in folk songs and the compositions of other violinist-songwriters such as Bozorg Laškari, Majid Wafādār, ʿAli Tajwidi, Parviz Yāḥaqqi, Ḥabib-Allāh Badiʿi, pianist Anuširavān Ruḥāni, and the lyrics of Raḥim Moʿini Kermānšāhi, and Bižan Taraqqi.
Delkaš, who loved live-audiences and was energized by them (Golestān), also regularly performed at a variety of artistic clubs, night clubs, such as Fānus (Ḵaṭibi, p. 33) and Gušvāra-ye Ṭalāʾi, as well as a variety of formal and informal social gatherings (Golestān; Nawwāb-e Ṣafā, p. 444). She traveled with Mehdi Ḵāledi, virtuoso tār player Naṣr-Allāh Zarrin-panja, and żarb (a chalice drum) player and singer ʿAli Zāhedi to Bombay, Lahore, and Karachi, India, in 1946. In Bombay, they recorded twenty-five records (Naṣiri-far, p. 22; Behruzi, p. 163), seven of which were folk songs (Delkaš, p. 57).In 1956, at the invitation of the Soviet government, Delkaš performed in Moscow, Baku, Soviet Azerbaijan, and the Persian-speaking republics of the Soviet Union (Ḵaṭibi, p. 33). After a twenty-year hiatus, on 6 October 1988, Delkaš appeared in concert at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, England. The following autumn, she gave concerts in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, and New York and was enthusiastically received by Iranian audiences everywhere.
In nearly three decades of active professional life as singer and occasional actress, Delkaš repeatedly performed the āvāz repertoire, and 370 songs on the radio, in the movies, and on extensive recordings (Nakhjavani). She also composed songs such as the well-known “Bordi az yād-am"(You have forgotten me), in collaboration with Parviz Ḵaṭibi, and “Sāz-e šekasta” (Broken musical instrument).
Delkaš’s vocal style. As an aspiring singer, Delkaš listened to Qamar-al-Moluk Waziri’s recordings (Delkaš, p. 56). She also greatly admired Ruḥangiz’s vocal style. Delkaš believed Ruḥangiz’s voice possessed “a mysterious something” that inspired her (Nakhjavani; Ḵaṭibi, p. 33). Her own personal vocal style, however, remained unaffected by her predecessors and contemporaries and eventually proved to be inimitable.
What constituted Delkaš’s new and original aesthetics and stylistics of the art of singing were paradoxical but artistically complementary combinations: passion and intensity maximally controlled; voluminous alto (contralto in her mid-career) sonority modulated by exuberance; profound dramatic and emotional projection made resonant; virtuosic and exact execution of the traditional (aṣil) āvāz repertoire vitalized by its creative appropriation and interpretation; and accuracy of vocal expression augmented by the emotional dimensions and qualities of the accompanying poetic texts. Her improvisational aesthetics in singing through-composed songs and the folk songs of her native Māzandarān were also characterized by such devices as melodic and rhythmic inventions that were highlighted by clearly enunciated diction and the consistently well delineated, nuanced, and elegant turn of the musical phrase.
Delkaš’s place in Persian music. Delkaš’s intuitive ability to bridge the gap between the traditional and the evolutionary in twentieth-century Persian vocal music has established her reputation as a pioneering singer and has prompted critical commentaries such as the “fabulous Delkash, a highly respected singer of both popular and classical music” and the “great vocalist” who invites comparison in Persian-speaking countries with Omm Kolṯum in the Arab world (Nettl, p. 155-56).
Delkaš’s film career. The great popularity of Delkaš’s voice attracted the attention of film producer and director Esmāʿil Kušān at Pārs Film (Omid, p. 202). Kušān, who was convinced that Delkaš’s “face and presence could make any movie successful,” overcame the singer’s misgivings about acting and persuaded her to join Pārs Film as an actress (Omid, p. 203). “Delkaš’s triumph” (Haghighat, p. 39) in the cinema began in 1950 with the popular success of the film Šarmsār “Disgraced” in 1950. Her contributions to the development of the Iranian cinema continued with Mādar “Mother” (1951), Afsungar “Spellbinder” (1953), Dasisa “Conspiracy” (1956), ʿArus-e farāri “Runaway bride” (1957), Ẓālem-balā “Mean and nasty” (1957), Fardā rowšan ast “Tomorrow will be bright” (1960), and Širforuš “The Milkman” (1960).
Delkaš was married twice, first to Šāpur Yāsami in 1949 and later to Dariuš Fozun-māya in 1961,from whom she eventually separated (Delkaš, p. 58). Suffering from severe osteoporosis, she lived in semi-retirement in the last two decades of her life with her sole child Soheyl Fozun-māya and his family (Delkaš, p. 55). Delkaš passed away on September 22, 2004 in Tehran.
Šāpur Behruzi, Čehrahā-ye musiqi-e irāni I, Tehran, 1993.
Delkaš, “Az Eṣmat Bāqerpur tā Delkaš: goftogu bā Delkaš bānu-ye āvāz-e Irān,” Irān Estār/The Iran Star, no. 282, Toronto, Canada, 1999, pp. 55, 57.
Šāhroḵ Golestān "Āvāz-e ḵāṭerāt: Delkaš dar goftogu bā Šāhroḵ Golestān” in four parts, BBC, London, England, 2, 9, 16, and 23 January 1999.
Mamad Haghighat, Histoire du cinema iranien: 1900-1999, Cinéma du réel, Bibliothèque publique d’information, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 1999, p. 39.
Parviz Ḵaṭibi, Ḵāṭerat-i az honarmandān, Los Angeles, 1994, p. 33.
Erik Nakhjavani, Interview with Delkaš, Ottawa, Canada, 18 November 1999.
Ḥabib-Allāh Naṣiri-far, Mehdi Ḵāledi, Tehran,1991.
Bruno Nettl, “Persian Music in Tehran: The Process of Change,” in Eight Urban Musical Cultures: Tradition and Change, Urbana, Illinois, 1978.
Esmāʿil Nawwāb-e Ṣafā, qeṣṣa-ye šamʿ, Tehran, 1998, p. 444.
Jamāl Omid, Tāriḵ-e sinemā-ye Irān, 1279 Š/1900-1375 Š./1978, Tehran, 1995, pp. 202-3.
Zayd-Allāh Ṭoluʿi, “Conversation with Erik Nakhjavani,” Ottawa, Canada, 18 November 1999.
Partial Discography. LP Recording: Āvāz-e Bānu Delkaš,Ahang JR 20002, B2, n.d.
Pre-recorded audiocassettes (arranged in order of the date of issue). Delkaš 4(“Sāz-e šekasta” and “Parbasta”), āvāz in the mode Abu ʿAṭā, Caspian, Tehran, 1971, reissued, Caltex Records, Los Angeles, 1982.
Delkaš 5 (“Maktab-e wafā” and “Gušagir”), āvāz in the mode Segāh, Caspian, Tehran, 1971; reissued, Caltex Records, Los Angeles, 1982.
Delkaš 6 (“Ātaš-e kārvān” and “Badraqa”), āvāz in the mode Segāh, Caspian, Tehran, 1971, reissued Caltex Records, Los Angeles, 1982.
Delkaš 7(“Safarkarda” and “Gomrāh”), āvāz in the modes Čahārgāh and Abu ʿAṭā, Caspian, Tehran, 1971, reissued, Caltex Records, Los Angeles, 1982.
Delkaš 4 (a collection of eleven songs), Caspian, Tehran, 1976.
Delkaš 7 (a collection of ten songs), Caspian, Tehran, 1976.
Delkaš 9 (a collection of eleven songs), Caspian, Tehran, 1976.
Delkaš 1 (“Bekenāram benšin”), a collection of eight songs, Caltex Records, Los Angeles, 1993.
DeIkaš 2 (“Āmadam”), a collection of 12 songs, Caltex Records, Los Angeles, 1993.
Delkaš 3 (“Ataš-e kārvān”), a collection of nine songs, Caltex Records, Los Angeles, 1993.
Pre-recorded compact discs. Delkaš 1 (“Ataš-e Kārvān and “Bar Torbat-e Ḥāfez”), āvāz in the modes Šur and Segāh, FMC, Los Angeles, n.d.
Delkaš 2 (“Jodāʾi” and “Yād-e man kon"), āvāz in the modes Dašti and Māhur, FMC, Los Angeles, n.d.
Delkaš 3 (“Kojā safar kardi’ and “Negarān-am”), āvāz in the modes Čahārgāh and Bayāt-e Tork, Los Angeles, n.d.
Delkaš 1 (“Bekenār-am benšin”), a collection often songs, Caltex Records, Los Angeles, 1998.
Delkaš 2 (“Āmadam”), a collection of twelve songs, Caltex Records, Los Angeles, 1998.
Delkaš 3 (“Ataš-e kārvān”),a collection of nine songs, Los Angeles, Caltex Records, 1998.
Songs recorded and other cassette and CD collections: “Banda-ye ʿešq” and “Yād-at miʾāyad,” on on Tarānahā wa ḵāṭerahā 3, FMC, Los Angeles, n.d.
“Ruz-e bi fardā"and “Moḥebbat,” Ahanghā-ye Anuširavān Ruḥāni, audiocasselte. PBI Records, Los Angeles, 1980.
“Bordi az yād-am” and “Payām ba raqib,” on Vigen 8: Del-am miḵᵛāst, Vigen’s duets with various singers, CD, Taraneh Enterprises, Los Angeles, 1991.
“Āvāz-e ḵāṭerāt: Delkaš dar goftogu bā Šāhroḵ Golestān,” contains segments of āvāz and various songs by Delkaš, BBC, London, 2000.
Videocassettes: Šab-nešinidar Jahannan,featuringArḥām Sadr, ʿEzzat-Allāh Woṯuq (with songs recorded by Delkaš), Pars Video, Los Angeles, n.d.
Film video and sound track. Fardā rowšan ast, featuringDelkaš, Mohammad-ʿAli Fardin, Vidā Qahramāni, and Vigen., Pars Video, Los Angeles, n.d.
Delkaš Live in Concert in New York. Videocassette, Anjonman-e Hamyāri-e Irāniān et al., New York, 1999.
Konsert-e bānu-ye āvāz-e Irān, Pars Video, Toronto, Canada, 1999.
October 28, 2005
Originally Published: July 20, 2005
Last Updated: July 20, 2005