Parsi Zoroastrians recordings on 78s

by: Amir Mansour



Cultural and social interactions in old Iran Cultural Area had caused many important evolutions. The huge number of Persian poets in India like "Amir Khosrow", "Hassan" and "Bidel" (all from Delhi) has made a very important period in history of Persian poem, now is named "Hindi Style". Some faces like "Amir Khoswrow" were the connection points of poem and music and creating native or Hindustani form of Mugam music which later were organized as "Ragas". Rare forms like "Ghowl" (origin of Qawwali) and "Ghazal" are mentioned in many Persian poems as known forms, so just now there are recordings in "Ghazal" form, recorded in 1900's in Constantinople, Tehran, Baku, Calcutta and Bombay on shellac 78 rpm records.

Economic relationships and trade with East Asia and West Africa was another important fact to push the people to select their best option and place to live in Hindustan. Let us imagine the condition of some centuries ago with no political borders like today and the easy travelling and emigration for any reasons like studying, business and so on from Andalusia (Cordoba, Granada,...) to Cairo, Damascus, Baghdad, Tabriz, Shiraz, Rey, Nishabour, Merv, Balkh, Bokhara, Harat to Delhi, Lahore and Bombay.

I believe there was a normal emigration from deserts and dry weather and earth of provinces like Yazd and Kerman to Hindustan and its rainy sky and green earth and its position as a bridge for trade between Iran, Hindustan, East Asia and West Africa. The number of Muslim emigrants from Iran to Hindustan is several times more than Zoroastrians. I must add if the religious reasons push the Parsi Zoroastrians to emigration, it must happen after spreading Islam in Iran in its early days not after 10 centuries.

Anyway, there is a Parsi Zoroastrians community in India now, owning its deep roots in culture, Art and ceremonies. Some photos of rare postcards may help us to have a better view of Parsi life style about one hundred years ago.

I have used some advised points of Parsi friends to find their role in modern theater in India and they let me know about their old library and the catalog of their manuscripts in Gujarat and my especial thanks to Dr. Shernaz Cama for sending useful links and valuable data. Also journal of the Society of Indian Record Collectors (SIRC), The Record News TRN-2006 (page 26), contains useful data of Parsi theater and related faces pointing to some recording prepared by Suresh Chandvankar:


Parsi 78s

During many years that I was searching for Persian discography and its rare recordings and sources in different countries, I was able to find and see some interesting Parsi 78s. Some of these records are valuable audio documents to show some edges of Parsi community in the beginning of 20's century and I believe most of them are more important than manuscripts because of containing voices beside of the rare texts on the labels.

The first attractive record was "Parsi wedding song" performed by "Mrs. Dinbai" on 10" one sided G.C-3-13900 "Gramophone Concert record". It must be recorded about 1905 and I have seen reproduced copy of the record on green label "His Master's Voice" probably made in 1920's and it shows the song has been accepted by the people and may be a very popular song for weddings in Parsi community as there are known songs for ceremonies like wedding, birthday, ... in many countries. (Hear the song)

Another more important record was a recitation of a part of "Pazand" by "Dastoor Khurshed Hormazud" on a 10" double sided "Zonophone record" X-3-102305 starting with a Persian phrase "be naam e Khoda. be naam e Izad". To listen to both sides of this record, please click on the links. (Hear side one and side two)

There are more Parsi recordings by Sohrabji and others, some of them up to 10 sides of records for theater performances or acts on Zonophone, Columbia, Twin and other labels. These recordings belong to a long period and I have seen some of them of 1930's.

Parsi's role in supporting Persian 78s

One of the Parsi faces, "Dinshah" visited Iran beside Tagore and had a meeting with the famous Iranian singer and song writer "Aref Qazvini" in his last year of his life in 1932. The photo shows them together (Aref in left) and belongs to the first pages of an English translation of Aref 's poems and song by Dinshah, published in India. Mr. Dinshah has some books in Persian, published in Tehran by "The Society of Iranian Zoroastrian of Bombay" who have some vinyl records in 60's or 70's.

In 1946, a Parsi company named "The United Iranian Co." based in Bombay supported a session of Persian recordings for a new label, "Young Iran", similar to the Young India label, manufactured by the National Gramophone Co. LTD of Bombay. Between these records, UI 1048 is a Parsi song by Badizadeh, dedicated to "the Late Mr. Dinshah" 

Note on Parsi Persian vinyl

As mentioned, "The Society of Iranian Zoroastrian of Bombay" released some Persian vinyl records through a young engineer, named "Mehraban Abrishami":



* Any more data and comments are welcome.