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Golha (radio programmes)

The Golha radio programs (Flowers of Persian Song and Poetry) comprise 1578 radio programs consisting of approximately 847 hours of music and poetry broadcast on an Iranian government-owned radio station over a period from 1956 through 1979.

These programs are made up of literary commentary with the declamation of poetry, which is sung with musical accompaniment, interspersed with solo musical pieces. For the 23 years that these programs were broadcast, all the most eminent literary critics, poetry reciters, singers, composers and musicians in Iran were invited to participate in them. The Golha programs consist of several separate series of programs having the slightly different emphasis in content. The separate programs are named Golhaye Tazeh, Rangarang, Barge Sabz, Javidan, and Yek Shakheh Gol.

The programs were exemplars of excellence in the sphere of music and refined examples of literary expression, making use of a repertoire of over 250 classical and modern Persian poets, setting literary and musical standards that are still looked up to with admiration in Iran today and referred to by scholars and musicians* as an encyclopedia of Persian music and Persian poetry. They marked a watershed in Persian culture, following which music and musicians gained respectability. Heretofore, music had been practiced behind closed doors. Where performed in public spaces, the performers had been tarred with the same brush as popular street minstrels. Until the advent of these programs, it had been taken for granted that any female performers and musicians were less than respectable. Due to the high literary and musical quality of these programs, public perception of music and musicians in Iran shifted, its participants came to be considered—virtually for the first time in Persian history of the Islamic period—as maestros, virtuosos, divas and adepts of a fine art, and no longer looked down upon as cabaret singers or denigrated as street minstrels.

The Golha programs were broadcast on a government-owned radio station, and they all came to an end with the arrival of the Iranian political revolution in 1979. During the early post-1979 years, music and song were considered counter-revolutionary and frowned upon. Many of the Golha artists permanently emigrated from Iran and many who remained ceased performing in public for a number of years. Female singers had been among the stars of the Radio Golha programs. The revolutionaries outlawed female solo singing. Women were free to continue to play musical instruments, and to sing in choruses, and to sing a solo in front of all-female audiences, but the recording of female solo singing was banned. That was a big departure from the spirit of Radio Golha.

Homayoun Khorram, a violinist who was one of the Golha musicians, commented 25 years after the close of the show: "The Golha programs should be considered to be a veritable audio treasury of the history of traditional Persian Music. Considering the incredible efforts that went into producing these programs and their strong influence on society, they are still considered today to be the best resource for our music. It is very appropriate and important that these programs be preserved and passed on to future generations."