Several hundred Los Angeles area Iranian American fans had packed UCLA’s Royce Hall this past week on November 1st as they danced and joined in singing with popular Iranian-Israeli singing superstar, Rita Jahanforuz. Known simply to her fans in Israel and worldwide as “Rita”, she indeed brought the house down singing her well known Israeli songs in Hebrew as well as the long popular Persian songs. Her heart-pounding powerful performance of popular Persian songs such as “Gole-Sangam” and “Shah-Doomad” had fans at the concert singing and dancing along with her the whole time. The concert’s attendees included local Iranian Americans of various religious backgrounds who were hardcore fans of Rita. The evening’s performance also featured a number of solo performances by Rita’s brand members who played traditional Persian music instruments such as the “tar” a long-necked three-string instrument that is similar to a lute.
Following Rita’s performance, nearly three dozen private guests including Israeli Consul General David Siegel welcomed Rita and praised her efforts as an Israeli ambassador of goodwill with her music. Rita serves as a remarkable ambassador of goodwill from Israel not only because she speaks and sings in Persian, but she represents the Iranian segment of Israeli society that embraces their cultural heritage from Iran and would one day like to renew relations with individuals in their former homeland. Rita and her music also enable Israel in a non-political atmosphere to directly outreach to the people of Iran with their message of peace despite the Iranian regime’s repeated calls for Israel’s destruction.
The following is a segment of Siegel’s brief and very special welcome to Rita that night…click here
In 2012, her album "All My Joys," also sung in Persian, has been tremendously popular in both Israel and Iran. Interesting enough Rita’s music is prohibited by the Iranian regime along with all music which is banned under the radical Islamic laws of the country-- yet thousands of Iranians listen to Rita’s music online or on bootleg versions of her C.D. Her legions of fans in Iran bombard her daily with e-mails of praise and even call into Persian-language radio and television programs based in Israel or the U.S. asking hosts to play her music.
Rita, who was born in Iran in 1962 and immigrated with her family to Israel in 1970, represents a certain smaller segment of the Iranian community in Israel who never firsthand witnessed the Iranian revolution and therefore still feel a strong sense of nostalgia for Iran and Iranian culture. The nostalgia some Iranian Jews have for Iranian culture also stems from the significant tolerance and prosperity they enjoyed while living in under the Pahlavi dynasty for more than 50 years. What is truly remarkable to me about Rita’s music today is the fact that for centuries many Jews living in Iran were musicians that kept the country’s music alive despite the national Islamic prohibition against Muslims listening to or performing music in Iran. Ironically today, you have a Jewish person like Rita keeping Persian music, songs and culture alive with her albums and performances!
(Hundreds of fans pack UCLA's Royce Hall to enjoy Rita's concert).
(Iranian-Israeli pop superstar singer "Rita", photo by Karmel Melamed)
(left to right; Iranian-Israeli singer Rita, former Iranian Jewish mayor of Beverly Hills Jimmy Delshad and Israeli Consul General David Siegel).
(Israeli Consul General David Siegel honors Iranian-Israeli singer Rita for her work as a goodwill ambassador to Israel during her latest concert at UCLA's Royce Hall, photo by Karmel Melamed)