During my trip to Iran, I flew from Tehran to the fabled city of Shiraz.
My happy-go-lucky ameh (paternal aunt) who lives there picked me up at the airport: coiffed, fully made-up; spiffy and snazzy in her leopard-print head scarf and dangerously high heels. After an emotional greeting and the hustle and bustle of getting the luggage we settled inside her car — me in the passenger seat she behind the wheel — when she turned to me and said: “Do you want to go to a party?” Turned out, that night was one of her ‘doreh’ parties with a few hundred (ha ha slight exaggeration) of her closest girlfriends.
[What is a ‘doreh’? When a specific group of friends have parties at regular intervals, typically monthly, each taking orderly turns to host the event at their house, it is called a doreh. It is not unusual for Iranians, specially those of a certain generation, to have at least one and oftentimes quite a few doreh social circles.]
But back to our story! So … my aunt, with one hand poised on the wheel of the car and one hand about to turn on the ignition, turned to me and said: ‘mikhai berim mehmooni?’ How could I say no to such an offer! So off we went. Barely having set foot on the soil of the magical city of Shiraz, and here I was, being whisked off to a proper Persian party straight off the airport. Ah, the fun turns and twists of life.
And here I must take a slight turn from the narration as well to tell you that driving (or being a passenger in a car for that matter) in Iran is not for the weak of heart. I say this without any exaggeration. Driving in Tehran was the worst but the smaller cities were not that much better. Slightly less terrifying, yes, but still, sufficiently terrifying! I’ve got to give kudos to my aunt who deftly maneouvered her stick shift car in the unpredictable traffic with utmost blase concern while continuing our chatter.
Anyway, back to our story again: we made it to the party and before even getting to the door I could hear Persian dance music blaring at full blast and when the hostess opened the door to greet us I could spy lots of women dancing. It was surreal and fun and I couldn’t help but just be: charmed! And laugh! “Welcome to Iran,” I thought to myself.
As I finally remembered, it is not at all uncommon in Iran for people (men, women and children) to sing and dance at parties. And amongst Iranians, the people from Shiraz (shiraziha) are particularly renowned for their hedonistic and fun loving ways, and it turns out that no respectable Shirazi party is complete without bezan va bekoob (which figuratively refers to music and dancing.)
Now I will definitely write a post later on about Shiraz, and maybe I’ll even write one about ‘gher dadan” and show you how to dance like a Persian. Oh, why not! Persian style of dancing is charming! It is expressive, coquettish, playfully seductive and just … fun to do and fun to watch.
But for now, for this jaunty pre-weekend post, I’ll just touch base on this thing called ‘beshkan zadan’ which is what it’s called when Iranians put the palms of their hands together and snap their fingers to make a loud rhythmic click. (The sound of it is as evocative of Iran for me as is the sound of the water flowing in the rivers and water-ditches of Tehran.)
‘Beshkan zadan’ is in the DNA of Iranians! It’s what we do when people are dancing to encourage and egg them on; it’s what we do when fun rhythmic music is played and we’re just feeling it, you know; and sometimes, when we feel particularly exuberant and jolly, we can’t help but snap our fingers to celebrate the good feeling or the good news.
Here’s a photo I found on Flickr of an Iranian guy (I’m assuming!) giving beshkan lessons to his farangi friends. (Got permission to post the photo courtesy of Mariam jaan!)
And see here, even George Clooney is doing it! WHAT! (Totally random. I know!)
[This photo is a still from a video of George Clooney snapping his fingers Persian style (beshkan zadan) and he did so in the context of talking about Iranian film making & filmmakers during a film festival interview. Here’s the video. Warning: it loads SLOWLY.t]
Now just as it take practice to learn how to whistle with your fingers (RIP Lauren Bacall) there’s a technique to ‘beshkan zadan’ and snapping your fingers Persian style. Initially, you may find you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing but no sound comes out. Patience, grasshopper, and practice! Practice makes perfect and if you keep at it, soon you’ll be able to ‘beshkan bezani” with George Clooney and the best of ’em.
There’s just so much one can demonstrate with words, however, and there comes a time when you have to do a show and tell. So with that said, let’s get to these series of YouTube ‘beshkan zadan’ video tutorials.
First, we have a short one made by yours truly, yes moi, your faithful dorky blogger, wherein I demonstrate the act and sound of ‘beshkan’ for your viewing pleasure.
Please forgive the stylized video. I did it so as to spare your eyes from the horror of my unkempt and exhausted mien. NOT a pretty sight!
Now let’s check out a few YouTube beshkan tutorials so that you can start practicing your Persian snap action.
Here we have a short and solemnly quiet beshkan tutorial, which seems at odd with the exuberant nature of the act, nevertheless, the video does a good job of showing the technique, so on the road of building up your behskan zadan skills, you may want to start here:
For a more snappy beshkan tutorial there’s this young Persian gentleman to help you out:
And look, all you left handed people (which, by the way, I was born one of you, but alas my maman bozorgh turned me to a right-handed one, boo hoo hoo) … anyhow, here’s a beshkan video tutorial for you awesome left handed ones by an equally awesome left-handed young woman – that video is fun and informative to watch for all of you cool right-handed folks as well:
And finally, let’s ‘gher bedim’ and dance and snap our fingers Persian style to this oh-so-cheesy so-fun Persian pop song
Have a lovely weekend & may you have many occasions to snap your fingers with joy and glee. (Beshkan behskaneh beshkan!)