Review: The Nightingale of Iran

Review: The Nightingale of Iran

In the wake of this year’s Grammys, it almost seems like the importance of music is front and center. The captivating performance between Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs, Annie Ray, the teacher who started an orchestra for students with developmental disabilities, and the soul-wrenching reminder of “Both Sides Now” have hung in the air for years. (Okay, yeah and there’s also Taylor Swift who is taking the world by storm.)

This is all Western music and much of it stretches across the ages - teaching us about today through the lens of the past. Yet much of the United States doesn't venture out of its bubble to realize this happens all over the world. This action of reaching out across continents and oceans to follow something. In particular, family. 

The Nightingale of Iran follows the journey of two sisters who could claim music is a part of their DNA. Their father was a teen idol, their grandfather a national celebrity, and they sang in a family group as children. Now, with the help of tapes found in a basement, Danielle and Galeet Dardashti are peeling back the layers of a painful history. 

This podcast is captivating, and yet I have to admit if the listeners are not used to the tones of non-Western music it might be jarring at first. However, even if the music sounds foreign to the ear, listeners can understand what made these singers so famous. The control and resonance, mixed with the power of these voices, even on recorded radio tapes, is undeniable. This is a podcast that not only is a journey for the hosts as they learn about their family history, and what it once meant to be Jewish in Iran, but also for those of us who don’t know much about this part of the world. 

I admit, I’ve been listening to a lot of history podcasts lately. Most of them have been focused on some history of countries I probably will never visit - but whose emigrants are my neighbors. Whose food is on the menu at my favorite restaurants, and whose music makes me tune in a little closer because it’s not usual to hear so openly in the United States. These histories, countries, and cultures blend in my neighborhood and so I want to learn about them. 

The Nightingale of Iran is this same type of educational from a different angle. Through making this audio-documentary the sisters are learning about themselves, about a heritage that sometimes was too painful, and layers of culture they only can observe through the unraveling of time and the revealing of sound. Lessons and histories that they hold dear, are being opened to the greater world as a bridge between there and here, and then and now. 

The blending of old records, family interviews, and narration is an effortless mix in this podcast. It’s easy to listen to and realize you are entranced by these voices and this history. While episode one is out to listen to now, I was lucky enough to receive episode two as a sneak peek for more. In episode two we start to see the importance of the Dardashti men, not just as friends and family, but as international stars. It is a brilliant sinking into the story, even through the uncomfortable traumas of a tragic beginning. The first episode sets the stage, and the second episode brings the listener in, wrapping them in fathers, grandfathers, friends, and questions yet unanswered. If the pattern holds, each episode of the six-part series should sit at about thirty minutes.  

These limited-series podcasts make for an excellent introduction to the art of audio documentaries without being overbearing. The hosts and production team of this show are doing an excellent job of creating a piece that I hope can be passed to the curious, and to future generations who will need to remember these stories too.

Listen to the Nightingale of Iran Here

As listeners wait for the rest of the series, Empire from Goalhanger is doing a long series on the Persian empire, which gives some long historical context to modern-day Iran and the surrounding countries. I suggest giving it a listen wherever you get your podcasts.