Dive into the Culture & Traditions of Iran
From the kid playing in the alley to the old fisherman coming back from work and the traveler from another land, we were all singing and dancing as the sounds of Iran brought us all together those nights. The magic of experiencing authentic live Persian music from different parts of Iran in one place was indescribable. It didn’t even matter where we had come from, we were singing poems and feeding on music as we were all one family that belonged on those streets that night.
Details You Need to Know to Plan Your Trip
Koocheh (Alley) is an Iranian folk music festival that happens every March. It takes place in Bushehr, a city by the beautiful Persian Gulf. The festival brings local bands from different parts of Iran to live together. They share their gift of traditional Persian music in the alleys of Bushehr during the nights of this festival.
- Kind: Iranian folk music festival
- Location: Bushehr, Iran
- Dates: 11-17 March
History of the Festival Through Ancient Stories
The majority of the people in Bushehr spend most of their lives fishing and sailing to earn an income. Although it might sound irrelevant, fishers and sailors are the initial inspiration for this festival.
Imagine sitting in your boat with a few fellow fishers. You are going deep into the middle of the Persian Gulf on a sunny warm day. You throw your net in the sea to find the catch of the day. It will take a few hours, and as you are sweating and tired from holding the net. Until one of you starts singing joyful Persian songs and the rest will follow.
As you are taking your heavy net full of fish out of the sea, you are filled with joy, energy, and laughter by singing songs together. The first fisher that takes their net out of the water into the boat starts playing their Setar that always tags along these times for some sweet tunes while you head back from the sea to the arms of your family at home. That’s how Bushehri fishers and sailors were influential in bringing folk music culture to this region.
It slowly became part of the culture of this region to gather around in the city’s old cafes and sing, dance, and play music together. The festival, however, officially started happening in 2017. As the local elders realized this intangible heritage of playing and listening to Iran’s regional music was slowly dying. They saw the need to create a space that was both attractive to the young generations of that region and also to the travelers from different places. They wanted them to experience what Iran music resembles and how it can connect to our hearts and ears.
Culture and Ambience of This Festival
“My friend! Come here so that we don’t worry about tomorrow
And let us use this one breath of life we have
One day, far from now, we will die
And join the ones who died seven thousand years ago”.
Wrote Khayyam, the popular Persian poet many years ago.
An older man starts singing this poem and many others from Khayyam and two musicians tag along playing the traditional bagpipes (Ney Hamboun) and flute. People learn the poem and clap rhythmically as the older man sings from his heart. Some start dancing and some close their eyes to get lost in the music and the beautiful alleys of Bushehr under the starry sky. Koocheh is not just an Iranian folk music festival. It weaves together the culture, architecture, nature and the people all together at once.
It takes place in the alleys and the old historical cafes of Bushehr among the elder Iranian musicians and even sailors who bring the sea life to the public audience during those nights. Bushehr is one of the best places for this kind of regional music festival as people’s lives are so intertwined with music.
Koocheh festival time feels almost like the New Year in Bushehr as it brings everyone together in the alleys of this historic town to prepare a big party for everyone from around the globe and there are so much joy and laughter shared within the community weeks before this Iranian folk music festival even begins as they start preparing.
Khayyam, a community full of love, historical alleys, children and elders all holding hands connecting through their hearts is what makes this Iranian folk music festival much more unique to experience while you are visiting Iran.
More Magical Stories from Previous Participants of the Festival
In Bushehr, everyone is clapping. Bushehri people know how to clap so well as if they were taught when they were kids how to clap together with a rhythm that touched people’s hearts. You can sit on the roof of Haj Raees historical Café and clap with everyone around you forgetting how old they are or from where they have come. You can clap everywhere, sitting, standing, walking on the streets, you just clap as people sing Khayam poems together or play instruments you’ve never heard before.
The universal language shared here is the clapping and dancing with your heart and soul. It is pure magic standing in the popular central square of Bushehr clapping, dancing and singing with hundreds of friends as it rains. Your hands might get sore from clapping, but you’ll keep on switching between dancing, clapping and sipping on delicious tea until the night ends.
Even now when we are not in Bushehr anymore, I am sure someone is sitting by the palm trees clapping, and we’ll hear the ripple effect months from now when we are there. In Bushehr, everyone is always clapping, clapping, clapping.
As this beautiful mother who had traveled from a rural village to come and perform at the festival started singing traditional old Persian lullabies, I started feeling so emotional. She was singing her heart out to her child, and the room becomes full of silence. A silence in which you could trace many tears and emotions coming up.
Most people my age have not grown up hearing these lullabies. Our mothers were usually modern working women, so we spent our days in the kindergartens, and once we came back home, they were too tired from work to sing us to sleep; therefore these lullabies started to fade away slowly in our community.
That night, however, we all felt like little toddlers full of joy and peace in our hearts. It was that night that inspired me to learn and sing a few traditional lullabies to my children every night
What Makes this Festival Special and Unique?
- Experiencing authentic Iranian regional music from different cities in one place at this Iranian folk music festival
- Getting to know the rich culture, architecture and, nature of Bushehr, one of the most beautiful seaside cities of Iran
- Singing, Dancing and listening to music with people from all around the globe by the coast of the Persian Gulf
- Learning the alphabets of Persian musical instruments in the workshops held during the festival
- Enjoying authentic local Persian dishes while sitting in old historical cafés listening to live traditional Persian music
Why Do We Care?
Keeping the Iranian folk music festival alive
Introducing foreign travelers and a potential worldwide audience to our local musical traditions and native instruments from different regions of Iran
Creating a unique experience for travelers
Organizing a more in-depth experience for travelers through a unique Iran musical tour combined with delicious local Persian food in Bushehr historical cafes
Changing the ugly narrative
Expanding the cultural narrative of this land through the travel stories of others, so the world gets to know Iran beyond what’s portrayed in the mass media. Also, helping the local economy of the region by showcasing the real experiences travelers could have when visiting this less popular part of Iran.
Why Take a Tour?
- Etiquette: Koocheh is a local traditional Iranian folk music festival with a lot of elders participating in the events. Therefore, it is essential for travelers to learn the dress code, body language, and the culture of the region. It enables them to participate responsibly in the festival with the most respectful behavior towards the local community. We will have conversations and discussions around community outlines before attending the event.
- Translation: The role of a translator could be crucial for travelers. It helps them to form a deeper connection both to the people, culture and also to the music they experience at the festival.
- Accommodation: Most accommodations during the festival season are private. The few hotels in the city are usually booked weeks in advance. Due to the difficulty of reserving the right place to stay during these nights without a tour operator, Iran tours are the most hassle-free and efficient way for attendees to find suitable accommodations.
- Transportation: We help travelers find transportation to get around in the city. Finding a public taxi might take some time. Due to the schedule for the festival, time is an essential element to enhance the quality of the experience during this short trip to Bushehr.