Although he has never been to Iran, Jakub Szymczak sent us a wonderful compilation of five Iranian music video clips. In a introduction he tries to give a brief overview on the relationship between music and authority in Iran, which is definitely not an easy one.
I am not in an easy position to write this text. I have to admit – I have never been to Iran. But the funny thing is, by the time you will be reading this, I will probably be somewhere between Caspian Sea and Persian (of course Persian, not Arabian!) Gulf, meaning exactly that I’ll be in Iran. Anyway, I am fascinated by this amazing country, the birthplace of great musicians, poets and writers. But you haven’t really heard of many of them, have you? Right. So I’m going to show you some fresh sounds from around there.
The relationship between music and authority in Iran is not an easy one. To say that everything had changed in Iran after the Islamic Revolution of 1979 is to say nothing. After mullahs took charge, Iran has suddenly become the second theocratic country in the world, counting Vatican. Music had been banned for almost ten years, both in terms of performing and releasing. Many popular musicians and singers had to choose between either leaving the country, or stopping their musical careers forever. The first official concert took place in 1989 and it was a concert of Iranian classical music, one of a few musical genres that are now fully approved in Islamic Republic of Iran.
If you are a musician and you want to officially release music, then you have to hope that the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance will have nothing against you. Otherwise, you go underground. And that’s exactly what many did. Iranian classical music is an exciting phenomenon, unique for this part of the world, but we’re going to focus on those kinds of music that aren’t officially approved. Or weren’t. See – this is not a black and white issue – Iran is constantly changing, and underground music is a common name for all conventional western music genres like rock, pop, hip hop, etc. Some of them have permission to release and some do not.
Others, just like the ones on the western side of culture, publish themselves on the Internet, not caring much about the authorities. Most older generation taxi drivers listen to oldschool classical guys like Shajarian or Nazeri, but younger generation prefers to hang out listening to American hip hop playing very loudly in their cars (turning volume down only when so called «morality police» patrols are driving by). If you’re also a movie fan, you might have heard about Bahman Ghobadi. He is a fascinating personality and you should keep his name in mind, by the way. In 2009 he did a movie called No one knows about Persian cats (Trailer) about underground Tehran music scene (see picture above). We are going to start with one clip from that movie:
Being an excerpt from this movie, this is actually also a music video in its own terms. Hichkas became quite famous, mostly due to his lyrics, in which he addresses young Iranians’ social issues and includes theistic and nationalistic themes, avoiding vulgar words – this sounds like a permission for releasing music to me. Here we have quite a bitter portrait of the Iranian capital city.
Artist: Mohsen Namjoo
There is no way you could buy this guy’s album in Iran, at least officially. He has been sentenced for 5 years of jail for ridiculing one surah of the Quran. Apparently, he has been sentenced in absentia, so by the time he was sentenced, he was already far away and has been denied entry to Iran ever since. What is interesting here, if you’re new to sounds of Iran, is the attempt to play a song you know very, very well in an Iranian way.
Video: Sentimental Disasters – 3 Days With Langtunes
Let’s look at some indie-rock now. Here is a clip of a 4-piece band Langtunes from their first official live appearances in Iran. Just look at how joyful these guys are.
Artist: Porya Hatami
Track: After The Rain
Beautiful landscapes of Iran definitely need some soundscape music. Porya Hatami is a Sandanaj (capital of Kurdistan province) based experimental artist, who produces lots of beautiful ambient sounds. You should also definitely check his piece called «The Waning Branches» – it’s about a death of a morus tree.
Artist: Umchunga & Tegh
A few minutes on a province and we already need to go back to Tehran. And it’s going to be intense. Yes, they do have techno there. Surprised? Don’t forget to check other videos you can find on this Vimeo profile, there you can find some more professionally shot electronic music sessions.