Text by Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi!
Two things happened recently which made me write today’s post: first of all last Saturday at the “Celebrate Brooklyn” music festival I happen to meet the Iranian trombone player Salmak Khaledi who’s a member of the Iranian band 127, which is one of the first Iranian rock bands that toured the USA. (Their music is a mixture of rock, jazz and Iranian melodies.) We talked about our bands and about being a musician here and in present Iran.
And three days ago I got an email from a music colleague and friend Lukas Liget asking me whether I have heard of the Iranian band Yellow Dogs. First I thought that I didn’t know them but then I remembered that they were one of the Iranian band featured in the Iranian movie No One Knows About Persian Cats which DooBeeDoo featured some time ago.
Because Iran seems to be so far away from NY, people here think that there’s no no pop music, no indie rock, no club music…no techno, hip hop…even no Jazz. Not at all, there’s been a thriving underground music scene in Tehran for more than ten years!
I remember when I was in Tehran as a teenager during the Shah days that there was already a rock scene in Iran. Especially at wedding and birthday parties rock bands were hired to entertain the guests with pop and rock music. There were also music events happening like the Shiraz Arts Festival inviting US and European pop, rock and jazz bands like Pink Floyd, Camel and Eloy. But everything changed in Iran with the 1979 Islamic revolution. Its leader Ayatollah Khomeini banned all non Islamic music. Especially rock music was officially banned. (Inspiring The Clash to write Rock the Casbah.)
But there was a comeback for rock music when during the late 1990s president Mohammad Khatami advocated a more open cultural atmosphere in his domestic policies. During this time Iran witnessed the birth of many unique and homegrown bands. Most of them were underground rock and heavy metal bands. Mostly they play at hidden places or give private concerts because public live concerts are heavily restricted by the government or its ministry of culture. In most cases they can obtain permission to perform on stage live as far as their music is purely instrumental or in Farsi. And those who can’t rely on internet and social networks. Or they leave the country to pursuit their music abroad.
Some of these bands moved to the US, such as KIOSK to LA, Hypernova, 127 and Yellow Dogs to NY.