The daily pan-Arabic newspaper Ashark al Awsat reports that changes are introduced gradually among the citizens of Iran – despite official bans and censorship. The article describes how there are two worlds in the country – contradicting each other and yet existing side by side.
Mohammed Hossien Saffar Harandi, the current minister of guidance and culture in Iran, have a rather negative view on music. According to Ashark al Awsat, one of his missions is to combat music that is “against the values of the Republic of Iran” – such as rock and rap. Instead he encourages musicians to produce “meaningful music”. This is how some musicians created a “nuclear symphony”, supporting Iran’s nuclear programme.
But for everything that is prohibited in Iran, there is an illegal alternative or a non-censored copy to be found. Even though certain hip-hop genres are banned – this music is very popular among young people.
One way to find the illegal material is through the internet. Today Iran has around 10 million internet users and the number is rising. Bands can create their own website and let people download their music for free. This is how underground artists get known. Also the underground music video scene is becoming more and more popular. Here the fans can see the artists dance to their music – something that is prohibited in concerts permitted by the authorities.
Significant underground scene
“The real music is underground”, a young middle class Iranian tells Ashark al Awsat. The black market is so significant that the music sold openly in stores does not at all represent the music business in Iran. Talented artists and producers express their thoughts through banned music. The music is sold underground on tapes where the artists are anonymous or use an alias. Ashark al Awsat describes the modern Iranian music as a mixture of western influences and local sounds through the use of Iranian instruments.
Bypassing the censors
According to Ashark al Awsat, young Iranian people of today are more interested in music, film and books than in politics. But none the less – these illegal artistic expressions often carry a message. Thanks to technologically-savvy youngsters who can bypass the country’s censors, the message is carried through websites blocked by the authorities.
Although Western pop music with vocals is forbidden in Iran, CDs by the Irish pop singer Chris de Burgh can be legally purchased. The Irishman is one of the most popular pop singers in Iran, and a book with the Persian translation of his lyrics has been published. Despite the ban on Western music, both can easily be found as pirated copies on the black market at prices ranging between one and two US dollars.