Iran may have a tumultuous political relationship with the United States, but while our nations do their calculated dance, we can for the time being enjoy some of the most spellbinding and daring music from Tehran and beyond. These five Persian acts do for song and lyrics what Persepolis did for graphic novels and animated film—break barriers and slay misconceptions.
In a just world, composer and slowcore impresario Siavash Amini would be ranked among John Williams, Jonny Greenwood and Hans Zimmer as one of the most moving soundtrackers out there. For now, he remains Tehran’s premier electronic instrumentalist, building soundscapes too massive and gorgeous for planet Earth. His latest album, TAR (Hallow Ground), brings an icy madness to the blazing summertime.(Thanks to Spotify user EhsanCinematic for the suggestion!)
This hip-hop maestro fuses classical intonations from the East and West, bending time signatures to his mesmerizing flow. He toys with the constructs of layers of the dastagh, or the seven main systems of Persian music. The elements are unpredictable, whether it’s the acoustic guitar of “Parvaz” or the medieval sway of “Kooch.” This emcee’s ferocity and poise will enliven rap fans looking for a fresh sound.
Welcome to Emir Mohsseni’s nightmare. He’s the front man of the rebellious Muckers, a rock group from Tehran whose attempts to tour in America have gained worldwide attention. With U.S. President Trump sort of instituting a ban on travelers from six Muslim-majority countries (at press time, the Supreme Court upheld only parts of the ban), Mohsseni and crew have been in concert purgatory. A shame, since their brand of garage grit is just what we need in the increasingly homogenous electronic scene. (Thanks to Mideast Tunes for the intro!)
“Space is my nationality,” raps Nadia Tehran, formerly of Iran and now living in Sweden. Her provocative single “Refugee” speaks to the plight of millions as they seek asylum from oppressive regimes. She addresses the victim blaming, fear mongering and prejudice faced by migrants all over the world, all while donning burqas and pigtails. The ululating horns and mystic rhythms add to the deliberate uneasiness of the track, telling haters that diversity is here to stay. (Thanks to Noisey for the recommendation!)
Though she specializes in Farsi children’s music, Hani Niroo has a magical quality that any age would enjoy. She has a whimsy that reminds us of Tori Amos or Amanda Palmer, minus the bawdiness. Niroo grew up in and was educated in Iran and later moved to Austria, where she pens her unique brand of youth-oriented minimalist pop. It’s timeless and enchanting. (Thanks to My Persian Corner for the suggestion!)
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