Iranian blues and jazz bands find fans in Tehran

Tue Nov 18, 2014 2:34am EST
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By Michelle Moghtader

DUBAI (Reuters) - Behzad Omrani grew up in Tehran, in a house ringing to the sounds of his father's record collection - mostly the twangs and twirls of American Country & Western.

Years later he formed Bomrani, one of the Islamic Republic's first country-blues bands, and one of a handful of groups that has started disrupting the local music scene with performances a world away from Iran's traditional rhythms.

"I really like Johnny Cash, Muddy Waters, Bob Dylan, John Denver, B.B. King, Gogol Bordello, Eric Clapton and Roger Waters," the 29-year-old told Reuters by phone from the Iranian capital.

His father brought his records back from his studies in Tennessee. Omrani's distinctive gruff voice and six-piece band had now taken those influences onto the stages of Tehran.

Five-member band Pallett has been finding similar success with its jazzier fusions of clarinet, cello and double bass.

Both bands' musical styles are a refreshing alternatives to generic pop that is breaking out in other parts of the music scene. But the subject matter of their songs is less likely to jolt traditionalists in the Islamic state.

"A Thousand Tales", one of Pallett's most popular songs, is infused with imagery of soldiers and revolutionaries, evoking memories of Iran's eight-year long war with Iraq.

"The brother is covered with blood. The brother will rise, like the sun into a house," sings frontman Omid Nemati.   Continued...

Behzad Omrani (C) of Iranian band Bomrani performs at a concert in Tehran in this August 15, 2013 handout photo by Hamid Najafi.  REUTERS/Hamid Najafi/Handout via Reuters