Tehran rocks, but only under ground

Wed Sep 14, 2011 12:16pm EDT
 
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By Mitra Amiri

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Clad head-to-toe in black -- the international uniform of heavy metal -- Mahyar Dean looks the archetype hard rock guitar hero.

But along with the mandatory Marshall amplifier and out-sized drum kit, his group, Angband, also boasts a couple of goatskin percussion instruments that have been a familiar part of Persian music for centuries.

In a country where western music is banned, Dean is part of Iran's booming underground scene -- making rock, Iranian style.

"We are trying not to get far from our roots, by using Persian percussion," Dean said, pointing out the daf -- a traditional hand-held drum which looks like a super-sized tambourine with metal chains on one side of the skin that add a scratchy, shimmering sound.

But as Iranian as Angband wants to be, it has had to look further afield to get its music released, signing with a German label, Pure Steel Records.

To be produced within Iran, music must be approved by the Ministry of Culture and Guidance, which checks lyrics and music to ensure they conform to the moral standards deemed acceptable in the Islamic Republic.

Classical Persian music and some forms of pop have prospered under the system, but genres like rock and hip-hop have remained almost exclusively underground.

Many Iranian bands do not bother asking for the mandatory government permits to release their music and seek contracts with foreign companies or put their music on websites blocked by the state but still accessible to anyone with a modicum of technical nous.   Continued...

 
<p>Iranian musicians Ramin Rahimi (C), Mahyar Dean (L) and musician and sound engineer Farshid play music at a music studio in Tehran July 17, 2011. Many Iranian bands do not bother asking for the mandatory government permits to release their music and seek contracts with foreign companies or put their music on websites blocked by the state but still accessible to anyone with a modicum of technical nous. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl</p>