"I'll be there, to love and comfort you..."
You know, if Canada had qualified, or Iceland, even Belgium for cying out loud, this might have been easier. But no, here's Iran, and another day at work wasted rooting out artists for whom the word obscure seems woefully inappropriate. In a move calculated, surely, to spite me and me alone, Iran banned all Western music in the 1979 revolution, and in doing so made it very difficult to pick something that both I and anyone outside Iran would find relevant.
There's always a however, though, isn't there? I'm hoping this applies for the rest of my subjects as well, but for now, Iran will see me through. Iran is not without it's Western influences, much as many would like to suppress that, and rock music, albeit the sort of soft rock that you don't listen to until you hit 40 is on the up. That's the commercial side of it, and, thankfully, there's a more... subversive? Illuminating? Interesting side? Check out this stream from, as all these wonderful things seem to be, WFMU's Beware Of The Blog: it appears to be a 2 hour long one, although I haven't listened all through, and it's an artist named Oolanbator (that's the capital of Mongolia, fact fans, I don't know how significant that is). Fire In The Dead Of Night is a fairly lo-fi eclectica piece, tacking together more traditional Asian scales with synths and drum machines, and a pretty manic sampler taking from Arthur Brown. It's from a release on a pioneering little label, Tian An Men 89, whose raison d'être is to publish music from more unexpected corners of the globe. The label describe themselves as a punk label, although Oolanbator is punk in attitude only - this sample shows a more psychedelic take on traditional music, but it's certainly none-more-indie, and a great deal of fun. There's not a little raucous singalong moments as well though, so I guess punk isn't so far off the mark.
Visit WMFU to read their excellent article about the album it's taken from, TAM89's 1382: the Persian New Wave: Underground Out of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Taken from the TAM89 website as well, The Fat Rats, the song is maybe called Superman.
Oolanbator - Fire In The Dead Of Night
Fat Rats - Superman
Outside of this genuinely indie-ethic approach, mainstream rock (or as mainstream as it can get) is more MOR compared to our refined palates. Bands like O-Hum (see callmeMICKEY), who mix Iranian hafez poetry with their rock, and any number of US/Canada/Europe-based bands (Khak, NABZ, Buddahead) take a musical template from as diverse as, ooh, Bryan Adams, Pink Floyd, Dream Theater...
Pop music was banned in 1979 as well - up til then, Googoosh (see the Entroporium) was the big name, winning awards and acclaim all over the world. Hip hop is not without it's following as well, but undoubtedly the biggest success for Iranians (at least, outside of their own country) is electronica. Deep Dish is Ali "Dubfire" Shirazinia and Sharam Tayebi, both from Iran but now based in Washington DC. They're known as some of America's top DJ's and if you like your house, you'll almost certainly be familiar with them. You may know them anyway - the pair had a hit with unknown vocalist Anousheh Khalili on Flash Dance, and they've also gained plaudits for their Dido remixes (anything would make it better, surely...).
You can watch all their videos, on their website, and listen to the Deep Dish jukebox. Do that innit.
Deep Dish - Flashdance (video)
Deep Dish - Flashdance (audio)
Deep Dish - Dreams feat. Stevie Nicks (video)
Coldplay - Clocks (Deep Dish mix)
Dido - Thank You (Deep Dish mix)
Also worth at least a mention is Amir Baghiri, another Iranian electronic artist. A more ambient, exploratory artist, Baghiri is now based in Germany - his website describes him as an electro-tribal sound designer, which ain't a bad job description. Not for him the soulful house of Deep Dish or the manic punktronica of Oolanbator - actually, he has more in common with the Popol Vuh of a couple of days ago, with the world music edge and the ambient, calming soundscapes.
Amir Baghiri - For A Traveller
Buy Iranian music here
Buy TAM89/Deep Dish/Amir Baghiri
Tags: Iran; World Cup; punk; Deep Dish; Amir Baghiri;
CIA Factbook: Iran