Pop Music in Iran

Iran, Daily Newspaper
Vol. 8, No. 2089, Apr. 7th, 2002
page 5
By: Mohammad Zarghami

Iranian pop music in its modern form was born in the first Iranian studio with the works from 1950s artists. Even though pop music in Iran experienced a 20-year hiatus in the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution, Iranian expatriates living in California revived Iranian pop music in the 1980s.
The reality is that under the prevailing circumstances Iranian music executives and musicians living in Los Angeles decide on the trend of Iran's pop music, even those played inside the country. According to a music expert, pop musicians inside Iran only lip-synch and imitate what comes out of Iranian-American pop music and the singers and lyricists copy that same style of music.

With the invent of radio in the 1930 and in the aftermath of World War II in 1945, pop music in Iran fully grew, matured and developed. However, one can link its origins to the Qajar dynasty in the 19th century.

A variety of musical styles such as rumba, tango and waltz became prevalent in Iran some 40 years ago.

This music compared to its traditional predecessors was quite modern. In the beginning, it was imitated and copied in Iran but after a while it formed its own identity.

The onset of modern pop music in Iran was with the emergence of stars such as Vigen, Aref, etc.

The music itself was the copy of the western music with only the lyrics translated into Farsi. The introduction of pop music into radio was largely owed to an Iranian-Armenian musician named Soren.

The first studio in Iran was called Tanin, which was extremely influential and successful. A lot of music was recorded in the Tanin studio during those years.

Varoojan who ran Tanin was a trendsetter and many people followed in his footsteps. He was very hardworking, determined and successful.

The music that came out of Tanin studio had a fresh and innovative sound and was known as the fifties music.

The 50s was a good decade but Iranian pop music had not reached its peak. The government had just given the go ahead and consented to different lyrics and new subjects to be included in songs and topics about social and cultural realities to sneak into popular music.

It is notable that radio and television played a significant and powerful role in the distinct sound of the 50s to get into the public consciousness and become popular. In particular, the radio and TV's pop orchestra played an instrumental and crucial role in this endeavor.

In addition, powerful and popular groups such as Apolon and Beethoven were established with considerable success.

It is important to remind that recording music in those days was quite a time-consuming, fastidious and delicate affair and this fuss was the key and secret to the immortality and eternal popularity of 50s music and bear evidence to the amount of work, precision and guts that went into producing those songs.

The popularity and fame of pop music gave rise to the emergence of a number of pop bands in the late 40s and 50s. These bands either made the lead singer famous or by having an already famous singer in their band tried to gain an advantage over other singing bands.

Examples include the band called the Golden Ring using Aref to fortify their fame, etc. However, the most successful band in those days was called Black Cats with their unique lead singer named Farhad.

But after the 1979 Islamic Revolution pop music was identified as a symbol of Mohammad Reza Shah's dictatorship and completely disappeared from the scene in Iran. Pop music was branded as western, un-Islamic, un-Iranian etc. and was banned altogether.

A short while later, a number of these musicians and singers who could no longer practice their art inside Iran migrated to Los Angeles. The LA style music was quickly welcomed and became popular with the public even though critics incessantly criticized its style. One of the most common complaints and criticisms from the critics was that the LA produced Iranian pop music was too western and extremely low on content.

Some experts say that the reason LA's version of Iranian pop music was low on content was because they only wanted to do something and get something out there. The Iranian expatriate community living in exile was in no mood to produce great music back then. They were depressed and their minds were on more significant matters. But in any event, the public enthusiastically reacted to the music that came out of LA.

During the last few years, and after a long hiatus, Iranian pop music made a comeback inside Iran. This was reaction to the exiled Iranian pop music even though a milder version in order not to offend the system. This trend was so successful that video and audiocassettes imported from LA experienced a 30 percent drop in sales and over 55% of people turned to domestically produced pop music.

However, this is not the whole story. Since censorship is applied in Iranian pop music produced inside the country, therefore taste, preference and discrimination comes into play. As a result, the sate radio and TV (IRIB) has reached a dead-end and impasse and is once again playing the same old music.

According to BBC radio, the heads of LA music studios decide about the style, trend and course of Iranian pop music inside Iran.

A veteran musicians says that since Iranian musicians living inside the country only imitate and copy what comes out of LA, naturally the public would rather listen to the original imported stuff, since the domestic music industry hasn't had anything exciting or new to offer to the listeners.

The domestic pop music industry suffered its most decisive and damaging blow in the almost 20 years following the revolution. As a result, young and talented Iranian musicians instead being themselves became imitated and copied the styles of those musicians from abroad. Lack of funding and insufficient time also played a role in the total decline of our music industry.

Pop music around the world is taking steps toward such unprecedented heights that our music industry cannot even imagine. Pop music is for the people. Either they like it and enthusiastically embrace it or reject it.

A longtime musician expresses the opinion that music in every country has its own unique tone and style, hence it cannot be international. Another music expert who says that Arab music has now become international expresses a contrary view on the same subject. Our pop music is an imitation of rhythms from Arab and other countries. In conclusion, this experienced musician said that in essence pop music is drawing nations around the world closer to each other and the more time passes the more the language of pop music becomes international.

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