Iran Fights for Its Right to Party


| 1/23/2008 9:55:56 AM


Tags: Iran, music, Western music, alternative, censorship, O-hum, Mohsen Namjoo, Tehran, Tehran Avenue,

O-humA Russian Orthodox church is an unlikely venue for a rock concert, but in Tehran, musicians take what they can get. In These Times writes about a 2001 concert the Iranian alternative rock band O-hum (pictured at left) played to a packed, excited, moshing crowd in the neutral ground of a church. It was one of the few rock shows to have been staged in the country. Iranian alternative music, from rock to rap, has been stymied by censorship and repression.

The country officially bans Western music, so young people usually have to content themselves with illegal satellite MTV and Persian pop produced by Iranians living in LA. Websites like MySpace and Tehran Avenue have allowed the 1 in 4 Iranians who have Internet access a chance to sample native artists like O-hum. But there’s still much work to do.

The life of an artist in America, at once glamorous and poor, seems discouraging enough. But the life of an artist in Iran, where the state actively tries to stop your efforts, must be especially difficult. I wonder: How many potential Iranian Bob Dylans, Mozarts, and John Lennons have been discouraged by censorship and indifference and just gave up?

Curious about O-hum’s music? The band’s LP and EP are available for free download at its MySpace page. Also check out Iranian folk crooner Mohsen Namjoo.

Brendan Mackie