March 12, 2008

P[ersians] W[ith] A[tittudes]:

Iranian Rap Music Bedevils the Authorities: Rough-edged underground musicians connect with the disaffected, under-30 crowd (Anuj Chopra. March 12, 2008, US News)

With the introduction of satellite television in Iran in the early 1990s—also illegal—and the popularity of American artists like 2Pac and Eminem, hip-hop music found an explosive following among the Iranian youth. Eventually the young Iranians turned to creating this genre of music in Farsi.

Rappers mimic American rap artists in Farsi, indulge in obscene lyrics (mostly unprintable American slang), and often use female voices as leads or background voices—all jarring symbols of western decadence in the eyes of Iranian authorities who blame such music for luring the youth away from Islamic culture. Mohammad Dashtgoli, a Culture Ministry official, was recently quoted in the Iranian press as saying that rap is not inherently objectionable. "But due to the use of obscene words," he said, "rap has been categorized as illegal."

Still, a variety of rap musicians has emerged in Iran in the past few years. Zedbazi, for instance, introduced gangsta rap with its song "Mehmooni" (or "In the Club"). The most famous rapper, Soroush Lashkari, who styles himself with the screen name Hich Kas (or "Nobody") is popular as the "father of Persian rap."

And despite the prohibition on women singing in public, female rappers also dot the Iranian music landscape. The first of the female hip-hop and rap artists was Salome, who lives in Tehran and focuses on social issues like prostitution and the miseries of the war in Iraq. Mana, another female rapper from Tehran, is famous for "Rebellion," a song about poverty and runaway girls in Iran.

Given the restrictions, CDs of rappers are sold illegally or passed from hand to hand, copied with little regard to copyrights. However, Iranian rappers also get their music out to the global Iranian community through websites like and . Rappers have also invaded YouTube.

Fight the powers that be.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 12, 2008 3:40 PM
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