Pop Music in Iran
By: Mohammad Zarghami
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
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 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
A long-time 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.
AN OLD HIT by FARAMARZ ASLANI
CLASSIC GUITAR by LILY AFSHAR
MUSIC INSPIRED by IRAN
Duke Ellington & Johnny Hodge's "Far East Suite"
Kourosh Ali Khan & Roger Hererra Jazz Combo
Submitted by faramarz on Fri, 02/22/2008 - 5:49pm.