One of the most unfortunate drawbacks of the 1979 Iranian Revolution was the suppression of creativity and artistic freedom in the name of Islamic purity, as Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini cemented theocratic rule over an increasingly frustrated populace. In recent years, some of the rules governing the purchase of Western pop music and specifically how young people dress and interact have relaxed and the feared Komiteh’s presence on the streets has been scarce.
The theocrats still rule, and they continue to maintain their influence in all spheres of life and the frustrations of the people continue to remain at a steady simmer until the right catalyst comes along to boil things over.
Until then, Iranians, especially youth, will continue to deal with it in their own ways, and many musicians continue to create while trying to avoid the watchful eyes of the Islamic Republic. Most do their music outside of Iran, and one of those is Pouya Mahmoodi, whose debut CD, “Mehr,” combines classic Persian music with Western rock and jazz.
Despite the songs being sung in Farsi, the CD booklet explains the influences and the title, which “has several meanings in Persian culture,” including the Goddess Mehr, and love, sun, angel of light, guardian of pact and goddess of light.
Love, in fact, is the guiding force behind Mahmoodi’s album, “love in all its forms, from intimately romantic to profoundly spiritual,” according to the press release. With guest drummer Billy Cobham, co-founder of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, the music is an intricate weave of multiple genres and influences, as rock guitar moves to a Persian rhythm in an easy listening format that any fan of Michael Bolton would appreciate.
Just once, however, it would be nice to hear some angry, defiant punk rock in Farsi, railing against both the Islamic Republic and American hegemonic designs in the Middle East. Harsh music to reflect a harsh reality that doesn’t care about building cultural bridges but rejecting the world with a middle finger in the air would be a nice change of pace from the usual cross-over music.