Episode 6: Underground Music in Contemporary Iran (Part III)
In the sixth episode of Siamak Pourzand Foundation’s People of the Underground podcast series, Bijan Moosavi, artist and musician, speaks about the dimensions of underground arts globally, and in Iran. More specifically, he discusses rock tradition and examines whether it can be by default considered an underground genre that challenges the status quo in the Islamic Republic of Iran. In doing so he provides a comparative outlook with the emergence of rock music and other genres that countered societal norms in the United States in mid and late 20th Century. Bijan further unfolds this discussion by providing an analysis of the evolution of various genres, traditional music included, ever since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. He also addresses the parallel production that the Islamic Republic has undertaken in the previous decade to compete with various forms of underground arts that it cannot fully eliminate by censorship alone. He names “governmental pop” as one of the most self-explanatory examples of this strange hybrid form of music sponsored by the Islamic Republic. Bijan also speaks about Cafe performances in Iran as a way for glimpses of underground music to occasionally surface above the ground for limited audiences. He calls Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency a truly dark era for arts in Iran. Yet, he speculates that Hassan Rouhani’s presidency has brought about a wave of a privately-led endeavors to attract artists and to employ their art for commercial use, challenging the ethics, authenticity and the future of underground arts and artists in the years to come.