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Be careful what you wish for

On the results of an underground music competition in Iran

December 9, 2002
The Iranian

"Careful what you wish
You may regret it
Careful what you wish
You just might get it "
-- "King Nothing" Metallica

While I have nothing but praise and admiration for all those who out of sheer love of music put a tremendous amount of energy and effort into making the UMC event(Underground Music Competition) happen, I can not help but feel that maybe their intended audience is not yet mentally ready to fully appreciate and utilize the potential social force of Rock music.

The UMC group has bravely torn down the religiously barred and rusty cages of cultural xenophobia and demonization of Rock music, without anticipating which direction it's liberated audience will run off to with this sudden unexpected freedom, and what the worldwide repercussions of this sudden movement in Iran could be.

Given a total freedom of choice to vote online and choose 3 from 21 music tracks from underground bands, the majority of the listeners who voted in the UMC chose instant gratification and mild entertainment and voted for the song "Pasheh" (The Mosquito).

While the other groups taking part in the competition displayed amazingly skillful musicianship and socially aware lyrics, "Fara" was chosen as number 1. While they could have used this opportunity to tell the world what they are emotionally experiencing in a religiously restrictive and culturally isolated society such as Iran, the audience chose a short laugh instead of letting their cries be echoed all over the world.

The humorous lyrical highlight of the song "Pasheh" is as follows:

"in hameh dokhtar mesleh holoo
chera gir dadi beh maneh pashmaloo"

(With all these peach skinned girls here
why are you picking on hairy ol' me?)

As for musical creativity, besides being a rip-off of "Sultans Of Swing", the out-of-tune guitar arpeggio mimicking the annoying buzz of a mosquito is the only thing worth noting. Humorous? Yes, but so are numerous other funny party songs that each circle of friends sings in their gatherings.

But sadly, "Pasheh" is what will be flown all over the world on radio stations worldwide. It's lyrics will be translated and it will be swatted in numerous articles and reviews as a symbol of Iranian youth's perception of Rock music and what they would choose to hear if given the freedom.

Now I ask you:

Should we be ecstatic now that we can boast to the Rock music world that we have a "Weird Al Yankovic/Spinal Tap/Tenacious D" equivalent in the form of the group "Fara", or should we be regretful that we have altogether skipped the stage of developing into anything remotely close to a classic "Led Zeppelin" or modern "Nirvana" or "Pearl Jam" before allowing ourselves to use the term Rock Music? Is our super-star group "Fara" even capable of producing a full album?

Should we be content now that we have self-censored our lyrics to avoid a political backlash towards the UMC even taking place, but unjustly exploited the very essence of Rock Music which is to rebel and protest against social repression ?

Should we ignore the historical statement Rock musicians made in Woodstock '69, and the impact they made on the Vietnam War, and proudly call ourselves Rock enthusiasts while distorting the underlying elements of this music genre?

Should we forget the force of Rock music in helping to bring about the Sexual Revolution of the 60's, because we do not even have 1/2 the liberty the West had in that era?

Do we seriously expect respect and credibility from the music world by promoting ourselves with a song about an annoying mosquito?

How far away are we from making a worldwide statement with our alternative music, are we even going down the right path, or do we even want to make any statement at all, if we are given the chance?

Is all this a true sign of our times?

Let's face it, we can not deliver this baby in 1 month with 9 mothers. Likewise we can not bring about instant artistic maturity simply by granting freedom of expression and choice. We can not speed up the process of natural evolution. But we can monitor and guide it towards a healthy state.

Granted, this was the much needed first step. We are lucky we managed to even pull this off in Iran, and we greatly value this minuscule freedom. We need humor, happiness, and any means of distraction to decrease the psychological pressure on us. But please, not in the name of art , and not in the name of music!

Rock music, as a modern form of art and means of free self-expression, should be made popular not by degrading this music style, but by educating and elevating the audience to higher standards of artistic appreciation and the social awareness symbolized in it.

I strongly believe that the UMC group needs to restate its policies, redefine it's goals, and above all raise it's standards. I believe the UMC has a strong responsibility to hold the torch towards the correct path, otherwise we will end up cloning the LA music scene in Iran, ... and stay under the ground.

Does this article have spelling or other mistakes? Tell me to fix it.

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By Babak Khiavchi



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