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Iran stages first pop festival since revolution
TEHRAN, Feb 7 (AFP) - Live pop music returned to Iran Sunday for the
first time in 20 years as the Islamic authorities staged the first in a
series of concerts to mark the anniversary of the 1979 revolution.
A huge banner behind the stage proclaimed: "The First Popular Music
Festival," over an image of a shooting star with a keyboard in its
The music was Iranian pop rather than its illegal Western counterpart
but the instrumentation and heavy percussion showed an unmistakeably Western
Several hundred people crowded into the concert hall in the working
class suburbs of south Tehran, but the demand was not overwhelming to see
the first officially-sanctioned live pop concert since the revolution.
Perhaps another hundred people stood around outside forlornly having
failed to secure a ticket. The crowd was largely drawn from the wealthier
districts of north Tehran judging by its dress.
"The (two-dollar) tickets are expensive for people in this part
of town," said a girl in the audience who asked not to be named.
"In any case many of the people around here don't like this sort
of thing -- the older people prefer traditional or classical music and
the younger people prefer genuine Western pop," said the girl in her
20s and herself from north Tehran.
The performer for the opening night, Khashayar Etemadi, is loved by
many young people here for the similiarity of his voice to Dariush, a popular
pop singer before the revolution, who now lives in exile in Los Angeles.
The emigre Iranian music of California is still banned by the authorities
here who regard it as "vulgar."
The local version which they now tolerate has a similar musical accompaniment
but the love themes which dominate the lyrics outside Iran are replaced
with uplifting poetry.
Two of the backing vocalists and all three violinists were female and
there was no attempt to segregate the audience which was made up roughly
equally of men and women.
Etemadi insists his music is entirely a product of the Islamic Republic.
"The popular music being performed here is music from today's Islamic
Iran, and it is wrong to compare it to imported music," he told the
daily Sobh-e-Emrooz ahead of the concert.
He said that the aim of the festival, which runs on to Feb 17, is as
a showcase for pop music which is in harmony with "popular values
and those of an Islamic society."
His music appeals to some people -- "I wanted to come and see him
here because I like his cassettes," said Nemat, a student in his 20s.
"I think they'll hold festivals like this every year from now on."
But others say the officially-tolerated pop is a pale version of the
"You really can't compare the two," said another young girl
in the audience. "But it's the event that mattered tonight."