I have been writing about Iranian alternative music for years. Back in 2005 when I wrote a short opinion called “Death to 6/8” calling for an end to the baba-karam and 6/8 misery that seemed to be the sole definition of what post revolution free-Iranian music had become.
Shortly after that it seemed, my prayers were answered when I was told about a new band called Kiosk, and that I could buy the album called “Adameh Mamooli” on iTunes. I rushed to the online store and bought and downloaded the entire album and hungrily began consuming it like a starving child, grinning from ear to ear in between gulps.
Ever since that day in 2005, I have heard more and more good news about bands like Kiosk and O-Hum, Abjeez and Mohsen Namjoo, and 127, and the like, and as a fan of these groups, I have done everything I can to help them become the very icons of this time in our fast changing Iranian culture.
I have volunteered and promoted concerts (Kiosk and Abjeez at the Great American Music Hall in SF in 2007, Mohsen Namjoo US Tour in 2008) and written detailed album reviews, helped translate lyrics for videos, and gotten them onto local American Radio music and talk shows and everything I could think of to get the word out about the phenomenon I was witnessing. I was necessarily out in front of a charge that I had hoped I was leading. Or helping to lead.
When websites like Zirzameen, dedicated to promoting and writing about Iranian alternative new music, came out, I thought, “Wow! It’s really happenning!”. And things were good there for a while. Actually things are pretty good as it goes.
If, “as it goes” means that Iranian audiences certainly appreciate live events and concerts for alternative music, then yes, Iranian fans support their favorite bands.
But that’s not enough.
Unfortunately, waiting around for a band to save up enough money from their day job just to be able to afford to pay for the full cost of their next show or concert entirely out of their own pockets, is why there aren’t that many concerts. And when they finally do get a stage to perform on, they are usually small venues, and because this is what you call putting all your eggs in one basket, rarely sold out. The chances of a maximum number of fans being free that weekend is not high either. Worse, the bands rarely can afford the necessary 90 days advance notice that the average Iranian needs to properly plan their social calendar around a concert.
And concert? These are gigs at best. With barely enough time to really hear any new material. As such the bands rarely get to test anything new, out of fear that the audience mught not like it, so old stuff is all we’ll get, maybe revamped or acoustic is the usual fare. That’s not good for the fans, and it’s certainly boring for the bands.
Although thir music goes against everything that LA stands for, sadly the new alternative bands eager for any word of encouragement, seem to fall for the same ploys that have taken down the likes of Kamran/Hooman, Shadmehr Aghili, and the always glossy Shahram K with the same sad promises of fame and fortune, if only they would “make a video”. Of course the bands have to pay for it. But if they play their cards right Koji or that other idiot will be free to work on something that MTV did 5 years ago, just as soon as they finish destroying what’s left of Googosh’s career.
Worse, the bands think that because they are good at music, that automatically makes them filmmakers.
All of this sadness however, is directly the fault of the fans. The bands are merely damaged. And confused. Everyone around them wrongly tells them what to do, and they are too eager to do anything anyone tells them. Everything is about investors, and investment, and putting up the cash for this and putting up the cash for that. Money talks and Iranian alternative music starts walking. To where, no one knows.
All I know is their beautiful music, message and magic that freedom of expression, especially expression that has a desperate message, is stagnating, the only way to get it out is a lousy concert, in a lousy venue, with a lousy sound system, put on albeit by the good heart of a lousy businessman.
So why is it the fault of the fans?
Because we don’t by their music.
When a new album is released, we don’t buy it. Don’t get me wrong, everyone has the new album, we just don’t “buy” it. Certainly not enough of us buy it for reals. We’ll gladly pay for Lady Gaga though. Even using our Starbucks card as we suck down yet another latte while our BMW is running outside. With the A/C on high.
Buying an Iranian band’s new album though, is not something we’re as programmed to do as automatically as we ought to be. God dammit!
Another problem with the concerts is that they tend to be limited to one town. Fans of say Kiosk in Australia have to wait years to see the band. Same goes for LA even though it is only an hour away. To see Abjeez in the US requires several acts of God, and at least 3 Swedish tourist visas. Not to mention the air travel. Hence, I’ve seen Abjeez twice in my life.
But I own every Abjeez album. Same goes for Kiosk. As I started this piece with, I have done everything I can to support my favorite bands, which especially includes buying their albums. I have their t-shirts when available too. Anything and everything I can buy, I buy, in order to help them pay less and play more.
But most of us don’t do what I do. And I can’t do it by myself.
It can certainly be argued that especially at this time, music and bands and such philanderings are not as important as travel visas for Iranian students to go home for the summer, or acting angry and pretending to be outraged for 10 or 15 minutes at the same routine human rights violations by the Iranian government, or getting out for anything written on any green banner.
But the beauty of arguing from a position of total apathy and endemic procrastination, is that we can certainly afford to do both. In the case of our “demonstrated support” for the “noble causes” mentioned, we can certainly afford to buy new-Iranian music at the same time, whenever it is released on iTunes. Don’t we all have iPhones by now anyway?
Buying new Iranian music is in the end, the very least we can do to support our favorite bands. No, really, I checked. It is the LEAST we can do!