In this guest post, F.D. introduces us to 10 musicians who have become musical icons for them and other Iranians around the world. By now you have probably seen and heard the voice of Iranians in and out of Iran, protesting and marching for women's rights, human rights, and for a better future. Protests are now going into their 6th week as I write this, and I have not felt grief like this since the day we left Iran. There is a desperate, overwhelming longing to be with my people, to be in my homeland, and to be on the streets with everyone.
I can speak for almost every Iranian when I say that we turn to music, singing and dancing in good times and bad times. Music, poetry and singing are in our DNA. Our country birthed incredible poets such as Saʿdī, Ḥāfiẓ, Rūmī and Khayyam. Music and poetry helps us stay connected and feel united with each other no matter where we are in the world. This has very much been the case during the last 6 weeks with one song in particular, becoming the song of the movement. In writing this, I want people to know how deep music in our culture, how we turn to it to soothe us, to comfort us, and to speak of our struggles when words alone won’t suffice.
In Iran, we would spend every weekend with the extended family and you could always guarantee it would result in singing and dancing. It never mattered if we were out for a picnic or over at my grandparents' house. Thanks to my parents, I grew up listening to many different musicians and singers all thanks to their love for music. Modern stars such as Shervin, use social media and to tell their stories, while legends such as Googoosh represent the glam, the style and class of my beautiful Iranian sisters.
Shervin Hajipour (1997 - ) @shervinine
It’s only fitting to start with the song 'Baraye' by Shervin Hajipour. The song is made up of tweets by Iranians stating why people are protesting. Although the words are not offensive or incite violence, the song led to Shervin's arrest by the Islamic Revolution guards on the 29th September (he was released on bail 6 days later).
Googoosh (1950 - ) @googoosh
She was imprisoned after the Islamic Revolution (female singers are banned). Googoosh is timeless amongst our community, and she still remains very popular. It is important to note that despite the talent leaving Iran, people in Iran never stop listening to the legends. I remember when VHS players were illegal, and my dad would wrap it in a blanket, and hide it in the boot of the car. We would take it over to my oldest uncle’s house and watch Googoosh recordings from before the revolution. How magical is the power of music, that listening to her songs can still take me back to a moment or day that I miss? She left Iran in 2000 and started performing and recording around the world in many different languages.
Hayedeh (1942 - 1990) She left Iran just before the Islamic revolution in 1978 and continued to perform and record outside Iran. Her love songs hit like no other (if you’re Iranian and speak Farsi). She was the Adele of our time, and her songs will make you weep for that unrequited love, for the love you lost, and for the one you’re madly in love with.
Mahasti (1946 - 2007)
She was the younger sister of Hayedeh, and also left Iran in 1978. Like her sister, she continued to perform and record outside Iran, living in the UK and U.S.A.. Her voice gives me chills, and while some of her songs will have you in tears, you won’t be able to stop listening. There is so much love and pain in her music, and I am forever grateful to my mother for introducing me to her.
Leila Forouhar (1959 - ) @leilaforouhar
She left Iran in 1986 and continues to perform and record to this day. Leila is all about pop music and you will not find a single person who has not danced to her beautiful songs from the minute they learned to move. She has sung in different dialects, and brings together musical influences such as Bandari from the southern regions of Iran. She is adored by older and younger generations and will continue to be loved by all in the future.
Dariush (1951 - ) @deghbali
Dariush is perhaps one of the most politically active and influential Iranian male singers ever. He was always in trouble even prior to the Islamic revolution for his political songs, and was arrested by numerous times before leaving in 1978. There is a special place in the corner of every Iranian’s heart especially those of my parents' generation.
Ebi (1967- ) @ebi
Ebi is another legend who has released numerous political song pre and post Islamic revolution. Ebi works tirelessly to provide support to refugees in Europe and continues to be so loved by our people. He has released over 30 albums, and is often referred to as Mr. Voice of The World.
Siavash Ghomayshi (1945 - ) @ghomayshi
Siavash is someone whose songs are poignant and very much associated with a yearning for home. I find his lyrics incredibly emotive and I can see why so many people adore him so much. He studied in London before returning to Iran and continued to live there until 1989. He moved to the US and continued to perform. He is known as the father of trance music in Iran, and continues to be highly influential to many young people.
Shahram Shabpareh (1948 - ) @shahrame_shabpareh
Of course, there is happy music in our culture, and Shahram is an icon of Iranian pop music. His songs are fun, full of life and you’ll find us shimmying and dancing away to his songs at any given opportunity. He has been active in music for over 50 years, and he is an excellent drummer.
Mohammad Shajarian (1940 - 2020)
Saving the best until last, this incredibly talented man is sadly no longer with us. He is everything classic and traditional when it comes to Iranian music. He was critical of the Islamic Republic but managed to live and die in his homeland. It is from his and Leila Forouhar's work (in my experience at least) that I learned more about Kurdish, Azeri, and Lur music. There is a richness in the diversity of ethnicities in Iran, one that is eclipsed by an oppressive regime. I hope one day we can all be one, we can embrace each other’s traditional music, clothing and rituals without the fear of prosecution.
Jin, Jiyan, Azadi (Kurdish slogan and its original root)
Zan, Zendegi, Azadi (Persian)
Woman, Life, Freedom.
F.D. is a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist and EMDR Therapist who loves hiking and pretending they're a professional photographer.