Silk Road: Iran was a pop up musical event that explored the thriving contemporary music scene in Iran, which suffers ongoing oppression from the country's current governance. The idea started when we were looking at doing an event in Seoul, one of the Secret World hub cities. Discussions regarding Korean music expanded to Asia and beyond. When we began looking at the history of the Silk Road, we were fascinated with the spread of culture along the routes. It literally changed our world.
Paul asked Shereen, a great player who is of Iranian descent, and also experienced DJ, to join us in putting together a show that would give other players a good introduction to the modern Iranian music scene. The prep work and research he did really impacted Paul. These artists risk everything –sometimes their very lives – to be able to make music. Here, Paul & Shereen share some of their thoughts on this project, along with some links to check out for more on the scene.
One of the actors in the above, Ash Koosha, now works in London as a musician (electronica/experimental). Here is a sample from his second album, which was released in January 2019.
Persian Cats also touched upon 021 hip-hop, a movement formerly spearheaded by Hichkas, who also now lives in London, but is unfortunately now working in accountancy. The scene he did so much to build, however, remains very strong. Check out this fantastic piece about it here.
Iran presently boasts a number of extremely high-quality EDM producers of various styles, able to thrive in no small part to the amazing work of the legendary DJ Nesa, an accomplished DJ and owner of the global Deep House Tehran platform.
One of the best descriptions of what informs Iranian music comes from Ata Ebtekar, a highly acclaimed experimental musician known as Sote:
“Pre-revolution, post-revolution, in arts stuff, political stuff: Iranians are all about improvisation. It’s seriously part of the culture. If you ever come to Iran, at first you would think, ‘Oh my god, what’s going on with Tehran’s traffic? This is chaos!’ But there are rules within that chaos that everybody understands, that everybody’s improvising with, because they have to.”
(From his September 2017 interview with Factmag)
"Abduction of Zal by the Simorgh" from the Sarai Albums Tabriz (c. 1370), Hazine 2153, folio 23a, Topkapı Palace Museum.
I’m a half-breed born to a milk-white mother and Persian father. Dad wasn’t in my life much while I was growing up; and I did shy away from “that” part of me — perhaps subconsciously.
In my adult life, I learned that one of my uncles was a doctor to the Shah, and was high-ranking military. He was sadly killed in an assassination attempt meant for the Shah. I’ve also grown to find magic and protection in those symbols of the sand, particularly what’s found in Zoroastrianism and ancient mythology.
The “traditional” style of music brings me peace (Azam Ali, Moein), and I’m obsessed with Persian art. I’m mostly conversationally fluent in Farsi (Dad’s family thinks my "accent" is adorable), and I’m also a decent cook of the local foodstuffs. Lest I sound too pompous, I will tell you that my name is actually supposed to be spelled Shirin. It means "sweet." My mother changed it last minute just to upset my dad. She says he wanted to name me after an old girlfriend. He says Shirin was the Juliet in the Persian version of Romeo & Juliet. I like that explanation better.
My thoughts on the Iranian music scene can basically be summed up in two words: "Keep going."
It seems hard enough to have a following as a female singer in that part of the world. In a country run mainly by stoic and overbearing men, it looks like there might not be much hope. In the time after the Iranian Revolution, I've found many female singers to listen to — not that I don't enjoy the gentlemen's voices! I tend to favor the older sounds as opposed to the more recent pop. It seems more magical to me somehow; there's more heart in their voices.
Best of all, there are so many genres to listen to! Despite a horribly strict government, I've found Persian death metal, electronica, trap, what I call 'mosque jams', and everything in between. If you dig long and deep enough, you will find treasure. I never get tired of listening to this music. There seems to be a perfect song for every mood — not unlike what we have here in the States.
SILK ROAD: Iran
Iran remains one of the world's cultural centers, and there are extremely strong underground pop, rock, hip-hop, metal, dance music, and experimental music scenes, among others. In this show, we attempted to bring some examples of this together in a cohesive narrative. This event was one of the perfect examples of how a game can inspire a player to seek out content that is not necessarily related to the game directly.
To get an overview of what is going on Iran on the contemporary music scene, I started by watching the movie, Raving Iran. This movie, which tells the story of two Iranian dance music producers (Blade & Beard) is a good, fun movie, but arguably comes from a Western perspective of modern Iran. I felt I needed to look a little deeper. This led me to the movie, No One Knows About Persian Cats, which substantially informed this show. It tells the story of a young musician who is trying to make his way. As a part fiction/part music documentary, it focuses on a number of musicians in Iran and their passion for music. I don't want to say too much except that, like much of accomplished filmmaker Bahman Ghobadi's other work, it is absolutely essential viewing (especially for music fans):