Iranian Hip Hop: A Revolutionary Soundtrack

Hip hop: a scapegoat in America, a scapegoat overseas. Back in December 2005, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad implemented the ban of Western music. His council’s official website read “Blocking indecent and Western music from the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) is required.” Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has repeatedly cited hip hop’s “obscene language” as the reason for its ban. Mohammad Dashtgoli, the official who evaluates music for the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry contended, “There is nothing wrong with this type of music in itself. But due to the use of obscene words by its singers this music has been categorized as illegal." Dashtogli vowed that illegal studios would be shut down while hip hop artists would be confronted.

Hip hop: a voice in America, a voice overseas. Over the last two weeks outraged Iranians have flooded streets to collectively protest the alleged vote fraud and incumbent Ahmadinejad’s victory. Citizen journalism and the Internet- Youtube videos, Twitter, Facebook, blogs/websites have made Iran’s unfolding turmoil and election aftermath accessible to people around the world. A viral outpouring of amateur stories, images and videos achieved the following:
  • overcame the blocking of media outlets and Iranian state controlled news agency
  • created solidarity
  • offered diverse perspectives that paint a full picture and stimulate debate.
The most powerful image is that of Neda, a young Iranian woman profusely bleeding to death as she musters her last words, “I’m burning, I’m burning!” Neda means “voice” in Farsi, she was fittingly declared the “voice of Iran.” Another rallying voice for Iranian protesters demanding "where their vote is" is hip hop:
Hip Hoppers- the new breed of Iranian musicians- are the ones who are doing a lot of the organizing of protests. Cellphones and text messaging as well as internet in Iran has been cut off in the government’s attempt to curb communication between the youth so the rappers are making songs. Rappers are telling and passing out information telling people where to go and meet and the issues going on. Its becoming the music of the revolution.
Hich-Kas (meaning "Nobody"), Iran's elusive hip hop star, is a pioneer for Iranian social justice. His music is superficially deemed "western" and "decadent" yet its content is vividly Iranian.
'Nobody' raps about God and nationalism along with social commentary. He has even written a rap in defense of Iran's right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
Though the Iranian government forbids him from selling albums, performing and traveling beyond Iranian borders Hich-Kas's brosque delivery and heartfelt prose have reached audiences across the globe.

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