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February 12, 2008

Rappers of Tehran — Hichkas breaks it down, Farsi-style

No regime can withstand this force.

Here's Najmeh Bozorgmehr's story from today's Financial Times about the rise of the Iranian street — rap iteration.

    Iranian rappers serenade the sound of sirens

    Soroush Lashkari is regarded by his fellow musicians as the godfather of Iranian rap, but he must meet his fans wherever he can: one day in a park, another day in a street and the next in a studio, if he is lucky enough to find one.

    He began listening to rap music on satellite television about five years ago and with the help of some friends, he started recording his own songs. He distributed them in Tehran by asking passers-by: “Have you listened to Farsi rap?”

    Initially he sold about 20 CDs a day but now also distributes his music through websites and Bluetooth phones.

    He thinks Iranian rap has a promising future and hopes one day to have a concert abroad, preferably in the US. Hichkas has yet to persuade any official studios to let him, but says he is amazed at how quickly his popularity has spread. His band, Saamet, meaning “silent”, provides lyrics and music for dozens of rappers in Iran.

    But the 22-year-old singer has been forced to keep a low profile after the Islamic government launched an official campaign against rap music at the end of last year.

    Some members of his band spent a few days in jail last May and have received official warnings to stop their “decadent” music.

    President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad’s government says it supports “learned music”, which includes Iranian and western classical music, but pop and rock are not encouraged. Rap in particular has offended official sensibilities because its lyrics — judged by some as disrespectful — are said to offend against the conservative structure of society.

    Hichkas does not use swear words but his lyrics do focus on social injustice, the widening gap between rich and poor, street fighting and even on the international pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme. In one song called “The Law”, to the accompaniment of police sirens, he says: “It’s tough on the street... The weak die, the strong remain aloof... Open your eyes and let me explain the law... We live in a police state where the constitution is trampled upon. Let me shout that I’m a victim of this jungle!... Don’t handcuff me!”

    Although he comes from a middle-class background, Hichkas has spent much of his youth with some of the violent street gangs that hang out in parks in the poorer districts in central and southern Tehran.

    Unlike many of his fellow rappers, he says he has never used drugs and hopes to help warn young people against the dangers of life on the street.

    While he will not talk about any personal involvement in street violence, one of Hichkas’s closest friends, a fellow rapper, openly admits he used drugs and committed robberies when he was part of a gang. Reza Pishro, who dresses like a US rapper in loose jeans and long T-shirt, became homeless after his parents’ divorce when he was 11 and lived on the street for about eight years.

    He now says he has given up all drugs and is back with his family, looking after his mother and even settling down to marry.

    “I used to get depressed and escape my problems by fighting, but now I do it by rapping,” says Reza.

    “Everyone ends up on the street for a different reason, like not having fun or being jobless or homeless,” says Hichkas. He says he does not spend as much time there as he used to, particularly since he witnessed the death of two friends in a fight.

    “Sometimes, we go out at night to beat up drug dealers and throw their drugs and money into the ditch,” he says. “Our goal now is to stop those who destroy other human beings.”

February 12, 2008 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


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Sorush Lashkari [ Hich-kas ]is The Best , godfather of iranian rapper ...

Posted by: K053 | Aug 16, 2008 6:57:19 AM

Interesting. I'm relatively familiar with some types of Persian music (mainly classical) and this Rap in Farsi is quite a departure from what I normally listen to. I dislike Rap as a genre but I have to admit this was not so bad.

Posted by: Milena Castulovich | Feb 13, 2008 11:09:20 AM

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