When it comes to real rock rebellion, even the most badass American and British artists in history have nothing on the rockers of Iran. The rock ’n’ roll scene in Iran goes all the way back to the ’60s, when influential artists like Farhad Mehrad were beginning to make their presence felt. In the ’70s, artists such as Kourosh Yaghmaei, who became a sort of Bob Dylan-like figure, made their mark, and multiple directions opened for Iranian rock. But the sociopolitical tumult that came with the Islamic Revolution of 1979 brought drastic cultural changes.
Out went the Shah; in came the Ayatollah and the Ministry of Culture, a government body that required all musicians to be officially sanctioned in order to ply their trade. The reprisal against those who tried to defy these rules included oppression and even imprisonment. Still, artists like the Comment Band, Farshid A’rabi, and the B-Band managed to cut through and make their voices heard.
By the ’90s, things began to loosen up just a little bit, and more Iranian rockers rose up. But the threat of government oppression remained a very real concern. On one hand, there were artists who found ways to fight against it, such as the heavy-metal bands Mordab and Angband, which came to the fore in the 2000s. But at the same time, a number of Iranian alternative-rock bands began to expatriate. Groups like Yellow Dogs and Hypernova made their way to the U.S., and the Tehran duo Take It Easy Hospital relocated to London. But even those Iranian bands that left their homeland behind are still part of its musical legacy. And the story of Iranian rock stands to prove that in the end, the spirit of rock ’n’ roll can rise above just about anything.