The History of Iranian Pop Music
by Alex Cosper (4/30/13)

The national music of Iran is a mix of influences that include both the pre-Islamic and post-Islamic musical periods. In many ways Iran's music is classic rendition of these forms. Essentially the country's music reflects twelve traditional Magham modes, in which seven have roots in the Dastgah mode and the other five come from the Awaz mode of melodies. The seven Dastgah modes are Shoor, Mahoor, Segah, Nava, Chahargah, Homayoon and Past Panjgah. The five Awazes consist of Isfahan, Abou Ate, Dashti, Afshari and Bayat-e-Tork. These twelve modes form the basis of musical forms for contemporary artists. Iran's musical history is deeply tied to religion, ancient instruments and improvisation.

The ney is an ancient instrument that has been part of Iran's culture for century. It's a flute-like wind instrument. Other traditional Iranian instruments include the sorna, soma, dohol, barbat and kamancheh. The dohol is a hollow cylinder percussive instrument that historically has been been a rural instrument. Dancing was part of Persian rituals, but the Islamic Revolution prohibited most forms of public dancing. The government funded big symphonies to try to focus people on classical music. Artists who did not favor the regime's ideology were considered unacceptable by the government.

Iran went through a period of westernization in the 20th century from the early days of the recording industry until the late 1970s. The influence of jazz, rock and electronic music played a big role in the country's musical development until the Iranian Revolution ended many careers in 1979. Javad Yasari had been a famous popular singer in the 1970s, releasing five albums prior to the revolution. Mahasti had been a popular folk singer in the 60s and 70s until the revolution. Then she moved to the UK and then the United States in the early eighties. Hayedey, a female pop singer who was the sister of Mahasti, had been considered one of the top Persian vocalist for decades, but left Iran for the UK in August 1978 due to the revolution. She later moved to Southern California.

The Islamic Revolution of 1978 brought about huge cultural changes in Iran, especially with music. Certain restrictions on music have shaped its moderns history. Solo female singers, for example, were forbidden except in certain venues, causing many female Iranian singers to migrate to Europe and the United States. After the Islamic Revolution, the nation saw a return to traditional music. Sima Bina was a popular classically trained female artist who shifted to Iranian folk, only to be banned by the government. She eventually moved to Germany. During Iran's eight year war with Iraq a more militant music developed. Many Iranian artists during the former regime of the Shah migrated to the United States in the early 80s, as they turned to protest music. One of the new emerging styles from this era was "Rap-e Farsi," also known as Persian Rap.

Starting in the 1990s the Iranian government began to issue censored pop music designed to compete with Iranian pop artists who had migrated to California. The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, which controls television and radio broadcasting in Iran, helped craft and deliver this new type of contemporary music, which lifted the careers of Shadmehr Aghili and Khashayar Etermadi. Since then the government has allowed this pop music to develop, although in order to publish or perform music in Iran, a songwriter or musician needs to obtain a government permit from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. Iranian artists who have gained popularity in the new century include Farzad Farzin and Sirvan Khosravi.

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