“Protest art becomes when society is full of anger and the artist is part of the angry society.” This is a statement from Justina, an Iranian rapper, singer and songwriter, on the October 15 episode of the BBC program “The Cultural Frontline”. Justina and Iranian singer-songwriter and activist FarAvaz Farvardini were invited to the show, to talk about protest songs in Iran. Subject matter experts, his 2020 song “Fatva” was a premature protest song.
Perhaps the most notable of the recent anti-Iranian protest songs is Shervin Hajipour’s “Baraye,” written after Mahsa Amini’s death after being detained and beaten by Iran’s notorious morality police for not wearing they cover heads. After receiving nearly 100,000 submissions, it is now the frontrunner for the Recording Academy Grammy Award for New Song for Social Change.
Although Hajipour’s version of “Baraye” has been removed from social media due to copyright issues, many versions can be heard online, including this English translation by Iranian singer-songwriter Rana Mansour. Despite the Islamic Republic’s efforts to silence the artistic voices of its people, Iranian musicians have risen to prominence during these turbulent times. Many songs were written in response to the current situation, with the protest slogan “Woman, Life, Liberty” at its core. Some were quickly uploaded to Instagram in their raw form and pack a punch, like this one from Sogand dedicated to the people of Iran.
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Perhaps the most disturbing song is the one with no name or artist, probably for fear of backlash. The song is probably also called “Zan Zendegi Azadi (Woman, Life, Freedom)” because that phrase is repeated in the chorus and is also what is written on the woman’s fingers in the video. The song beats the heart, as do the gasping movements of the woman in the video, who beats her head covered with a scarf while a drop of blood escapes from the nostril. She then removes her scarf to reveal the bullet holes in her chest as the corner of her mouth begins to bleed. He flashes the colors of the Iranian flag on one cheek and a smear of blood on the other, finally letting his hair down and showing the words on his fingers. He compares her hair to fire and her voice to a dagger, and as devastating as it is to watch, it’s also impossible to avert your eyes or get the song’s tribal rhythms out of your head.
Here are 15 more songs inspired by what many call the “Iranian revolution.”
Translated as “Anthem for Equality”, this song has been sung by more than a dozen established Iranian singers (including the aforementioned Justina and Farvardin). Action music, composed by Behrooz Paygan, drives the military chants of these calls to action. The images show Iranian women of all ages in various settings, from a cafe meal to spraying the slogan “Woman Life Freedom” to powerful protest images, capturing Iranian women in all walks of life.
Justina’s mood in this song is not lost on words, wrapped up in her chorus, which asks in English: “Do you want a revolution?/Yeah, I want a revolution” (Do you want a revolution?/ Yes, I. at request revolution) revolution), rapping over crunchy guitars while visuals show the aggressive confrontation of protesters and women cutting their hair, which is quite empowering.
FarAvaz Farvardini, “Naft To, Khoon-e-Man-e”
Farvardini is one of the most vocal Iranian artists, using all her platforms, especially Instagram, to share information and raise awareness about the situation in Iran, although many of her posts end up being blocked . He posted “Your Oil, My Blood,” which he performs with a full orchestra, exclusively on Instagram. In the song, Farvardini turns herself and her impressive voice rises above the music.
MadGal, “A song dedicated to the women of Iran”
Iran Billie Eilish, via Toronto, MadGal inspires all the current situation in this song, which is dedicated simply to the women of Iran, but in the Farsi title, MadGal also dedicates it to Shervin and Mahsa. According to the report, MadGal does not see the restrictions in Iran as an obstacle, but as “an opportunity to step forward in my power”, and with his breathy voice he declares in the chorus that he is free, moving on to “the woman , life, freedom” and how she is also Mahsa Amini.
“Ghasam be Zan va Azadi (Soroode Enghelabi)”
This 40 second short takes the Islamic Republic song “Be Pish” and turns it on its head. The title means “Promise to women and freedom” and cleverly changes the words attributed to the fundamental elements of the Islamic Revolution, replacing them with words aimed at women. Written specifically for Mahsa Amini, it has been sung by many artists, including self-proclaimed “Persia’s metal goddess” Haniye Kian. Perhaps the scariest version of this song is this split screen video, with a group of women in painted faces singing the song in unison in the bottom half, and horrific images of brutality towards women in the top half, separated from them those already known. from Amini.
Mehdi Yarrahi, “Soroode Zan”
Another very recent song, simply translated as “Hymn of Women”, is very similar in tone to the military songs of the Shah’s regime, but the message is completely different. The central theme of the song is a call for freedom and independence, with some provocative lines that say: “We say we don’t need a king, a beggar comes and he’s a leader / The blood in our veins is a gift. nation/ We say we don’t need a king, a mullah comes along and becomes a leader.”
Dariush, “Be Samte Farda”
One of the most popular Iranian singers of all time, 71-year-old Dariush shows why his talent is endless in this haunting yet hopeful song, “Toward Tomorrow.” A love song for Iran that speaks of the wounded country and its silence, Dariush wonders when the country will be ready to speak for the past and the future. Combining elements of traditional Iranian song with orchestral sounds and modern dance rhythms, it is Dariush’s plea – “My country, speak, speak for peace and equality” – that takes this song to its first another level.
Toomaj, “Meydoone Jang”
Iranian rapper Toomaj has been fearlessly speaking his mind on all social media channels for a while now, but it’s through Instagram that he gets the most attention. Toomaj flows over stirring rhythms that reference classical Iranian percussion and strings, filtered through a crisp performance, for his latest verse on “Battlefield”. His quick phrases are precise and menacing, warning the Iranian powers that all kinds of disaffected people are pouring on this battlefield, “like cartridges.”
Shahin Najafi, “Hashtadia”
Supporters of the Islamic Revolution have good reason to trust rap and hip-hop more than other forms of Western music. Najafi’s uninhibited words are fired like a machine gun in this song, “The 80s,” which Iranians call Generation Z (because they were born in the 1380s in the Iranian calendar). The song is blocked on Instagram for “sensitive content,” probably the violent images from Iran. In it, Najafi says what everyone is thinking, using a proliferation of Iranian curse words and phrases to explain how the Islamic Republic made him feel. He spits out so much that he seems to contradict his non-profane words, and that in itself is a release.
Amir Tataloo, PUTAK, Soheil Khodabandeh, Reza Pishro – “Enghelab Solh”
Stronger than an Iranian rapper are four people, especially these voices, who intimidate their way into telling the truth. This contrasting mix of prolific and popular poets, who are like American cartoonists with highly tuned voices, creates a clear picture of what is going on in Iran at the moment. In their furious raps, calling for a “revolution of peace,” they express the name of Mahsa Amini, and Bahar Atish’s female voices, coming in the middle of the song, moderate all the aggression.
Booth, “Zan Zendegi Azadi”
The Iranian group Kiosk worked with twenty singers to create this beautiful song centered on the protest slogan “Woman, Life, Freedom”. “Zan Zendegi Azadi” puts an artistic twist on images of protest in this gritty video, as inspiring as it is violent.
Gola, “Haghame (I have the right)”
In this powerful song, Gola directly states that she is done with the hijab and that she has the right to stop wearing it. He rejects all the reasoning behind the hijab and has no interest in going to heaven if the path is full of fear and oppression. Just before “Haghame”, Gola released “Ma Ziadim (We are many)”, referring to the opponents of the Iranian regime. His songs are accompanied by a handy English translation, making them easily accessible to everyone.
Abjeez, “Forgive us”
Abjeez, or the “sisters” Safoura and Melody Safavi, dedicate “Laith Linn” to “the brave young people of Iran who sacrifice for freedom,” according to their Instagram caption. Complex and multi-layered, the beautiful song, sung in English, speaks partly to the rest of the world, trying to be the voice of the Iranian people.
Sevdaliza, “Freedom of life for women”
This minimalist song focuses on the lyrics, with a stripped-back backing track reminiscent of Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner,” and includes examples of the women using the title phrase in their speech. In addition, it has a captivating AI-powered video that shows many women melting and digitally transforming in the most exciting way.
“His name is Dokhtarane Sarzameene Aftab”
“In the Name of the Daughters of the Land of the Sun” may be nameless, but it pledges its loyalty to the women of Iran and all that they have endured, not only recently, but over the past 40 years. The video has a faithful line-by-line translation of the English (and Farsi) lyrics superimposed on footage of current events in Iran. All words are powerful, but it is one of the most significant: “To the locks of hair of the daughters of the revolution.”