ROCK THE CASBAH: ‘Illegal’ Iranian Pop Singer Allowed To Give Four Concerts In Tehran


NEW YORK TIMES: In less than 15 minutes, Xaniar Khosravi, 29, an Iranian-Kurdish performer whose upbeat music was long deemed by Iran’s powerful Ministry of Islamic Guidance and Culture as illegal for being too Western, would step onto a stage before thousands of fans for his second official concert ever (the first was the night before). […] Hundreds of boys wearing baseball caps and girls covered with brightly colored head scarves waited excitedly in front of the concert hall, having been dropped off by parents who in all likelihood also shelled out the $20 cost of a ticket. Chewing gum and texting on their smartphones, few of them could recall the days when hard-line vigilantes raided pop concerts, calling the events “harbingers of a Western cultural invasion” and shutting down sound systems and at times attacking the audience members. Still, the fact that an underground singer was suddenly allowed to perform was widely perceived as a miracle. “We never expected him to be able to give a concert,” said Yasaman Tehrani, 21, a civil engineering student wearing light orange lipstick. “I think he changed some of his lyrics in order for his songs to be more acceptable. I don’t care as long as we can enjoy ourselves.”

When the gates opened, they all rushed in, but only after having passed a gate where a huge policeman and a colleague in plainclothes checked all the head scarves to make sure they did not reveal too much hair. After that, the long line of teenagers passed a huge billboard showing a portrait of Mr. Rouhani, smiling like a benevolent grandfather, accompanied by his slogan: “The Government of Foresight and Hope.” […] Green laser beams flashed throughout the 2,000-seat concert hall as teenagers waved yellow fluorescent glow sticks, yelling for Mr. Khosravi. Everybody had to sit in allocated seats, and while boys and girls were allowed to sit next to one another, teams of Islamic hall monitors routinely passed by correcting those women whose head scarves were about to fall off. As in all public halls in Iran, a large portrait of the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, hung on the left of the stage, and one of the founder of the Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, hung on the right. MORE