Iran: Rap Against the West


With his desire to purge Iranian culture of the un-Islamic influence of 'decadent western music', President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad needs all the allies he can get.

But now he has support in the unlikely form of Kiarash Alimi, a teenage Iranian musician who has taken up rap to persuade fellow youth their tastes are misguided.

Ahmadinejad has responded to the dilution of Iran's once-flourishing Islamic revolutionary culture by banning songs by such stars as George Michael and Eric Clapton from state TV and radio. The ban will affect millions of young Iranians, who avidly follow western music.

Alimi, 19, who is among Iran's most promising artists, has backed the conservative President by attacking the 'cultural bombardment' from the West and counter-attacking the enemy through one of its most subversive sounds: rap.

In his album The Guy From Shahrak-e Gharb, named after an affluent north Tehran suburb, he lampoons wealthy young Iranians who submerge their national identity beneath a facade of basketball, Che Guevara T-shirts and street talk based on that of America's inner cities.

With more than a dash of irony, the title song draws on the influence of US rapper Eminem, who is a big hit in Iran.

'The West can impose many cultural influences on us because they have the most powerful media in the world,' Alimi said. 'But we cannot export our culture to America, even though Iran has a history and culture that's far older. We are under a cultural bombardment.'

With lyrics unsparing in contempt for pseudo-American pretensions but full of swearing, the album is probably not what Ahmadinejad had in mind when he had the Supreme Cultural Revolutionary Council order broadcasters to return to 'classic and fine Iranian music'.

This decree has provoked dismay among many musicians who fear a return to the austere days of the Islamic revolution when nearly all music was banned. But Alimi said: 'If [Ahmadinejad's] target is the invasion of a form of cultural decadence, then we have the same aims.'