Iranian Rap

By Stephanie Hemelryk Donald

Iran, Liverpool, Grime, and a certain poetic elegance, Farhood has found his voice and it’s truly powerful. Much of what we read about the modern asylum seeker is negative, frightening, or simply sad. Farhood’s music challenges us to listen more carefully, with more focus, with more anger, and with more hope.


I listened to his first EP release,Tike Tike, on soundcloud, in Liverpool where the work was recorded in a friend’s studio. It was an experience sharpened by the knowledge that young people in Iran are also accessing it right now as a new, samizdat release on other platforms. Electronic listeners in the UK and indeed the rest of Europe will soon find it too and hear the deep throb of Iran changing from without and within.


Farhood has been granted the right to remain in the UK. That long wait for legitimacy ended in the middle of 2015, and eight months later, he has a confident message for his fellow Iranians at home and for fellow asylum seekers world wide. At home the exhortation is to see what is happening, to work with the artists who speak for you and to you. The State won’t allow you to make the music you want. Underground genres are refused certificates, energy is abandoned to the margins of dissent, every little problem in society is spinning out from the central black hole of religious control and ageing inertia. All that is true, but keep listening, keep finding ways to sing.


Here in Europe, there is a message to all asylum seekers – if you want to find your voice and be the best you can be – it’s possible. Don’t let the everyday blockages and struggles for legitimacy destroy who you are and what you can do. There will always be someone or something who wants to stop you, or stops you without even thinking of what they do, so you must always find a way through. Keep singing  your song and send the songs back home. Farhood looks to a future where the surging song of a demanding youth grows across borders and seeps like light into the black crevices of religious futility and political cynicism.


The content of the EP, six tracks building a personal story of exile, musical enlightenment, and political responsibility, is both a statement of deep grief for the destruction of the future but also a pulsating retrieval of what is owed to the next generation. The tracks aim to inform, support and inspire Iranian youth, turning their despair to strength, and encouraging them to identify and name the wrongs they see around them. Farhoodofficial names murder, state executions, the destruction of the environment, but does so against a soaring acoustic, and a curling, twisting and unpredictable series of rhythms and charges.


So, how did Liverpool help? Well, Farhood followed his instincts. He confesses that for years he could not find people to talk to in any meaningful way. He was no longer a teenager rapping with his friends in his bedroom in Iran. He was an asylum seeker waiting for an ID. That doesn’t afford a young man a great deal of power or confidence. But he takes his own advice. One night at a free party he meets a fellow musician, a local DJ called Jon Davies. They share music, they hear each other. It’s a connection. And now there is this EP. It’s startling confident. It compels us. If only Iran could be more than the sound of the recent past and revel in the embodiment of this voice, this strength, this hope, we’d all be moving in the other direction.

Stephanie Donald

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