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The Story of the Elephant and Rock Music
By Hesam Garshasbi
hesam@tehranavenue.com
February 2003
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One of the most sensitive issues for those who are interested in working with alternative styles (those that are mostly rooted in non-Iranian and western music) is the connection between words and music. In other words, the relationship between the natural structure, rhyme, and melody of the syllables of the language in which the song is written in with the rhythmic and melodic capabilities of the music employed.

 

Right at the time when a band like O-Hum was experimenting with Rock, turning a new page in the history of Iranian music, many took issue with the band for desecrating Hafez poetry. To critics, words of Iran’s foremost classic poet could not be made to ride on a music that belonged to a different setting and arose out of a different context. As such, they argue, O-Hum’s lyrics are void of the spirit of the poetry of Hafez. Exactly the same thing happened when Pejvak tied Rock music with Hafez and Rumi poetry in their soon-to-be-released album Mast o Divane, and the same goes for what Ramin Behna did in Zibazi. The difference of these last two with O-Hum is that they worked a lot more on the correct articulation of the poems, although they may not have succeeded in their endeavor. The thing is, however, that O-Hum’s no-so-technically correct music (from the point of view of the link between words and music) was able to catch the ears of many young fans. Do we know how many young fans opened a Hafez Divan for the first time after listening to Nahal-e Heyrat? Now these questions lead us to a more basic one: Are there clean-cut definitions in music (in the arts, for that matter)?

 

The fact that words and music must be combined in a meaningful way sounds axiomatic and acceptable; especially in a language such as Persian in which the syllables convey the content and concept of the words. For instance, "aasemaan" (the sky) with two consecutive long syllables conveys the feel of open spaces. It was because of such natural rhythm and melody of Persian words that many new poems were written.

 

But are these principles mandatory and is conscious ignorance of such rules considered a no-no? When a group or an artist with technical skills, knowledge, and awareness of what s/he's doing in emotional and sensational settings, or even because of his/her understanding of a poem, creates a piece that does not ride on its music, are we entitled to criticize him/her and at the same time be objective?

 

The second issue is what we hear a lot about nowadays: The formation of a style called Iranian Rock, like Latin, Irish and German kinds existing today. Will we really encounter such a style in the near future? Given the potentials of the young generation, and considering events such as the Underground Music Competition, Iranian Rock does not seem out of reach. But how will we deal with the compatibility of Persian lyrics and Rock music? Would the words of our language sit comfortably on music that has been composed for English words? Other Rock bands around the world that do not sing in English have rarely had the success of a band such as Rameschtein. But still this is not the only way out, and the whole thing asks for experimentation, practice, and, in one word, time.

 

Following our talks with the bands taking part in UMC, this time we spoke to 127; the only band that used English lyric in its song.

About 127

The main members of the band are Sohrab Mohebi, Sardar Sarmast, Alireza Poorasad, and Shervin Shahamipoor. The remarkable point about this band is that the members with their individual ideas, interests, and style in music work together as a team. For instance, Sardar Sarmast, the pianist (who has studied under musicians like Kiawasch Sahebnasagh, Hooshyar Khayam, and Peyman Yazdanian) has Jazz interests while working with a band that practices alternative Rock style.

Sohrab, the vocalist and guitar player, believes that his career in music goes back to the time he got to meet Masoud Sho'ari (setar player) in Farrokh Hesamian's house and started working with him. In his opinion 127 owes a great deal to these two. “Crazy Kid” was the first song he performed and recorded with Shervin and Masoud, later on Ali (Kasra Saboktakin's student) and Sardar joined the band. Arash Mitooee (guitar player), TehranAvenue crew and Babak Chamanara are others that 127 members insist on thanking.

Answers to all questions in this interview are that of the entire band. This is how 127 wanted it to be.



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