Heavy Metal Concert in Iran

Music as an Act of Cultural Diplomacy to foster Cultural Understanding

July 13th, 2016
Myron Kanter-Bax, CD News

Music can serve as an instrument of cultural diplomacy to improve intercultural communication and cooperation between the people around the world. It can also signify social change: Iran’s metal and rock scene is an exemplary case.

Music is a universal language which can take numerous different forms, in order to express a variety of emotions and ideas.

Although there are a plethora of different styles, forms and traditions of music worldwide, the universality of music allows it to transcend boundaries. Music has the ability to represent a nation’s cultural values, being a part of the national identity, yet at the same time can help create relationships between people from differing backgrounds and opposing beliefs.

It is in this respect that music can contribute to international cooperation and cross-cultural understanding, by giving space to dialogue and fostering mutual understanding between different cultures with varying sets of values and ideologies. In other words, music possesses huge diplomatic potential.

Music has been a cultural battleground in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution. Songs deemed to promote western culture were outlawed and rock and heavy metal musicians were often denounced as devil worshippers. However, from 2013 onwards the situation seems to gradually change and a new more open atmosphere in Iran is becoming evident.

The concert held by Farshid Arabi and his band in Tehran at the end of May illustrates the remarkable structural changes currently taking place in Iran and the Iranian society as a whole.

In order to hold live concerts in Iran, band members must fill out endless amounts paperwork and endure the complicated process of obtaining permission from both the police and the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. Farshid Arabi, widely known as the father of Persian heavy metal, was able to win permission for the concert from the Iranian authorities despite criticism from hardliners within the regime, and the concert was a roaring success.


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