Have you ever listened to rap music and gotten that feeling of life suddenly being all about money, drugs, sex, and murder? I mean, for many people, life may be summed up by those four general terms much too easily. Even those that you ask about rap, in the streets of Compton and elsewhere, will tell you that it’s not their vision to see kids applauding the “guns and the girls” but that they “hustle” because they can. There’s not much else you can ask of rap, it’s just the blunt rhythm of a culture and lifestyle that uses rap to convey the language of their day to day lives. It can be a tool for a struggle, or just a platform to brag about your cars, drugs, and attitude. But it’s always in-your-face, sharp and not easily adapted to the mainstream.
But, that’s a developed country, where it would seem that people have the luxury of making money off the very platform of freedom of speech- or music, in this case. They simply CAN make a rap song that both describes society and the more materialistic life. They have the opportunity.
But take a multiple thousand mile trip out to the country of Iran and you’re confronted by the strange sounds of rap wafting through streets that ban even the minutest of hip movements-let alone rap; the 17 year old boy sitting at his computer, flipping through CDs and listening to rap music doesn’t care if you or the Police can hear it. What he wants is to let it rip. The voice of his generation.
This wasn’t the first time that I’d heard Iranian rap. I’d been exposed to it before, in L.A when the group Sandy was popular with Iranian expatriates. But if you compare Sandy, a more hipster/pop group, with a man like Hichkas, you’d understand why a 17 year old boy in Iran wasn’t listening to Sandy.
Hichkas, a rapper of Iranian roots (born, raised, and still living in Iran) uses the underground following that boys AND girls in Iran have for him to spread his message.
His CDs are underground, and sold only through the streets and downloaded online. His songs are never played on any State TV or Radio broadcast. In fact, he’s not much even in the Iranian Diaspora. But what few people realize is that blogging, although a medium of writers and readers to interact and find common ground to discussions, has nothing against Hichkas and others like him in Iran.
According to the Iran Internet and Telecommunications Report only about 10.8% of Iran’s population actually uses the Internet, and what percent of that do you think is able to or interested in the banned blogs and websites that promote human rights, peace, freedoms of expression,etc?
But walk past any busy road, shopping center,etc, and you’ll see young boys and girls walking by with MP3s, CD players, walkmans, car stereo volumes up, and you’d understand what music can reach that the Internet can’t. It’s just much easier to access CDs and MP3s for a cheap price and privately while the Internet is a little more dangerous and little more expensive (most Internet users connect through Net cafes, where the activity can easily be monitored, who would risk that?)
Just listening to his song “Khoda Pasho” makes me wonder what it is in his messages that connect to the young generation of Iran. Right now, the majority of Iran is under 30. That’s incredible and not surprising for a third world country. But at the same time, this majority is closed off to the world of music and entertainment just as much as they are from freedoms of expression, lifestyle, religion, rights and so on.
I thought about this and wrote down a part of the lyrics that he created and that is most popular among people who listen in:
“Inja tehrane lanati shukhi nistesh khabari az golo bastanie choobi nistesh Inja jangale bokhor ta khorde nashi inja nesf oghdeyian nesf vahshi ekhtelafe tabaghati inja bidad mikone roohe mardomo zakhmio bimar mikone
Hame kenare haman faghirao mayedaro khafan tooye taxi hame mikhan keraye nadan
haghighat roshane khodeto be un rah nazan roshantaresh mikonam pas bemun ja nazan”
In a short translation he’s saying:
This is Tehran, damn it, this isn’t a joke. There’s no place here for flowers and ice-cream on a stick! This is a jungle, eat or be eaten. Here, they’re either full of envy or just plain crazy! Here, the split between the rich and the poor bruises and bloodies the peoples’ souls
Everyone’s side by side, destitute and rich sitting in a taxi not wanting to pay, the truth is lit up, don’t ignore it, I’ll make it even brighter so don’t go anywhere
His message is similar to what I hear from almost all the teens that I’ve met. It’s not exactly a shock. Hichkas DOES live in Iran. He IS a reflection of the society in which he lives, an arm of the world they exist in. When you listen to his songs, you’ll realize each one tells the story of the widening gap between the poor and the rich, the shrinking middle class, and the hardships that boys and girls endure in Tehran and in a way you come to understand what exactly these people are saying by way of the music they listen to.
What I liked most about Hichkas is that he tries his best to ignore the materialistic/hollywood scene that Rap usually ends up winding down to. The lyrics are paunch full of words of wisdom and the problems that he sees in society. There’s less room to blame him for being selfish and rapping about girls and money, which makes him a great role model for Iranian teens who want to look up to someone who closes the gap between the East and the West (Hichkas implements the use of traditional Iranian instruments as well as the deep Bass of Rap) and talks about what they want to see change.
Some people would argue that life is just about money, drugs, sex, and murder. But that doesn’t mean you have to choose to condone it.
It doesn’t hurt to understand the implication that if you bring up Hichkas to the majority of young, educated teens in Iran they’ll nod their heads and start rapping to the beginning lyrics of Khoda Pasho and grin like mad. Because it’s popular? Definitely. Because it’s Western? Well, duh. Because he says what most of them wouldn’t dare? You can bet on it.