‘I am the brave hero and this land is mine’: popular music and youth identity in post-revolutionary Iran
Steward, Theresa Parvin
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Over the past decade, popular music in Iran has steadily gained recognition beyond its borders. The Western media has increasingly provided an idealised and romanticised view of music-making in the Iranian underground. These reports create an image of popular musicians united under the same political and social challenges, while struggling to be heard against an oppressive regime. Contrary to these often overly politicised accounts, the current Iranian youth generation continues to explore its identity through the creation of new hybridised forms of popular music. This dissertation utilises first-hand accounts of musicians and those involved in Iranian popular music to analyse the current state of popular music in Iran since 1979. By recognising the heterogeneity of the Iranian post-revolutionary pop world, this study distinguishes the individual voices and experiences that make up the dynamic and multifaceted popular music scene in young, urban Iran and the Iranian diaspora. Opening with a historical account of music’s fluctuating relationship with regime censorship, this dissertation illuminates the many contradictions of popular music practice in a controlled climate that are also embedded within youth identity. Dichotomies continually emerge during this discourse, including globalisation vs. localism, authentic vs. borrowed, and home vs. homeland. These themes are prolific throughout the discussions of the illegal underground music scene in Tehran, the complexities of music in exile, and the final discussion of the role of popular music in the 2009 presidential election and subsequent Green Movement. Popular music continues to serve as an outlet for pleasure and entertainment while simultaneously representing the diverse voices of the young generation of Iranians in the world, as they seek to assert their identity and establish a future of their own.