03/12/2022
The facility of track: How an Iranian singer’s lyrics are bringing individuals collectively to protest Mahsa Amini’s loss of life | CBC Information


As protests in opposition to the Iranian authorities have been rising, a track has been echoing, uniting individuals the world over who’re preventing for — amongst a number of issues — fundamental human rights for ladies.

Baraye, which interprets to “for” or “because of” in Persian, has been sung by tens of hundreds of protesters throughout demonstrations following the loss of life of Mahsa Amini whereas she was in police custody in Tehran. The track has additionally been used incessantly in social media posts regarding the protests. 

In a way, the track has turn into an instance of the facility of music in social actions and its capability to unite individuals for a trigger.

The track “resonates with so many Iranians because it so poetically and beautifully touches on a range of issues that concern us all as human beings,” mentioned Shiva Balaghi, a cultural historian of the Center East on the College of California Santa Barbara. 

Shervin Hajipour, a well known singer in Iran, launched the track to his Instagram account on Sept. 28. The lyrics are composed of dozens of tweets posted by Iranians expressing why they’re protesting. Every of these tweets start with “because of.”

WATCH: Sahar Golshani reposted Shervin Hajipour’s video after it was taken down:

The protests erupted following the Sept. 16 loss of life of Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish girl. She was in a coma after being detained by the nation’s morality police for allegedly sporting her scarf incorrectly. 

“[Hajipour] brought in the tweets of everyday people [and] their everyday sufferings into the music,” mentioned Nasim Niknafs, an affiliate professor within the division of music on the College of Toronto who specializes within the relationship between music training, social justice and activism.

Niknafs, who has additionally revealed analysis on music in Iran, sees a part of the highly effective resonance of the track within the emotion it carries, one thing she attributes to Hajipour’s personal expertise. 

“It wasn’t an out-of-body experience for him. He was experiencing those [hardships] every day living in the country, so he brought that as a source of inspiration.” 

One of many first traces within the track is: “Because of every time we were afraid to kiss our lovers in the street,” referring to the illegality of affection in public. One other says: “Because of the girl who wished she was a boy.”

“Even if you haven’t been through it, you’ve heard about it. I think that’s why it touched so many people’s hearts because, one, it was in real time what people in Iran were saying but it’s also things you have heard before,” mentioned Sahar Golshani, an Iranian-Canadian podcaster in Toronto who identifies as an activist and has helped manage a protest in Toronto. 

“So it really hit deep down in your soul when you heard the lyrics.” 

A demonstrator cuts hair throughout a protest following the loss of life of Amini, in entrance of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on Sept. 23. (Christian Mang/Reuters)

Golshani mentioned the track is connecting Iranians, each in Iran or within the diaspora, together with herself. Although she has by no means lived in Iran — her dad and mom left earlier than she was born — she says she’s nonetheless felt very related to it as a result of since she was a baby, she’s been listening to in regards to the hardships from her household.

“It gets to a point where you’re like: ‘I need to do something about it,'” mentioned Golshani. “This song was kind of like a powder keg moment for a lot of us.”

40M views in 48 hours

Virtually immediately after the track was posted on Sept. 28, it went viral, garnering greater than 40 million views inside 48 hours on Instagram earlier than it was taken down. Stories indicated that the 25-year-old singer had been arrested. On Oct. 4, a press release posted on his Instagram story indicated that he was out on bail, however the track was by no means reposted to his profile.

Many are additionally circulating hyperlinks on social media urging that it’s nominated for a brand new class for the 2023 Grammy Awards: best song for social change

“I’d love for the Grammys to recognize [Hajipour’s] song. Part of its popularity is that it’s just a beautiful song,” mentioned Balaghi. 

Folks mild a hearth throughout a protest in Tehran on Sept. 21 over the loss of life of Amini. (West Asia Information Company/Reuters)

“The idea that he pulled together comments from social media, crowdsourcing the lyrics, really speaks to the movement…. I’ve heard it sung on the streets of [Los Angeles] by the diaspora community and in Tehran classrooms by middle school girls. That’s powerful. It speaks to this generation.”

Whereas songs and music are a robust component in social actions, Iran has a wealthy cultural historical past with artwork and it continues to play a big function. 

“Music-making is part of life in Iran. It’s how people live their lives … it’s how they think and understand the world around them,” Niknafs mentioned. 

“Even after the 1979 revolution when official institutions were not allowed to have Western classical music or popular music, like jazz, rock, metal…music was still there, poetry was still there,” mentioned Niknafs. “They are very integrated in the fabric of the society.”

Ladies, youthful technology main motion

Not like earlier demonstrations in Iran, the Mahsa Amini protests have been primarily led by girls and youthful Iranians. 

In 2020, about 37 per cent of Iran’s population was underneath 25 years of age, that means a big variety of these dwelling in Iran weren’t alive in the course of the 1979 Iranian revolution or the Iran-Iraq Warfare from 1980 to 1988. 

Specialists have mentioned this makes the youthful generations extra fearless when being the driving power behind this motion. 

College students maintain a rally on the College of British Columbia in Vancouver on Tuesday in protest after the latest loss of life of Amini. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

“This generation is not naive. They know the risks they are taking. But they are lifting each other up to make a fundamental change,” mentioned Balaghi. “One of the street chants is: ‘Don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid, we are together.’ It’s a struggle between hope and fear, an artist in Iran explained. And hope has grown larger than fear.”

Niknafs agrees, including that the track is a testomony of their aspirations. 

“They are hopeful for a better life and it’s being mirrored in their music and the music is creating a hopefulness. It’s hand in hand,” mentioned Niknafs.

Not like earlier actions in Iran, and regardless of harsh web crackdowns, the youthful technology has additionally discovered energy in the usage of social media. 

Many have been circulating photographs and movies of what’s occurring in Iran as a way of getting their message out to worldwide audiences.

“Gen Z and millennials have a voice and power within social media to amplify their voices,” mentioned Golshani. “They see how social media can initiate change.” 



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