Part 5 – Tehran Road Trip –
Neil Van Der Linden

Why did I include a two hour long remix of Iranian pop music? This is the music that accompanied me during my recent travel through Tehran in the car with Saeed and Armin, along with remixes of Michael Jackson and Florence and the Machine, and I had heard it before during a previous visit to Shiraz with Behzad and friends. It is trivial pop of absolute quality, modelled after Eurodisco, and what is so good is it never misses any opportunity for a right and surprising harmonic modulation. I never make a secret of my enthusiasm for the current cultural mood coming from Iran, which makes me optimistic about the future of the region. However there is also a sad edge to all this. One of the most prominent and beautiful voices is that of Morteza Pashaei (they are all male, perhaps to be in line with the rules of the government). The singer died Autumn 2014, at the age of 30, of cancer.

His funeral reportedly brought 300,000 people to their feet, but even if it were 30,000, it shows what a mass movement can do, in circumstances that do not favour people’s involvement in public affairs. So the death of a popular singer became the symbol for people to show that they want to be present. It is said that the authorities did not know how to react, but that at some point they decided to let the event continue, and even joined in. Which makes me optimistic again. There are many brilliant songs in these remixes, with remarkable funky basses or exciting saxophones. But as soon as you know his story, the ones by Pashaei stand out. His voice is auto-tuned and multi-tracked, but it is as if this layer of technique underlines his vulnerability, and it seems also to stand for the layer of medical technique and treatments that surrounded him during the last year of his life.

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