Echoing past fervor, Iran pulls plug on Western music
President pushes a new emphasis on Islamic values
TEHRAN -- President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has banned all Western music from Iran's state radio and TV stations -- reminiscent of the 1979 Islamic revolution, when popular music was outlawed as ''un-Islamic" under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Today, though, the sounds of hip-hop can be heard blaring from car radios in Tehran's streets, and Eric Clapton's ''Rush" and the Eagles' ''Hotel California" regularly accompany Iranian broadcasts.
No more -- the official IRAN Persian daily reported yesterday that Ahmadinejad, as head of the Supreme Cultural Revolutionary Council, ordered the enactment of an October ruling by the council to ban all Western music, including classical music, on state broadcast outlets.
''Blocking indecent and Western music from the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting is required," said a statement on the council's official website.
Iranian guitarist Babak Riahipour lamented what he called a ''terrible" decision that ''shows a lack of knowledge."
Music was outlawed by Khomeini soon after the 1979 revolution. Many musicians went abroad and built an Iranian music industry in Los Angeles.
But as revolutionary fervor started to fade, some light classical music was allowed on Iranian radio and television; some public concerts reappeared in the late 1980s.
In the 1990s, particularly during the presidency of reformist Mohammad Khatami starting in 1997, authorities began relaxing restrictions further. These days in Iran, Western music, films, and clothing are widely available. Bootleg videos and DVDs of films banned by the state are widely available on the black market.
This month, Ali Rahbari, conductor of Tehran's symphony orchestra, resigned and left Iran to protest the treatment of the music industry in Iran.
Before leaving, he played Beethoven's Ninth Symphony to packed Tehran theater houses over several nights last month -- its first performance in Tehran since the 1979 revolution. The performances angered many conservatives and prompted newspaper columns accusing Rahbari of promoting Western values.
The ban applies to state-run radio and TV. But Iranians with satellite dishes can get broadcasts originating outside the country.
Ahmadinejad won office in August on a platform of reverting to ultraconservative principles, following the eight years of rule under Khatami.
During his presidential campaign, Ahmadinejad also promised to confront what he called the Western cultural invasion of Iran and promote Islamic values.