Keeping up with the Iranians

Iranian music has never been light entertainment for me. It is a subtext of survival—an attempt to escape everyday life, whether it was played in my communist grandfather’s old car, at my drunk cousin’s wedding hosted at a school, or in my unmarried aunt’s bedroom, where she taught my sisters and me to dance. Music was first and foremost dance. Even if there were barely any clubs or cafés where we could go and listen to Iranian music growing up in Sweden and Iran, it was still primarily associated with dance, especially for the Iranian diaspora. It was what we would do at family gatherings or whenever people put on Iranian music. We learned how to dance before we learned the lyrics. Dance and music were the choreography of belonging and dreaming.

In Iran, these attempts to escape, belong, and dream in everyday life were illicit. Shortly after the Islamic Revolution in 1979, the new leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, banned music, equating it to opium. Many artists relocated to Los Angeles and had to find new ways of making a living, oftentimes through recordings or concerts of the musical genre dāmbuli dimbol, since it was what people would dance to at parties and celebrations. Through secret music stores or by installing a satellite antenna to get the Persian Music Channel on TV, dāmbuli dimbol found its way back to Iran. The illegal distribution of the music made its rise to mainstream culture possible, only sealed in private spaces—in headphones on the Tehran metro, inside a taxi, at house parties, or at underground clubs. Repression has made music the signifier of secret collectivity and freedom. Iranian music became a catalyst for realizing dreams. It is from here that this work emerges. See you on the dancefloor!


Created and produced by: Afrang Nordlöf Malekian
Performers: Mia Herman, Sepideh Khodarahmi, Afrang Nordlöf Malekian, Edwin Safari
Graphic designer: Agga Stage
Host: Samuel Girma
Poster photographer: Jean-Baptiste Béranger
Event photographer: Malin LQ
Baker: Nour Helou
Driver: Poya Livälven
Interlocutor: Mehregan Meysami
Light and sound technician: Astrid Braide Eriksson