Some Persian Raks & Roll


The last few years records of rare and current pop from Africa have been coming out from the likes of Analog Africa, Mississippi Records and Sound Way, Sublime Frequencies and Honest Jon’s  on a weekly basis. The heightened exposure of African pop has been a boon, but if you’ve been looking stuff outside of Africa the pickings have been a bit more slim.  Say you were looking for for garage sounds from Persia you probably been coming up empty handed.  The other day I was flipping through records over at Sonic Boom in Ballard and came across this beautiful cover (above) in the new release bin.  Who knew that Iran even had a psychedelic garage scene in the 1960’s?  I sure didn’t, but there it was as plane as day, 17 Golden Garage Psych Nuggets from the Iranian 60’s Scene (released back in April of this year).  My curiosity had been piqued and I pulled the record from the bin, paid more than I probably should have for it and with a rush of excitement went home and put it on the turntable.

I’m pretty sure that the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea have little to no surf.  Lack of any big waves along the Persian coast did not seem to stop the Ventures from becoming a  pretty big influence in Iran in the 1960’s because more than a couple of the songs on this compilation have that surf, twang sound that the Tacoma band perfected.  That kind of makes sense, because the Ventures specialized in instrumental rock and thus there were no lyrics to decipher or translate just the primal stomp of the guitar, bass and drums.  It wasn’t all Ventures influence in 1960’s Iran, Ojooba Ha  get a little psychedelic Circa the Beatles‘ Revolver on one song and then go all Morricone on another, the Littles have a Mamas & the Papas thing goin’ on,  and Group Takhala La could be the Iranian Animals.  There is also some funk courtesy a strange cover of Respect from Googoosh.  Based on this record it seems like the scene in Iran at this time was both diverse and exciting.

The record has extensive liner notes that set the scene and try to explain how Iran has always been at a tug of war between religion and a Western affectation that many people in the country have.  It also tries to piece together a history of the bands on the record, but because of Iran’s closed society the task is left up to afficionatos from the Netherlands and Turkey.  The liner notes, like the record, leave you with a vague sense of the 60’s rock scene in Iran and wanting to find out more about it.  The entire thing leaves me hoping that this isn’t just a one-off release.  There is more, and if this has you curious about rock n’ roll in Iran I found a compilation that came out in 2004 of the Iranian punk scene called The Persian New Waves (Mawdj-e Naw e Farsi), but it looks to be out of print.  I haven’t found a copy (digital or otherwise) yet, but I’ll keep hunting.

mp3: Moha Jamin – Sheshwa Heshat Moho Jamin

mp3: Kousash – Hadjme Khali

You can get the record at Bomp , Insound or Rough Trade. All three currently have it in stock.


  1. Artog · November 16, 2009

    I was wondering just the other day how Iranian bands might sound, and now I know, they sound like…dorks. Still, as you say: beautiful sleeve.

    • message! · January 24, 2010

      I dont know if i’d even listen to anyone who tries to label music by adjectives such as “dork”, but just remember that this music scene was just burgeoning and getting a feel for the western rhythms and sounds and they are important for having taken that plunge away from the traditional Iranian music (if you have any idea what that means, otherwise see Shajarian and Kalhour) into blending their talents with western talent.
      Music like anything else is a matter of dialetical aggression (every new generation wanted to steer away from the last), so in essence these pop songs form a parallel to your west’s precious beatles.
      You wanna talk about dorks, do you?!?, go look at the bowlcuts from liverpool, who used song after song for the first slew of teen idol albums talking about holding a girl’s hand and other cute hallmark-inspired gestures. And, may i remind you, had it not been for competition from the dirtier grittier bands of the era, the ever cuddly jagger and the “rebellious” dylan, they would’ve continued selling that crap til their bowlcuts dropped off.
      Had this musical period in Iran survived, they would’ve run through your patti smiths and lou reeds and bowies in a matter of years.

      • Artog · January 25, 2010

        Oh God, I should have known better than to make a flippant comment. If you think you’re going to make me cry by being rude about the Beatles then you’re clearly projecting your own terminal intensity on to me. As for the history lesson, thanks and well, yeah, okay, I suppose. Now I know why they sound like dorks.

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