By Ahmad Rafat
Khunestan (“Land of Blood”) is a song written in tribute to this summer’s bloody protests against water shortage in Iran’s southwestern province of Khuzestan, which resulted in 11 deaths and some 700 arrests at the hands of the security forces.
The lyrics are by Iranian poet Mehdi Mousavi and the music is composed by Arash Rahbary and Mearaj (MarG) Lotfabadi. Rahbary, Lotfabadi, and celebrated Iranian singers Sattar and Rana Mansour perform the song.
Rahbary is the founder of Tarantist, a heavy metal group whose music focuses on political and social issues. The band’s album Rahbar Nameh includes 10 songs dealing with rampant corruption, poverty, and the miserable human conditions in present-day Iran. The lyrics consist mainly of street language set to heavy metal music.
Mr. Rahbary and several other Iranian artists collaborated on another recent album titled “Homanity.”
Kayhan Life recently interviewed Arash Rahbary to find out more about Khunestan.
You are the producer of Khunestan. Where did the idea come from, and how was it developed?
There has always been a direct connection between my work and events in Iran. Every rock group’s mission is to address social issues.
With all due respect to Iranian artists, many of them these days claim to be “neutral” and avoid getting involved with issues affecting our country. It is, however, unclear what they mean by impartial. Do they mean not taking sides in the [clash] between the public and those who do not care about the people?
Tarantist and I have always reacted to events in Iran. We addressed the recent heart-wrenching episodes. We immediately contacted our friend and prominent Iranian poet Mehdi Mousavi. He sent us a poem right away.
We were also very fortunate to have my good friend, Mr. Sattar, an Iranian music icon, helping us with the project. He is the captain of our football team. Mr. Sattar agreed to work on the project right away.
Mr. Sattar has always taken a clear and decisive stance on issues concerning Iran. It is an honor to work with Mr. Sattar on any project because, to become an icon, a person must have extraordinary qualities. Being a consummate professional has made him a cultural symbol.
Ms. Rana Mansour also joined us. We were hoping for other artists to take part in the project, but unfortunately, it did not happen.
You also produced a project titled “Homanity,” which included a group of Iranian artists. Could you tell us about it?
I was privileged to produce that successful project. Several artists with differing styles worked on that project. Contrasting disciplines and tastes become unimportant when dealing with humanity. We must unite in our efforts in this area. We must put aside our differences when dealing with human issues.
Heavy metal, rap, rock, and pop artists accompanied Sattar in this project. Besides Tarantist, other groups and musicians worked on this album, including Kiosk, Nikita, Justina, Shaya, Behrouz, Bardiya, and Freya.
Mehdi Mousavi and Fatemeh Ekhtesari recite their poems on this album. Many of Mousavi’s and Ms. Ekhtesari’s poems have been put to music in the past.
Music can play a significant role in voicing people’s demands. Greek and Chilean artists helped to highlight the plight of their people before the establishment of democracy in those countries. Why haven’t our artists been as active in this area in the past four decades?
I’m thrilled you’ve brought this up, Mr. Rafat. Getting artists to collaborate on a project can be more challenging than liberating Iran. Each artist has their particular discipline, taste, and style. However, I don’t understand why some give greater importance to their personal agenda than to events in Iran.
Rock music has always played a pivotal role in highlighting social issues. We ignore this power and do not use it effectively. Speaking from personal experience, I have seen many artists give priority to their own interests — such as being invited to perform at weddings, birthday celebrations, circumcisions — rather than taking a stance and supporting people.
We must clarify this so-called “neutrality.” What is the position of these dear artists, who claim to be “impartial” and apolitical, regarding the system that oppresses, brutalizes, and kills the people? Are they standing in the middle and waiting to see which direction the wind blows?
We ask them to clarify their position and decide whether they stand with or against the people.