By Ahmad Rafat
Kiosk is one of the best-known and most popular Iranian rock bands in the world. The group recently released their ninth album, “Stereo Tull Presents,” with tracks composed by singer-songwriter Arash Sobhani (who is also a San Francisco-based architect).
It’s the story of underground music in Iran in the early years of the Revolution – a time in which an isolated Iran offered limited access to global music. The album is also a tribute to Kamran Mellat, the distributor of Iranian underground rock music, who was arrested after ten active years on the music scene, and who spent time in prison.
“Stereo Tull was the name of the organization that circulated and distributed illegal music in Iran in the 1960s and ‘70s,” Sobhani recalled in an interview with Kayhan London. “The label was chosen by Kamran Mellat, who started the organization and was a fan of the British rock group Jethro Tull.”
“There was no Internet or satellite during those years, and global music was distributed by a handful of people in Iran. Kamran Mellat’s Stereo Tull was without a doubt the most well organized of them all. For ten years, this organization provided the youth and music enthusiasts of Iran with the latest international rock music. We would all save money to buy the latest rock tapes from Kamran Mellat’s trusted Stereo Tull middlemen, who operated in every neighbourhood. Then the Revolutionary Guards arrested and jailed Kamran and set his archives on fire.”
Sobhani said he realized, years later, “that the door Kamran Mellat had kept open on the world and his careful and fastidious selection of music during those years had had a great impact on the music that I liked and continue to like today. Kamran Mellat introduced me to the albums that still resonate with me today.”
After years of searching, Sobhani was able to locate Mellat: The music distributor had left Iran after his release from prison and was living in Germany (where he still lives).
Kiosk’s new album is a result of his conversations with Kamran Mellat over the last few years. The album includes phrases that are actually read by Kamran Mellat himself. In one of these, Kamran Mellat says: “Let’s keep Tehran alive.”
How much effort is put into keeping Tehran alive nowadays? “I believe that the motivation, enthusiasm and fortitude we witnessed in Kamran Mellat during those years is less visible now. Today, music can be downloaded via the Internet, or listened to via satellite. Of course, there are still bands in Iran that encounter problems because of their music every day. But there is no comparison with those years.”
Sobhani noted that during the dark and doom-laden 1980s, when Iran was at war with Iraq, “men like Kamran Mellat kept alive a city where the morale of the people was shattered in every respect. I do not see that fighter mentality anywhere today.”
A collection of Sobhani’s interviews was published by H&S Media two years ago in “Kiosk: An interview: Goftegoo Ba Arash Sobhani.”
Kiosk – Stereo Tull Presents: [soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/playlists/252669299″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]