Youth grappling with economic, cultural hurdles in modern Iran

Youth grappling with economic, cultural hurdles in modern Iran

Tehran, Iran – Frank Sinatra’s performance of the 1944 song I Fall in Love to Easily made it an American jazz standard.

In a dimly lit studio in downtown Tehran 75 years later, Azin Elahi sings it is an act of youthful rebellion.

The 19-year-old dreams of a career as a vocalist on the big stage. But in Iran, where the sound of a solo female singing voice violates strict Islamic codes of conduct governing public life, stealing moments of freedom in private spaces and behind closed doors may be the closest she gets. 

“For a female vocalist in Iran, it is not just about [a woman singing in public] being illegal. The society doesn’t recognise you,” said Elahi.

“My entire life, I wanted to sing. It’s like breathing for me. I can’t do anything else. But as a [professional] or an artist, you are not recognised, especially if you want to sing.” 

The social stigma attached to the public act of singing, being a woman, can be as insurmountable an obstacle as the country’s Islamic laws, she added.

“We have so many talents here. The thing I want to say in the end is if you feel it in your heart, go for it and don’t let anyone or any religion or anything push you away.”

Despite her ambition, Elahi and her four bandmates acknowledge that American jazz does not fit the public image in Iran, and realising their musical dreams may mean leaving home. 

They were all born two generations after the 1979 revolution and the Islamic Republic is the only Iran they’ve ever known. According to a 2013 study by the United Nations and the University of Tehran, a third of Iran’s population are aged between 15 and 29.

But many young people like them often speak nostalgically of a more liberal time before the revolution, an Iran they’ve never experienced.

But the sound of music from small corners of the capital is a reminder that despite the conservative public face of the Islamic Republic of Iran – 40 years after the 1979 revolution – a diversity of perspectives still manages to coexist in the country.

source: Al Jazeera

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