“Freedom is the least I want“, Meshkat says to me, stepping towards the microphone, singing one of her own original English songs.
We are at an illegal jam session in a private flat somewhere in the north of Tehran. Meshkat is a female vocalist, twenty-seven years of age, but she is not actually free to sing. In Iran women are not allowed to sing in public by law, because their voices could “arouse sexual feeling in men “, at least according to leading religious teachers in Iran. Violations can be punished by fine, prison or even lashes.
Nevertheless, there are women in Iran who are ambitious, even professional, vocalists. I accompanied some of them to concerts, illegal jam sessions, studio gigs, to music lessons and visited them at home. I am a musician myself; I went to the conservatory to study the electric bass.
It was hard for me to imagine my profession being forbidden by state law. With this personal identification I was approaching the subject.
But this is about more than just music. The female vocalists are a symbol of young, slowly changing society for me, being in a constant conflict between tradition and modernism. A society in which a static construct of religion and state is opposing the constant, dynamic change of globalization.
They stand for the search of a new hybrid cultural identity.
All images and text © Stephan Lucka
By Stephan Lucka
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