Iranian blues and jazz bands find fans in Tehran

DUBAI (Reuters) – Behzad Omrani grew up in Tehran, in a home to the sound of his father’s record collection – mostly American Country & Western twangs and twirls.

Years later, he formed Bomrani, one of the first country-blues groups in the Islamic Republic, and one of the few groups to start disrupting the local music scene with performances away from the rhythms. traditional Iranian.

“I really like Johnny Cash, Muddy Waters, Bob Dylan, John Denver, BB King, Gogol Bordello, Eric Clapton and Roger Waters,” the 29-year-old told Reuters by phone from the Iranian capital.

His father brought his records back from his studies in Tennessee. The distinctive gruff voice of Omrani and his six-piece group had now carried these influences to the stages of Tehran, a tremendous achievement in a country where some once called America the “Great Satan.”

The five-member group Pallett enjoyed similar success with their more jazzy fusions of clarinet, cello and double bass.

The musical styles of both groups are a refreshing alternative to the generic pop popping up in other parts of the music scene. But the subject matter of their songs is less likely to shake up Islamic State traditionalists.

“A Thousand Tales,” one of Pallett’s most popular songs, is imbued with images of soldiers and revolutionaries, evoking memories of the eight-year war between Iran and Iraq.

“The brother is covered in blood. The brother will rise, like the sun in a house, ”sings the leader Omid Nemati.

Fan Sarah Nasiri said the song brought back images from her childhood. “He brings those dark years back to life. In many ways, we lost our childhood to the war, ”said the young woman, whose brother served in the war as a pilot.

Pallett’s songs appear on Spotify and iTunes, but group co-founder Rouzbeh Esfandarmaz said he was unsure who was selling the royalties to use the songs or would make money from them.

“We don’t have any money and we don’t even know who is selling them … Whoever it is, I hope they get what they deserve!” he joked. They have to make money the old fashioned way at home, selling 60,000 copies of their first CD, “Mr. Violet”.

Reporting by Michelle Moghtader; Editing by Sami Aboudi, Michael Roddy and Andrew Heavens

Ada J. Kenney