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Bahador Kharazmi: Prince of the Underground

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For over 3000 years Iran has nurtured a rich musical culture, from Zoroastrian, Sufi and Tazieh music to symphonic classical to contemporary pop music. The progression of musical creativity came to an end in 1979, after the Islamic revolution, when all production, promotion and distribution of music were deemed haram (un-Islamic) by the government. However since President Khatami orchestrated a cultural revival, easing the restrictions on producing and promoting domestic pop music in the late 1990's, an underground scene has taken shape.

Bahador Kharazmi, a music producer and singer/songwriter, formerly based in the capital Tehran, and now in the US, has become Prince of the underground. Since the release of his first album Too In Zamoone in 2003, his popularity has grown exponentially at home and abroad. It's thanks to his galvanizing digital media that earned Bahador a record contract with Avang Music. Along with this, Bahador is pretty savvy at working other aspects of digital media to his advantage, such as creating yahoo forums, groups etc, to get his music more exposure.

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Photo by Behshid Kharazmi

Bahador was born into a family fuelled by a musical passion "my grandpa was a decent classical violin player" he says "and my father encouraged me to follow his lead, but truth to be told I never made it to be a good violin player." Growing up in Tehran during the 90's, pop music was hard to come by "at the time music tapes and CD's were not easily available in Tehran, and we could only buy low quality cassettes on the black market. I had a good ear for music since childhood, and even a movie soundtrack could keep my mind busy for a month like Harry Belafonte's Banana boat song in Beetle juice. but through 1993 to 1998 it all changed in a blink of an eye when people switched to using analogue satellites. And that sacred awesome satellite thing opened my eyes and ears to a colourful world of non-stop music and videos. Backstreet boys, Spice girls, Boyzone, Usher, N Sync and many more. It meant the world to me to be able to hear the music that people of my age were listening to openly and unconditionally."

The advance of digital has brought musicians within Iran increased exposure and a new tool to create music, as Bahador says "in short that is "the only" method that you can get heard and find a way to promote your music. For fellows like me who are not lawfully permitted by the ministry of Ershad to work in Iran, digital media is the only platform that you can still get the word out. For me it all started off by the concept of making yahoo networking groups where you could find the chance to get in touch with your fans and somehow make a virtual fan group online. After that came the golden age of blogging which you could find the chance to learn about the comments of your audience. Briefly, I would say digital media is the reason why we are still working today."

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Photo by Behshid Kharazmi

All artists have their epiphany moment, when they realise "YES! That's what I want to do with my life" but for Bahador, keeping in mind the climate in Iran at the time, it came in a completely different form "I was 15 when I, for the first time, heard this killer statement "we really dig your music" and it gives you something special, an endless joyful feeling that nothing in this world compares to, especially when you are doing it in a situation which is against all the odds. But it never happened to me "for certain". At the time you couldn't be so certain about doing something which was not well-received by the authorities of the country you are living in. It was more like a conflict, should I be doing this? Would I be able to make a living out of something which is not lawfully permitted? Will I be able to freely promote the sound, style and music that I really want?"

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Photo by Behshid Kharazmi

The future looks good for Bahador, as he continues to create new sounds and amass more interest at home and abroad "since the beginning my ultimate goal was to become an international singer/songwriter and producer. I tried to get the best out of each opportunity I might be given. To give you a little hint about one of my biggest top secrets, I've been working under another name for years now. But long story short, my future project is to sing the anthem song of the 2014 world cup, I know it's a bit funny, but at least no one can stop you from dreaming about what you love."