Sunday, October 16, 2005

The songs that bomb in Teheran's hit parade

Colin Freeman, The Telegraph UK:
He has the standard accoutrements of many a Middle Eastern crooner: black leather jacket, slicked-back hair and a maudlin line in balladeering.

But now the Iranian singer Nima Mashiha, author of the hit album Silver Night, has switched his attentions from the power of love to the power of the atom with a brand-new song in praise of his country's controversial nuclear ambitions.

Yet Fruit of Science, a strings-driven ode to fission, is not guaranteed the No 1 place in the Teheran hit parade, despite its patriotic tone. The reason is the heavy competition from similar ditties: Nuclear Know-How, for example, by Reza Shirazi, Sun of Glory by Amir Tajik, and Oriental Sun, Nuclear Science by Ali Tafreshi, with its rousing military-style marching music.

The clutch of songs, which extol the "great and powerful Iran" and denounce "arrogant foreign oppressors", are part of a media blitz backed by the country's all-powerful mullahs to drum up support for their increasingly acrimonious confrontation with the West over Iran's atomic programme. READ MORE

Five-minute adverts extolling the work of nuclear scientists are being aired on national television, while on the streets of Teheran, demonstrations have been organised denouncing foreign calls to abandon the programme.

Last month the International Atomic Energy Agency warned Iran that it would be referred to the United Nations Security Council unless it stopped research into nuclear technology that could have military applications. On Friday, Iran's foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, said Teheran was ready to resume talks on the issue but insisted that sensitive aspects of the research would continue.

The television adverts are also designed to counter the growing unease among ordinary Iranians that the country's increasingly confrontational stance is courting economic meltdown. Teheran's stock market fell sharply in June after the election of the hardline president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and has fallen by a third since last month's IAEA resolution because of the nervousness of outside investors.

The country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has also stoked up support for the programme by drawing parallels with the bitter battles Iran fought for control of its oil revenues against British and American interests in the 1950s.

When Iran's nationalist prime minister, Mohammed Mossadegh, attempted to nationalise the foreign-owned Anglo-Iranian oil company in 1954, his action precipitated the CIA- and MI6-backed coup that replaced him with the pro-Western Shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.

Ayatollah Khamenei - whose predecessor, Ayatollah Khomeini, deposed the Shah in 1979 - has repeatedly emphasised that foreign "imperialists" should no longer interfere with Iran's energy needs.

Whatever the efforts of Iran's patriotic-minded musicians, however, there is unlikely to be much demand for a "greatest hits" album of pro-nuclear songs. "Most of them are absolute dirges," said Ali Reza, a part-time musician.