THE WORK of Mim Rasouli, a musician based mostly close to Tehran, is wealthy in Persian and Western influences. In “Fastalgia”, one among his best-known tunes, Mr Rasouli mashes up songs by Seyyed Javad Zabihi, a muezzin from the time of the shah; Mohammad Reza Shajarian, one among Iran’s best cultural treasures; Archive, an alt-rock band based mostly in London; and Arms and Sleepers, a trip-hop group from Boston. The result’s a dreamy, nostalgic monitor meant to evoke a time when the Ramadan quick started with Zabihi’s name to prayer and the iftar, or fast-breaking night meal, was accompanied by Shajarian’s thundering voice.
Zabihi was murdered two years after the revolution of 1979; earlier than he died final yr Shajarian boycotted state radio to indicate help for pro-democracy protesters. Listeners can nonetheless stream their music on Spotify and comparable companies. However “Fastalgia” itself shouldn’t be out there. Neither is the rest by Mr Rasouli, or certainly any Iranian musicians dwelling and dealing in Iran.
The reason being easy. Sanctions stop Western firms from participating in industrial relationships with Iranian entities or people. Mr Rasouli (pictured) says he would like to be on Spotify (itself not formally out there in Iran), however as an alternative places his music on-line for nothing. His songs could be discovered on his private web site, YouTube, SoundCloud, Telegram and Navahang, a Persian-music streaming service. “I didn’t select them,” Mr Rasouli says of this final outlet. Moderately, after Navahang started posting his music of its personal accord, he despatched it extra. He receives no fee in trade.
Based mostly in Finland, Navahang was arrange in 2015 by Siavash Danesh, a refugee, with an app in-built India. With roughly 2m customers, it’s a small outfit that focuses on the Iranian underground scene and feminine artists. The service is free; registration shouldn’t be required. It carries promoting, however its dimension, and the truth that many listeners are in unprofitable Iran, imply revenues are modest.
To outlive, Navahang flips the normal enterprise mannequin of streaming. “Not like different companies like Spotify the place you’re getting subscriptions and paying artists,” says Mr Danesh, “we get cash from the artists themselves.” Since Iran shouldn’t be a signatory to assorted copyright treaties, platforms like Navahang can use some Iranian work with out paying. Many musicians, together with Mr Rasouli, are delighted with the publicity. These within the diaspora who need Navahang to advertise them, for instance on the homepage, pay for the privilege. Navahang additionally produces music for some Persian artists based mostly exterior Iran. Mr Danesh reckons 90% of its earnings comes from these two sources.
Navahang is a comparatively new entrant on the Persian-music streaming scene. The largest and best-known service is Radio Javan, arrange in Washington, DC in 2004. Its app has been downloaded greater than 5m occasions on Google’s Play Retailer, many greater than Navahang’s. Operating a service geared toward Iranians is dear, confirms Hamed Hashemi, Radio Javan’s founder. Not solely are most customers in Iran, however the lack of copyright safety cuts each methods. His firm has a manufacturing arm, too, however it’s arduous to pursue claims when its music is bootlegged in Iran. Radio Javan alighted on the identical technique as Navahang. “We’re a promotional firm,” says Mr Hashemi. “We promote music.”
Consider it as focused promoting. Persian musicians wish to attain Persian-speaking listeners to safe document offers and gig bookings, in Tehran or elsewhere. The probability of being found or making a lot cash on a mainstream service—Spotify carries over 1m artists and pays a fraction of a cent per stream—is low. For musicians in Iran, it’s not possible. Paying for promotion on Navahang or Radio Javan is a strategy to attain the precise viewers.
However the advantages go wider. Iranian artists have lengthy engaged with abroad music, as Mr Rasouli’s exhibits. Free Persian streaming companies let the curious in the remainder of the world uncover tradition originating in Iran. “As an artist, I like my work being seen and heard,” says Mr Rasouli. The rewards, he provides, are religious slightly than materials. ■
This text appeared within the Books & arts part of the print version beneath the headline “Stream of consciousness”