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Last Updated: Monday, 13 December, 2004, 12:02 GMT
Iran's first pop revolutionaries
Guitarist and singer Ali playing guitar (picture by Afshin Dehkordi)
Tens of thousands of Iranians have attended Arian concerts

Iranian musicians have often faced immense challenges in getting their work heard in their own country.

After the country's Islamic revolution in 1979 it was made a criminal offence to own or play pop music and women were banned from singing in public.

But one group is trying to change that.

Arian is the first officially sanctioned mixed gender pop group to come out of Iran.

The nine-piece band have permission to play, to tour and to publish their music in their native country and are now touring Europe to spread the message of their music abroad.

In the process, they have opened the door for other Iranian bands.

Finding happiness

Speaking to the BBC's World Service programme The Ticket, main guitarist and singer Ali said they had experienced problems over Iran's strict Islamic beliefs and religious sensitivities in their attempts to reach a wider audience.

You go to Iranian movies and all you see is misery, nothing else, we wanted to show the real Iran
Guitarist Ali
"We needed some very smart management for this, we had to go step by step," he said.

"For example, we started by playing at places where the permission of central offices of the ministry of culture was not required and step by step we have grown.

"Now, everything has changed. The belief of the people changed after the Iran-Iraq war, young people needed something else to be happy.

Guitarist Sharareh smiles at a 2002 concert in Dubai
Arian have played to audiences across the Middle East - such as this concert in Dubai
"That's why the government wanted to find a space for them and I think the best way was pop music."

The band remembers the ecstatic reception at their first live public appearance in the Iranian capital, Tehran.

"Our live performances changed [after that]... they got better and better and now we have very successful performances - too many people come, 50,000 or even 100,000!" Ali said.

Responsibility

At one point the band sold more than 54,000 tickets to one of their concerts in less than six hours.

Band members at a performance  (picture by Afshin Dehkordi)
The band say they wanted people to hear and see "the real Iran"
Ali puts this popularity in their native country down to timing.

"There was nothing like this in Iran [before] and people were frustrated," he says.

"Now we have a responsibility, we should be better and introduce ourselves all over the world."

"If you go to Iranian movies all you see is misery - nothing else. People think Iran is like this - everything is a desert, all the people are crying..."

"We wanted to show the real Iran."




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