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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 December 2004, 18:17 GMT
Iran's self-styled rapping aristocrat
Frances Harrison
By Frances Harrison
BBC correspondent in Tehran

Dapper rapper Shahkar Binesh-Pajouh
Shahkar's lyrics deride the new rich of Tehran
Iran has only one official rap musician, dubbed the Dapper Rapper for his smart suits and elegant lifestyle - a far cry from the radical music of the ghetto streets of the US where rap was born.

Shahkar Binesh-Pajouh uses rap music mixed with Persian classical poetry in order to criticise poverty, unemployment, and the chi-chi women of Tehran wearing too much make-up under their chiffon headscarves.

If the style is radical, the message is deeply conservative.

"I am criticising the nouveaux riches who have no taste," says Shahkar.

"If a guy is driving a BMW without having the culture that goes with driving a BMW, he is still a village man, but he just has more money than before."

Hair gel

"The problem is in Iranian society, social classes are all mixed up and not as clear cut as before the revolution," says Shahkar.

One of Shahkar's lyrics goes: "She spends all day in the hairdresser, out partying till midnight, puts on loads of make-up, eats pizza and more than anything else she cares about her lipstick and lip liner."

Anyone who can whistle thinks he's Beethoven these days
Lyric by Shahkar Binesh-Pajouh
Shahkar's songs make fun of Tehran's elite - and not just the women.

Men are criticised for spending hours in front of the mirror fixing their hair gel and then cruising around in sports cars. The satire seems to work well.

"The same young people listen to my music and they all laugh and think I am making fun of someone else - not them," says Shahkar.

Classical rock

It took four years to produce an album - getting clearance from the censors and having to cut several songs.

Woman at a ski resort in Iran
Would the Dapper Rapper approve? Probably not
"It kills you as an artist," says Shahkar.

But his album has sold well. Music shop owner and critic Babak Chamanara says musicians in Iran have to be cautious in order to survive.

He points out the revival of music in Iran is very new, because almost all singing was banned after the revolution.

"Rock music is supposed to be something revolutionary or anti-establishment, but here we put our classical poets like Hafez to rock music," says Babak.

"It's the same with rap - just the style is being imitated."

'Too fast'

At the Beethoven music shop, the customers have all heard of Shahkar's music, but they're not great fans.

"I think it's not bad - it's a new approach... it's OK, but generally I don't like rap," says Reza.

His companion Azadeh is even less enthusiastic, saying she doesn't like rap as it's "too fast" and "not soothing enough".

"In Iran still, people don't know what rap is and I think even Shahkar's album Eskenas is not really rap," says Arash Vatankha who believes Shahkar's music is more pop than rap.

"Anyone who can whistle thinks he's Beethoven these days," says one of Shahkar's songs, making fun of corner shop owners and gardeners becoming musicians overnight.

In his affluent north Tehran apartment and his smart designer clothes, Shahkar says he doesn't have to live like a rapper to sing rap.

He's managed to turn the genre on its head - packaging aristocratic values in a subversive music style.

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