Tehran's Forbidden Techno-Pop Voice


In Iran, women are not allowed to sing solo when men are present. But, it says here, "With most female singing forbidden by Iranian authorities, aggravated young Iranians (and there are many . . .) are tuning nowadays in to a mysterious voice that, according to them, symbolizes the notion of 'freedom.'"

That would be the enigmatic techno-pop diva known as DJ Maryam, who has apparently inspired a cult that mixes celebrity and music martyrdom. According to reporter Shahla Azizi, the basic myth is that the authorities caught her singing at a party, took her away and have been holding her since. In some versions of the tale, authorities cut out her tongue; in others, they pulled out her teeth. Sometimes she has a wealthy father, but no amount of money can free her.

Not so, says DJ Maryam, who was interviewed on BBC Persian [Farsi link] radio in October. Writes Azizi, "She told BBC that she is in fact an 18-year-old 'moloodi' (religious/mystic music) singer who only performs for women. She complained that her music had been recorded and disseminated without her permission, and that rumors of her arrest were unfounded. Although she sings and dances to techno-pop, she says, she is a devout Muslim who would never perform in front of a mixed audience. She likes this genre of music because it has movement in it, and that is what is needed for progress."

What's her real name? "'My name is Mahshar,'" she told the BBC, "'daughter of the sun and the earth and sister of water and air.'"

Maryam's/Mahshar's fans interpreted the interview their own way, according to Azizi: that she was forced to say what she did. Added one such fan: "She is one of us—just listen to her."

You can listen to her here, and read about Iran's Dapper Rapper here.