Session 3: A Sociological Take on Rap Music in Iran

Guest Speaker: Payam Pilvar (Ph.D. candidate in Interdisciplinary Research in Music, University of Ottawa)

AUGUST 25th, 2022


Music is not limited to tunes and rhythms that we hear daily on radio, TV, the internet, etc. Behind every musical event, there are social relations between the individuals who make that music on the one hand, and people who listen to and are impacted by those tunes and rhythms on the other. From half a century ago, a great number of sociologists and scholars in the field of art have noticed this connection between art, human and society which led to the creation of various fields and disciplines such as sociology of art and ethnomusicology in the Western universities. In Iran however, the hegemony of romanticism between the artists who believe that art is the innate characteristic of the gifted artists prevents the organic formation of a relationship between art and humanities. Meanwhile, the grassroots, underground hip-hop sub-culture emerged from the streets of the major cities in Iran and quickly spread among Iranian youngsters in every corner of the country. Hip-hop and its subcategories rap and graffiti became the bridge between the artforms and the social issues of the people who were producing or consuming them. At first, these forms of artistic expressions were ignored by other artists and sociologists but hip-hop reached such an extent level of influence and audience attraction that it cannot be ignored anymore.

In this session, by having a quick overview of the emergence and the development of rap music in Iran, we try to understand the impactful role and the importance of this music genre in today’s Iranian society. Also, we talk about how and why the thinkers in the fields of humanities and social sciences can have a more profound understanding of Iranian society by studying this cultural phenomenon.

Meeting report 

Payam’s presentation centered on the key concepts explaining the sociology of music, rap music history and its genealogy in Iran, categories and characteristics of Iranian Rap Music and its modes of appraisal and problematic. Payam shared a few samples from selected Rappers such as Amir Tataloo, Devee and others to illustrate the unique attributes of Rap music influence in Iran. In the Q&A section, questions were raised in terms of the ontology and appraisal characteristics defining this genre and if they could be considered valid. In addition, the class and gender dynamics surrounding this popular form of presentation and music were dissected with varying views among audience. In the end, in addition to a few more references, Payam defended the position of critiquing and extolling a specific types of rap musicians (Yas, Hich Kas, Bahram…) against the others (Amir Tataloo, hossein Tohi,…) and the criteria that could be employed for that purpose.