As (almost) always, we started with a short film. Some of the shorts are more thematic than others, and this was one of the some. Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci (pronounced “monkey”) is a promo film covering a more-or-less well known Welsh band of the same name. The band spends the majority of the film insisting 1) that despite their name they don’t do a lot of drugs, and 2) that the “Gorky” in their name has nothing at all to do with the Soviet author Maxim Gorky or his namesake park. Neither insistence is particularly compelling. What portion of the film isn’t made up of interviews with the band members is basically made up of a live performance of one of their “hits” – Poodle Rockin’.
The main vocal exploits of Poodle Rockin’ mainly consists of the lead singer, well, barking like a poodle. Let’s just say that the Welsh government (or U.K., whoever has the appropriate jurisdiction) might have been well advised to have taken a few policy precedents from the Iranians. Happily, the Mynci split up in 2006 after a 15-year run, never again to unleash their music upon the world.
The feature presentation was in many ways a polar opposite of the short. Whereas the members of GZM rightly deserved to be arrested for their music which was nonetheless tolerated by a Western government, the bands profiled in No One Knows About Persian Cats (directed by Bahman Ghobadi) generally deserved recognition rather than oppression from the government in Iran.
No One Knows About Persian Cats is a semi-documentary, which tacks a scripted story line onto a documentary view of underground western music in Iran. The story line is, frankly, unimportant. It follows Negar and Ashkan, two members of the band Human Jungle who are attempting to secure forged passports in order to travel and play a show in Europe. They have a fast-talking agent who brings them around Tehran on a tour of local underground bands as they try to recruit new band members.
What is important is that western music is officially illegal in Iran. The bands they go to see can be, and in many cases have been, arrested for simply playing their music in the privacy of their own homes. As such, the film (banned in Iran, of course) is a daring nose-thumbing at the government for which the bands portrayed could face criminal consequences. I’m not sure what could be more important than that.
Rather than review the thin plot, I think this week deserves more of a look at the music itself, through the magic of YouTube.
This is Hichkas performing Ekhtelaf, a biting rap song digging into the heart of Tehran.
Here we have Mirza and his ripping, gravelly voice performing Emshab.
Next is Nikaein shredding out Hasar Na, a speed metal number that could be straight off of Master Of Puppets, if James Hetfield could sing in Farsi.
The Yellow Dogs do a song called New Century with a ’90s grunge feel and a Smashing Pumpkinesque vocal.
Here we have Human Jungle doing their song Take It Easy Hospital which kind of bothers me (I despise Negar’s harmonies), but hey, they’re the stars of the film so I have to include them…
Finally, we have Hamed Behdad Darkub singing DK, an entrancing mixture of east and west.
The film ends with a reference to a real event, where Ashkan, attempting to escape a police raid at a party, falls from an upper story window. Ashkan is shown being rushed to the hospital, his fate uncertain. In the real life story, the young man died – the ultimate commitment to his art.