The arrest comes in the wake of the anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s death in custody and the following protests that shook Iranian society.
Last 28th of August, Mehdi Yarrahi was arrested for releasing a new piece of music. In the song, titled “Roosarito” (meaning ‘your headscarf ‘), the singer blasts the government’s hijab law and with the release the singer wanted to show support for his country’s women and their fight for equality.
Yarrahi was accused on two accounts, one for “publishing obscene and vulgar content” and “encouraging public to immorality and depravity,” and the other for “propaganda against the establishment.”
International human rights organisations have condemned the Iranian government for these actions taken against the artist and demanded his immediate release.
In the beginning of his career Yarrahi made anything but protest music, in fact he got famous for composing and singing for the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB).
But after seeing the injustice his people faced, from water shortages to air quality to bad living conditions, Yarrahi began shifting his creative work to address social issues in his country. For which he has since received much backlash and now official arrest.
The creative sector is considered to be one of the fastest growing economies around the world, yet it remains, according to some, an “untapped source” when it comes to solving the world’s greatest problems.
This Saturday, September 16th, people will not only be marching in México to celebrate the country’s independence but across the border, in New York City, artists and cultural workers will stride from Times Square down to Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, across the street from the United Nations.
The event is managed by Create2030, an artist-led initiative founded by Emmy award winning filmmaker, Lisa Russell. The initiative is an international network of artists and storytellers who use their voices and platforms to support the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The march will start in Times Square, where a stage will be set for speakers and artists to perform (one of whom is Nejma Nefertiti whom we at Shouts have interviewed more than once).
Nejma will, besides speaking, debut an acapella version of her new piece, “WetheArtists! and you get a chance to be in her music video.
“It’s important to care about all struggles that are going on in the world, whether it’s close to you or not. It’s crucial to care about all children, not just your own. This is a unique and grand opportunity to evolve our world. Musicians have always played a part in that. Voices are being amplified as they should. Musicians reflect the times and are often ahead. I can’t speak for all musicians, because there’s a wide range of consciousness out there, but the musicians I know and love are fighting for justice, truth, and freedom.”
– Nejma Nefertiti
Event speakers will present a list of demands written in consultation with the artistic community and address issues such as unpaid labor, lack of representation, neglect of intellectual property rights, poor leadership choices and more.
WHERE: Times Square to UN (New York, US) WHEN: 16th of September 2023 from 3-7 pm.
On June 25, Uzbek rapper Sharif Abdullaev, who goes by the pseudonym Konsta, created headlines by releasing a new song called “Xavo” (Air). In it, Konsta raises the issue of environmental degradation caused by deforestation, development projects, and air pollution in Uzbekistan’s capital Tashkent. The rapper complains in the song that he is unable “to take a deep breath,” the city feels “like a cage,” and everything “white has turned grey.” Konsta notes that the root cause of these problems are humans, who behave like pests and have gotten used to cutting down trees, instead of planting them.
Here is a music video of the song “Xavo.”
“Xavo” is one of Konsta’s many songs produced in the genre of music he calls “conscious rap”. Konsta’s songs focus on Uzbek society, its problems, and the role of each individual in unfolding events. His source of inspiration is his personal experience of working at a bazaar in his hometown of Guliston in eastern Uzbekistan and being migrant labour in Russia.
Around two million Uzbek citizens work as migrant labour in Russia, where they are often subjected to discrimination and harassment by law enforcement bodies. Konsta’s songs are all in Uzbek, although he admits that he could have been more popular if he continued to write songs in Russian. “My life is incomprehensible to Russians. Our world is Uzbek,” said, Konsta explaining his decision to write songs in Uzbek in an interview with Gazeta.uz, one of the biggest media outlets in Uzbekistan.
Here is the full video of Konsta’s interview with Gazeta.uz.
In his most viewed song on YouTube “Odamlar nima deydi?” (What will people say?), Konsta tackles the country’s social issue where many feel the need to seek public approval for their personal life decisions. Konsta describes parents’ disapproval of their children’s unconventional professional choices and the pressure they exert on daughters to tolerate domestic violence and not to divorce, due to fear of social stigma.
Here is a music video of the song “Odamlar nima deydi”.
In another song related to social pressure titled “To’y” (Wedding), Konsta appears as an ordinary Uzbek man who spent all the money he saved while working as migrant labour in Russia and got into debt to organize an extravagant, large wedding. His next move is to return to Russia and continue working as migrant labour to pay off his debt. Through this song, Konsta brings light to the tradition of organizing lavish weddings most people in Uzbekistan cannot afford, forcing them to go into debt.
Here is a music video of the song “To’y”.
Konsta also reacts to political scandals in the country. On March 6, he released a song called “Sariq jiletka” (Yellow vest) in response to the news that the authorities were planning to force pedestrians, schoolchildren, and bikers to wear light-reflecting jackets at night to prevent car accidents. The Ministry of Interior rolled back its plans after a public backlash. In the song, Konsta appears as a corrupt official who came up with this idea, so he can make money on the sale of vests and go to the Maldives on vacation.
Here is a music video of the song “Sariq jiletka”.
Konsta stands out in the sea of Uzbek singers for his creativity and for tackling social and political issues. His conscious rap is a mirror where Uzbek society can see its struggles.