Alan Kushan


The minorities in Iran

Posted on March 23, 2010 at 10:45 AM

 Laalezaar Street

The Qajar king Mozafaredin Shah ordered the construction of a replica of Paris’ Champs-Elysées in Teheran.

This later came to be known as"Laalezaar Street", whose small theatres were to become the centre of artistic activity for musicians and other artists.

Among these was a favourite haunt for many musicians, the "Kaffe-Kabbareh" (Café Cabaret), a second-rate cheap imitation cabaret-theatre in the European tradition.

This idea alone, however, exposed many Iranians to a more accessible, "Westernized" artistic endeavour, and this lasted right up to the period of the late Shah, hence well into the late 1970s.

The seartistic activities were considered to belong to Iranian "high society", and were culturally "Western".

Despite the fact that what was consumed of the Western tradition was its superficial side, the art of music and musical activity in general, which had hitherto been viewed disparagingly as shameful and "low-born", was gradually gaining inrespectability, with the welcome upshot that young Iranians now dared to contemplate some semblance of a musical career.

Nevertheless, this having been said, there still exists a fair amount of prejudice and irreverence towards musicians and artists in general, and this is largely due, alas, to Iran’s lost cultural legacy.

The minorities in Iran

Many minorities, such as those of Jewish, Zoroastrian or Armenian origin, were regarded as "infidels" or "unclean", and were generally despised and condemned,even though they were flourishing in the arts and cultivating many artistic activities, such as instrument-making, teaching music, dance and singing.

Seeing as society at large suffered from poverty and disease, these artists were forced to live the life of the underdog and work at whatever jobs were available to make ends meet, whilst at the same time they were to remain, in their capacity as "entertainers", at the beck-and-call of the so-called "high-class" society we have had occasion to mention earlier.

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