Among the long forgotten or unrecognized artists who are rediscovered these days, a figure in particular stands out by the quality of its music and the diversity of its hits and catchy riffs. Kourosh Yaghmaei, singer, guitarist and songwriter, is a pioneer of the 70’s pop-rock in Iran. Sometimes named the « king of persian psychedelic rock », his songs embody with some nostalgia the time before the Iranian Revolution of 1979.
SUCCESS, CENSORSHIP & REDISCOVERY
Kourosh Yaghmaei was born in 1946 in Shahroud, in the north of Iran. He takes his first steps in music from the age of ten with learning the santour, an traditional Iranian instrument at the crossroads of the zither and the piano. However, it is with the electric guitar, symbol of the western rock, that Kourosh really thrives through the inspiration of bands heard on the American radio, then established in Iran. Rocked by the Beatles, the Kinks or the Ventures, he starts his own band while he is still at university.
He then pursues his passion with his two brothers, and soon releases the first songs that will give him an indisputable recognition within the emerging wave of Iranian rock ; he thus creates its place among the big stars of the time, such as Googoosh or Viguen. In 1974, his first album « Gole Yakh » (« Ice flower ») and the eponymous song become the biggest success of his career.
The Revolution of 1979 in Iran abruptly interrupts Kourosh Yaghmaei’s success : his songs are censored and his concerts prohibited for more than twenty years. Dedicated to his passion for music, Kourosh makes the strong decision to stay in Iran, unlike most musicians or even members of his family – he prefers « resist rather than flee ».
I have made it my mission to protect Iranian musical culture. Only, I sometimes feel like a stranger in my own country.Kourosh Yaghmaei
His music comes back to life unexpectedly in 2011 : Now-Again Records, a Californian label specialized in the rediscovery and the spread of artists who are « forgotten » or mistreated by their country of origin, releases a compilation of Kourosh biggest hits. This compilation is titled « Back from the brink » and subtitled « Pre-revolution psychedelic rock from Iran 1973-1979 » ; from there, Yaghmaei gets a recognition from far more beyond Iran borders, and hits especially western countries.
Album front « Back from the brink » (2011) Album back « Back from the brink » (2011)
PSYCHEDELIA, HYBRIDITY & MOUSTACHES
As a perfectionist, Kourosh Yaghmaei composes songs brightly imbued with the musical codes of the East and the West. His way of singing and the persian-influenced melodies are modernized and readapted to the psychedelic and funk movement of the time. Western instruments, electric guitare and synthesizer in particular, play a big rôle in this hybridity. « I wanted to create new music that respects both cultures », says Kourosh.
Sometimes lyrical and melancholic ballads, sometimes melodic and rythmic whirlwinds, Kourosh Yaghmaei’s songs are united by his soft voice with an instantly recognizable tone. He frequently begins his songs with a haunting melody which allows him to first deploy a low and suave voice, which then rises higher. Kourosh himself most often writes the lyrics of his songs, or surrounds himself with poet friends, composing of themes related to love, dreams or poetry.
Finally, beyond his music, how could we skip Kourosh Yaghmaei’s visual aesthetic ? Immediatly recognizable, his particular appearance and style are fully following the psychedelic codes of the time, which largely permeated Iran in the seventies. In clothing and videoclips, bright colors are juxtaposed and the trend is to shiny shirts with pointed collars and tight pants, without forgetting obviously the hair up to the shoulders and the imposing moustache, now emblematic of Kourosh at that time.
Kourosh Yaghmaei is still present in the current musical landscape. Indeed, he released in 2016 a new album, Malek Jamshid, recorded in his apartment-studio in Teheran and published on an American label. If this opus extends the spirit of its pre-revolution successes, it nevertheless explores new arrangements and new influences, such as Latin music.
Kourosh’s music also remains alive thanks to its many re-uses, in cinema or in rap in particular. Gole Yakh, his emblematic and most absorbing song, crosses both eras and medias : it is used in film soundtracks (for exemple in Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis), but also in the samples of the beatmakers. Among this covers, the best known is certainly « Adam & Eve» by Nas, produced by Kanye West in 2018, which therefore takes up Gole Yakh’s intrumental.
Kourosh Yaghmaei thus embodies the melancholy and the strength of an artist who fights for musical freedom in its country, through a hybrid and inventive music that crosses time and now borders, without weakening.
PLAYLIST : our selection
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