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Andranik Madadian is a musician. He grew up as a Christian Armenian in Muslim Iran and is better known to the vast Iranian exile community as Andy. His early musical training was largely from his family's radio. But Andy was sufficiently skilled to be playing concerts for former American President Jimmy Carter as well as the shah of Iran before the Iranian revolution toppled the regime in 1979.

Andranik Madadian fled Tehran months before the end of what he calls "the Persian Paris" and emigrated to the United States. He began playing concerts all over the world. Over the past years, he's cultivated a wildly loyal fan base on virtually every continent.

In Iran, girls carry his music to school beneath their chadors (the mandatory long black gowns). At night, teenage boys scrawl his name "ANDY!" on public walls, knowing it will be erased the next day by the police. People of all ages gather for private parties and play his pirated tapes as loudly as they dare. If any of them are caught, they could go to jail. At minimum, the bootlegged copies of his recordings, which are banned in Iran, will be confiscated.

But somehow, his music, an upbeat, danceable combination of traditional Persian sounds and modern rock, is important enough to his countrymen that they will risk the punishment. He is, simply, their superstar, Iranians call him "The Persian Elvis".

"The music is not political, it is joyful." Andy pointed out that the only music allowed by the current Iranian regime is traditional folk. "That music is very slow and sad. Nobody, not even the older folks like it."

As Darya Mirhosseini, a fan, said it's not just that his music is good. "It's all about who he is. All our parents listen to his music, too. He talks about being respectful; he tells us not to smoke or drink or do drugs. All Persians love him."

And since Iran has elected Mohammed Khatemi, whose policies toward the West are more liberal, Andy's wish of broader exposure both at home and abroad is more feasible.

Beyond his professional goals, Andy also liked to see his music bridge the gap between Americans and Iranians.

"I think it is time, too, for American music to embrace other influences," Andy noticed.

He saw American musicians turning outward to other musical traditions, such as the Pakistani Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and the Algerian Cheb Kahled, both of whom have created successful crossover albums.

"I would like to do a collaboration with the right person," he added.

Andy said he thinks the music will speak for itself, but a relationship with an American producer or record company would make it more available, so that the Iranian specialty store will not be the only place to buy his albums.

Robin Godfrey-Cass, who was with EMI Music for decades, said, "Andy has a bright future and not just with fellow Iranians, but with the masses." he noted that the musician's timing was good. "Andy's exhausted his own market and needs to expand at just the time that Western musicians are looking for other musical influences."


  • Already a Superstar in Iran, 'Persian Elvis' Sets Sights on US, May 27, 1997