Norik Misakian

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Norik Misakian is a musician.

The soaring guitar solos and haunting keyboard melodies bear the unmistakable influence of Pink Floyd, Yes, Deep Purple and other icons of 1970s rock. But while they may have emulated their heroes' musical virtuosity, the Norik Misakian Band is unlikely to follow them on the path to world fame and fortune.

As one of hundreds of Iranian rock acts springing up in the face of official disapproval, the group has never been allowed to play a live gig. And far from coveting the hedonistic lifestyles that are the hallmarks of western rock stars, its four members have all but given up hope of earning a living from their music.

Now they are trying to breach the cultural and bureaucratic barriers separating them from a mass audience by seeking permission to release their first album.

They are doing so in the face of deep mistrust from Iran's Islamic authorities, who regard rock music as a symbol of western decadence and political protest .

The ministry of culture and Islamic guidance has already rejected the 10-track instrumental album - carrying the English title Trails of the Soul - saying rock music is influenced by drugs.

Without approval, they will never be allowed to perform before a live audience. Only artists that have been allowed to release CDs can seek permission to perform live.

If it is approved, the band intends to distribute the album in Europe, the US and Persian Gulf states, as well as to outlets in Iran.

"It's impossible to make a living from rock music in Iran," said Edvin Markarien, 30, the band's bass player. "You don't play to get rich. You can't play for the joy of playing live. In the end, you are just playing for yourself. It's art for art's sake."

His sentiments reflect the plight of dozens of rock acts across Iran. Some have overcome the obstacles by setting up websites to distribute their songs. Others organise secret concerts in makeshift venues, risking a lashing if caught.

Undaunted, the group has reapplied for permission in what will be a crucial test of the cultural climate under Iran's ultraconservative new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They are trying to persuade authorities that their aims are musical, not political.

One track, Genocide, is an ode to the murder of more than 1 million ethnic Armenians by Turkey during the first world war. Three of the band's members are of Armenian descent.

The restrictions, however, do not appear to have acted as a deterrent. A contest organised by an unofficial cultural website, Tehran Avenue, to find the most promising new Iranian music acts, has attracted 86 entrants, more than 80 per cent of which are rock bands.


  • Budding rock stars fail to strike a chord with Islamic officials ,South China Morning Post. August 24, 2005