Iranian-American group The Yellow Dogs leaves Tehran for Brooklyn and greater freedom


In the clip for the song “Dance Floor” by the Yellow Dogs, ?? three women walk, run and dance across New York City.

They party on the great stone lions outside the main public library, wheel through Times Square, and hang themselves upside down in a subway car.

They laugh all the time.

They also make the spectators laugh.

If you know a little about the history of The Yellow Dogs – how they played underground concerts in Tehran because it was impossible to let off steam in the open, and how they decided to flee Iran a few years ago – it’s tempting to see the video as a cheerful political statement about freedom, maybe women’s rights too.

Obaash, the band’s lead singer, says people always want them to be political. “We should be, like, political — we should be, like, I don’t know, something like Rage Against the Machine,” ?? he says. “But seriously, we just want to play music, we just want to play this music for the world.” ??

Part of playing this music for the world is writing lyrics in English instead of Farsi. It also surprises some.

“They expect us”? ? Obaash said, laughing sadly. “But mostly Iranians, Iranians living in America. They’re shocked, they’re like ‘Dude, why don’t you sing in Farsi !?’ I’ll do whatever I want, that’s why I moved here. ” ??

The group moved to the United States in early 2010. Things got tough after their appearance in the movie “No One Knows about Persian Cats.” ??

The film tells a kind of fictional story about young musicians trying to get by in Tehran – “sort of” ?? because it presents real musicians in Tehran in quite realistic scenarios. In their scene, the two main musicians of the film go to visit the Yellow Dogs in their rooftop training space.

The film was eye-opening for many people, including the Iranian government’s hard-line supporters. “The government didn’t know there was a group like us; we had gigs with our friends – like they didn’t know. And it’s extremely illegal to do that without permission ”? ? Obaash explains. “The movie won an award at Cannes and blew up, and after that we thought, ‘Yeah, it’s time to get the hell out of here.’” ??

The Yellow Dogs first arrived in the United States on artist visas – they had been invited to play at the South by Southwest and CMJ festivals. A year later, three of the four were granted asylum; the case of drummer Arash is still pending.

Now they are living their dream: to share an apartment with a handful of other expatriate Iranian artists in the Brooklyn neighborhood where all the young bands live.

The band wrote their song “This City” ?? for their adopted city.

“You want to be a great engineer, you want to go to NASA from Iran, you study hard try to apply Harvard, Stanford. Do you want to go to that place where you can progress ”? ? said Obaash. “New York City and the scene here was our Harvard University.” ??

They also did a few tours in the United States and performed in serious venues with some of their favorite bands. “We are from Iran”? ? said Obaash. “I always say that if we were born and raised in America, or born and raised in a western country anywhere, we wouldn’t appreciate as much as we do right now to come from a country like the Iran and being able to come out here and be able to see like, wow, we used to make our own room so we could play music. ” ??

The Yellow Dogs recently performed at the Cameo Gallery, the Brooklyn club where they performed their first show in the United States three years ago. They ended their set with “This City” ??. The women in the video were in the front row the entire time, dancing like crazy.


About Joan J. Hernandez

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