Ahang Rooz Discography Re-Creation Project
This is version One:
94 pages, magazine-sized, full color with color cover, 2016.
Pre-orders available now until late June, 2016: $20
If you live in Massachusetts:
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I’m not a librarian. I’ve never been to Iran. I don’t have any Iranian heritage and can’t speak or read Farsi. Yet in 2006, I happened to find a record by the singer Aghassi in a local thrift store that opened the door to an amazing world and a whole lot of work. At the time I was regularly buying any inexpensive records I could find that I didn’t already recognize. I had just started producing a weekly radio show that focused on non-American music made for domestic markets around the world and I constantly needed more songs to fill up the 2 hour show every week. Record-buying was an act of discovery and I pushed my very limited budget to fill in shelf after shelf of highly suspect dollar bin items. The rate of failure was pretty spectacular; the world seems to be full of mediocre music floating from one dusty linoleum floor to another. Yet the occasional revolutionary discovery was enough to justify my continued risk taking and after a while I had picked up a scattered and unfocused collection of odd foreign records, from Yugoslavian new wave pop to Japanese-Cuban ballads to Mexican metal. I rejoiced in the discarded leftovers of immigrated collections, unnecessary reminders of the homeland, former objects of teenage adoration.
One thing about discovering records is that they’ve all already been discovered before. The fact that they were manufactured in the first place means that any new finds are always just new to you, at least one person and usually an entire culture of people has already grown tired of them long before you came along. Still, this record felt like a tiny hole in the cultural firewall that existed in those days between mainstream America and Iran. I knew almost nothing about Iranian culture and certainly nothing about what life was like before the 1979 revolution. There is not a large Iranian community in Boston and so it was extremely rare to find any Iranian records in stores. So, when I found this record I really didn’t understand it. I was already accustomed to listening to music whose lyrics were inaccessible to me but I could frequently contextualize them in a cultural landscape of some sort, but not in this case. I assumed it was Arabic. Or from the future. The effect of the blocky type face and Farsi lettering, mixed with Aghassi’s collarless white shirt caused this record to sit completely outside my understanding of space-time. It was a puzzle.
Once I talked a confused student into translating the record for me, “This is like grand-parents’ music,” I only became more interested. I found such a small amount of information online but began by chance to discover that there were in fact more records like this for sale in various places. They were relatively cheap and I had just gotten a credit card so I took a chance on a few. The first few records that were delivered to me only fanned the flames, they were each so incredibly different from each other and each so unlike anything I had heard before. I became obsessed, buying up every Iranian record I could find. They felt like treasures and, as I amassed a pretty large collection, began to feel less and less like they should be mine. Each scratch and scuff in each record was a testament to the insane journey it took just to get to me. They were mine but weren’t meant for me, I felt like I had skimmed an entire culture of music just by pure chance. Gradually, other people in the west began to discover there was money to be made and I began to see fancy reissues of this music; thick records, custom made for the western shelf-collector. I even made one myself. But as more and more Iranian comps piled up and I neared the end of my credit limit I was gradually priced out of the market. Still, though I could no longer sustain my quest to buy all the records that I ever saw, I wanted to continue this collection and give back to the world that made it. So this project evolved naturally from those circumstances, I gradually stopped collecting actual records and began collecting information. I scanned all my records and scoured the internet for any and all visual information I could use. If you sold one of these records online in the past 5 years, there’s a good chance I captured your photos. To the best of my knowledge there is no existing database of these records. This is obviously incomplete, it is a work in progress and I would love to have your help and input. If you have corrections, cover scans or translations to contribute please get in touch. firstname.lastname@example.org
I owe a tremendous amount to so many people who have helped me on this project and others, including Ramin Sh, Mohsen NZ, Nilufar Mo, Dario Margeli, Angela Sawyer and numerous others.