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Iran: Arash Tops European Pop Charts With Persian-Language Hits

He sings in Persian and has had number-one hits in Sweden, Russia, Belgium, Spain, and other European countries. His name is Arash. The Iranian-born singer has received a number of music awards for his hit tune "Boro Boro" -- Persian for "Go away." Arash was recently in Prague and spoke to RFE/RL about his against-the-odds success.

Prague, 21 April 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Some people might have had doubts that a Persian-language song could succeed on the European music scene -- including Arash himself.

But "Boro Boro" topped the music charts just weeks after its release in Sweden, and quickly became an international hit.

Arash, a clean-cut 27-year-old with a fondness for hats and a talent for energetic stage performances, has become an overnight sensation with "Boro Boro," the first single on his debut album, "Arash Arash."
Arash, who writes and produces his songs himself, mixes Indian and European beats with traditional Iranian music.

He says he chooses to sing in his native language because of his deep attachment to Iran and Persian culture. But he says he deliberately writes lyrics that are easy to pronounce, so that people can sing along regardless of whether they speak Persian.

The singer says he uses his songs to share personal experiences. "Boro Boro," for example, is about a former girlfriend.

"Regarding my song 'Boro Boro,' my first girlfriend hurt me a bit, and I said I'll sing a song to get back at her. I sing: 'Go away, my heart doesn't want you anymore. I don't want to see you anymore,'" Arash said.

It's a formula that works. Yesterday, Arash was in Moscow to receive a prize during the MTV Dance Music Awards. Tomorrow, he will be in Warsaw where "Boro Boro" will again be recognized in the Radio Eska Awards.

Arash, who writes and produces his songs himself, mixes Indian and European beats with traditional Iranian music. He says his goal in writing music is to help people forget about their problems and have a good time.

“I make music with all my heart to make everybody happy. That’s the most important thing for me. My most important mission is to bring happiness, and when I see people jumping up and down and being happy, I become ten times more happy myself,” he said.

Arash and his family left Iran in the late 1980s. But he has returned to Iran several times in recent years and says his best memories from the country are of the soccer games he played as a child in Tehran, and of family trips to the Caspian region:

“We always returned home from the football games with a bloody nose and a hurt foot. And I also really liked the north [of Iran]. We used to go to the north every summer and we really had a great time. These are memories I will never forget,” he said.

Arash has a following among young Iranians, who buy black-market CDs or listen to his songs on radio programs broadcast from outside the country. Iranian officials in recent years have started to tolerate pop music, but there is little chance Arash will receive permission to perform in the country anytime soon. The singer, however, remains hopeful.

“Sure, I’ve thought about [performing in Iran]. And one day I will go to Iran to have a concert there," he said. "I’ve just started my work, I came to the music scene only six or seven months ago. Right now I'm doing my best to make my work more successful, and then we will see what can be done about those problems.”

The success of "Boro Boro" has taken Arash to many different parts of the globe, including Central Asia, where he performed in Kazakhstan earlier this month. He said he hopes to return to the region -- and especially to Tajikistan, where he has many young fans.

Arash plans to begin a new album after the summer, and says he wants to surprise his fans by bringing a fresh touch to his already successful formula.

(RFE/RL correspondents Farin Assemi, Keyvan Hosseini, and Iskander Aliyev contributed to this report.)
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    Golnaz Esfandiari

    Golnaz Esfandiari is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL focusing on Iran. She has reported from Afghanistan and Haiti and is one of the authors of The Farda Briefing newsletter. Her work has been cited by The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other major publications. Born and raised in Tehran, she is fluent in Persian, French, English, and Czech.