Document Type

Book Chapter


Dance (Pomona), Theatre (Pomona)

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Persian, popular music, popular culture, Iran


This avoidance of scholarly investigation into popular culture has been particularly prominent in Middle East studies, in which, aside from definitively "premodern" folklore, popular culture is presumed relevant only to the mass culture of the West. In contrast to nearly invisible popular traditions is what Edward Said (1978) terms the "timeless, frozen East" that possesses only what we would characterize as "high" culture. Our highbrow/lowbrow distinctions do not necessarily work well as a description of the state of Iranian culture, and yet they are relevant to some contexts. Most native Iranian music scholars, and their non-Iranian disciples, often eschew the study of popular music forms because of their amiyaneh (popular) notations and their often lower-class associations. I argue that popular music, especially the mardomi (people's music) genre, forms the Other, a negative space by which classical music is positively defined.


Shay, Anthony, "The 6/8 Beat Goes On: Persian Popular Music from Bazm-e Qajariyyeh to Beverly Hill Garden Parties" in Mass Mediations: New Approaches to Popular Culture in the Middle East and Beyond, edited by Walter Armbrust. (c) 2010 by the Regents of the University of California. Published by the University of California Press.

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