It’s been said that politics and music or sport should not mix. The current football World Cup is being held in Qatar, and England will play Iran today, against the backdrop of Qatari government sportswashng and more than two months of demonstrations in Iran sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini. MetalTalk spoke with the Saffar brothers from the Iran Progressive Metal band Hyper Planet who have a powerful message to share with their song, Red Autumn.
Hyper Planet were formed in 2010 in Tehran, the capital of Iran. “Hyper Planet’s music is filled with technical, complex, polyrhythmic moments and different time signatures,” guitarist and vocalist Amin Saffar told MetalTalk. The result is a “dramatic, emotional, and dark atmosphere with eastern melodies that mix with Metal music.”
The brothers grew up in a musical family. “My father is a santur [Traditional Iranian hammered dulcimer] and qanun [string instrument] player, my mother is a singer, and my sister is a piano player,” bassist Armin Saffar said. “At seven, my brother Amin started to learn and play the santur, and I began to play the tombak [Traditional Iranian percussion instrument] taught by our father. Since we had a strong passion for Metal music, finally, I started playing the bass guitar at 16, and Amin began playing the electric guitar at 17. Both of us were self-taught.”
The brothers have used their love of Heavy Metal and traditional Iranian styles to drive their sound. “Our idea in combining these two schools of music is to connect the wide range of capabilities between traditional Iranian music and Metal music,” Amin says. Their philosophy is “to show that music can be a message for unity, peace, and better communication between all the nations around the world, in addition to entertaining and creating feelings and impressions on the human soul.”
There are numerous challenges here, though. “Hyper Planet’s lyrics deal with more severe and profound topics,” Armin said. “We have four albums to date, but due to the content of our music, we are banned from any activities such as publishing, selling, and performing in Iran. In addition, the Islamic regime ruling Iran claims that Metal music is Satanism, which must be eliminated since it contradicts the Islamic regime’s laws, and the supreme values and ideals defined by the leader. So, the hazardous conditions to play this style of music in Iran, including arrests, imprisonment, and even death, continue for us now. However, we never accept silence. We cannot be indifferent to the issues and problems of our society.”
Sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman of Kurdish origin who had been arrested by the morality police in Tehran, there have been many protests in Iran. The protests have been classed as “riots”, but more people are now speaking out.
The Guardian has reported that Hengameh Ghaziani and Katayoun Riahi were both detained after being summoned by prosecutors looking into their “provocative” social media posts. These two prominent actors, who expressed solidarity with the country’s protest movement and removed their headscarves in public, are the latest in a growing list of dissatisfaction.
“Right now, the people of Iran are on the rise of a revolution,” Amin says. “It has been more than sixty days since the nationwide protests began, in which women are the flag bearers with the slogan #Woman_Life_Freedom. It should be noted that before these revolutionary conditions in Iran, no real Metal scene existed in Iran compared to the free world because of the nature of the totalitarian regime and its inborn political and religious ideologies. So in those conditions, music was utilised as a tool to advance and promote their ideologies and aims.”
Hyper Plant has just released the song, Red Autumn. “We dedicated Red Autumn to Mahsa Amini and all the brave Iranian women and girls at the front line of the Iranian people’s revolution,” Amin says.
“Mahsa Amini was a 22-year-old girl arrested and murdered by the morality (religious) police about 60 days ago for not wearing a proper hijab that the Islamic regime claimed,” Armin says. “This horrible truth, which cannot be expressed in words, had a profound impact on us, and in that situation, every day when we woke up in the morning, we thought about how we could be helpful, bringing the voice of the Iranian women to the world more and more through our protest music.”
Heavy Metal, starting with Black Sabbath’s War Pigs, has a history of taking inspiration from political strife. Hyper Plant’s Red Autumn message is very powerful, and given the difficulties of following and learning Heavy Metal in Iran, their musicianship is a testament to their dedication and passion.
“Red Autumn is a voice from our souls and the bottom of our hearts,” Amin says. “This is our human duty as a musician to do whatever we can to send the message of #Woman_Life_Freedom to the world to support Iranian women. And in that direction, all artists should use all their capacity for that, whether it includes a significant or small number of people.”
The lyrics for Red Autumn are by Irandokht, one of Iran’s most prominent female contemporary poets. “We are very proud to have her by our side in Hyper Planet,” Amin says. “She gave us strong lyrics that beautifully and accurately capture the current mood. These are days of the people’s revolution and the events within it, and she wrote intelligently, delicately and with a lot of emotion. When we received her lyrics, we were so impressed. Her poem has extraordinary power, which makes us feel great, many times. I had tears in my eyes several times during the vocal recording.”
Yesterday, the BBC ignored the World Cup opening ceremony in favour of a broadcast criticising the treatment of migrant workers and highlighting corruption at Fifa and discussing the ban on homosexuality in Qatar.
Today England play Iran, and the English FA has backed down on wearing the OneLove armband, saying Fifa made it clear they would face sporting sanctions.
But Hyper Plant has shown that Heavy Metal is alive in Iran and that messages of support and protest can still be heard by the outside world.
“Thank you so much, MetalTalk,” Armin says, “for doing this interview and for the opportunity to let us send our message to the world through our music.”
“We wish peace and love to all people around the world,” Amin says. You can connect with Hyper Planet at https://www.facebook.com/hyperplanet.
Hyper Planet are:
Guitars/vocals: Amin Saffar
Bass: Armin Saffar
Santur: Ali Saffar