The mood of Kourosh Yaghmaei’s music mirrors the heady quaver we associate with psychedelic folk-rock. But the specific chords and melodies of his songs sift in something few Western listeners would associate with that genre: traditional Iranian folk music.
That’s the lush and revelatory mix you’ll hear in the songs of Kourosh Yaghmaei. In fact, it’s a near miracle we can hear them at all. Yaghmaei’s work had been banned in his native country for 22 of the last 33 years, starting with the fundamentalist Iranian revolution of 1979, a movement which demonized anything touched by Western influence. Most local fans thought Yaghmaei’s work had been destroyed. In truth, the musician kept his recordings in secret. The privilege of hearing them today comes courtesy of the label Now-Again Records which, over the last few years, has excelled at resurrecting psychedelic-era songs from any place you can imagine: Indonesia, India, Zambia and more.
The label’s new double set culls work Yaghmaei recorded (mainly) with his brothers between 1972 and the revolution. While the singer explains in his detailed and moving liner notes that the Ventures served as a prime muse, his western influences more closely recall the summery, west coast sounds of the Youngbloods or Jefferson Airplane. It’s gentle, evocative, introspective music he makes, with psychedelic electric guitars reanimating styles that might otherwise have been played on Persian instruments like the dotar. Most of Yaghmaei’s lyrics, sung in his caring voice, have to do with tortured love, not politics.
Which makes it even more baffling that music so loving and warm could ever be considered a threat. Then again, maybe genuine emotion always is.