Various Artists, Persian Funk

Michaelangelo Matos

By Michaelangelo Matos

on 04.08.11 in Reviews

"Oh, great — another 'funk-from-far-off-places' compilation." It's perfectly understood if you're skeptical, but this collection of Western-flavored music from pre-revolutionary Iran, from a new Minneapolis specialty-reissue house, is better understood as a kind of shadow history of how American and British pop, rock, soul, and (yes) funk made their way into the music of the Persian Gulf during the 1970s. The usual soundtrack strings are present and accounted for, but the orchestrations are tangy enough to indicate their place of origin: sawing on Morteza's self-titled track and Mehrpouy's "Ghabileye Leyli," where they join garage-rocky drums and hard-chopping wah-wah guitar and horns. The latter feature heavily on Morteza's self-titled track, where they work up an enthusiastically galloping clip.

A persuasive glimpse at a hidden world

On this evidence, the diva-like Shoreh, whose "Cheshm Be Rah" sounds like a love theme from a romantic blockbuster and whose "Del" gets a lot of its force from a teasing woodwind. Sitars and tablas commingle with a choo-chooing organ and Stax bass on Mehrpouya's self-explanatory "Soul Raga," while the bulbous bass and needling organ of Kourosh Yaghmaei's "Del Dare Pir Misheh" sound like natural additions to a South Asian edition of Nuggets. Not everything works: Martik's homebrewed organ-led cover of Stevie Wonder's "Pastime Paradise" is too precisely faithful to be much use. But as a glimpse of a hidden world, even one whose trappings are this familiar, Persian Funk is pretty persuasive.