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The Iranian Psychedelic Rock Roots of Habibi

Written by Alexa Salimpour

December 30, 2021

Never in my life did I think I’d attend an all-female rock band concert and hear my parents’ native tongue not only sung, but celebrated.

I’ll start with some context about myself. I’m a first-generation born American, born to parents who fled the Iranian Revolution of 1979. I was raised in Los Angeles surrounded by a large Persian-Jewish family, and while I wouldn’t say I rejected my Iranian roots, I certainly didn’t praise them. I only listened to the Persian radio station when my grandmother picked me up from school and I was forced to listen to 670 AM instead of my preferred 102.7 KIIS FM. At family celebrations, I rolled my eyes at the all too familiar sound of Iranian music and hoped that instead, I would hear music that I related to. I heard Farsi words that I could translate but they were still foreign to me. They represented my parents and grandparents and a past life I wanted nothing to do with.

A few years ago, when my eldest sister graduated from college, she found a new appreciation for Persian culture. Her Spotify playlists were a mesh of Avicii and Arash. Again, I rolled my eyes and considered myself more sensible, labeling her as eccentric. If I were to self-analyze my behavior at the time, I’d consider it a classic case of adolescent rebellion.

As my taste in music evolved, I found myself falling in love with rock from the ‘60s and ‘70s. I knew the lyrics to songs from my parents’ generation better than they did. I soon discovered modern rock bands and fell upon Habibi—an all-female rock band from Brooklyn. Their sound is a blend of psychedelic rock and ‘60s girl group harmonies, and they have been primarily influenced by Iranian pop music and Middle Eastern psychedelia. I researched the members of the band and found that their lead singer Rahill Jamalifard is the daughter of Iranian immigrants. Jamalifard had bonded with now bandmate Lenny Lynch over Iranian pop and rock music and the rest was history. I was drawn to their story and their music.

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