Seattle Post-Intelligencer
November 2006

Politics can't crush arts, culture

TEHRAN, IRAN — It's a weeknight, but Alighapoo restaurant is packed with customers looking forward to live music. Hours of it.

At restaurants with entertainment, reservations are a must. Stand-up comedians make fun of various Iranian tribes, political correctness be damned. The Turks rip on the Lors for being stone-cold stupid. The Lors respond in kind. Everyone makes fun of the Esfahanis for being greedy and the Rashtis for being simple. Also popular is something called seeyah bazi, a sort of blackface comedy theater. A traditional routine in the style of a court jester, seeyah bazi remains uncontroversial largely because Iran's history of slavery and race relations don't mirror those of the West.

Dinner isn't served before 9 p.m., but people arrive early just to drink tea and watch the show. The food is secondary. It will come when it comes.

A particularly dour Turkish singer takes the stage and fails to rouse the audience until he bursts into Iran's national anthem, "Ey Iran" ("Oh, Iran"). The crowd rises, clapping and singing along.  read more →