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1- (Re)sounding Martyrdom: Musical Representations of Iranian Baha’i Persecution - Daniel Akira Stadnicki, University of Alberta

This paper will explore how Baha’i musicians—or, “Baha’i-engendered" artists (Tuman 1993)—sonically-represent Iranian religious persecution, namely through strategies of what I describe as 'Persian troping.' Focusing on music post-1979, I employ a modified topic theory analysis to a selection of recordings that intentionally signify 'Iran' and bear witness to instances of Baha’i martyrdom. In so doing, this presentation will unpack how Persian culture and aesthetics are configured within Baha’i theology, including how cosmopolitan ideologies guided methods of musical borrowing and appropriation amongst (predominately non-Iranian) artists. I will supplement these readings with ethnographic material I gathered from interviews with a number of celebrated Canadian Baha'i musicians. The history and demography of Baha’i communities across North America speaks to an intimate, albeit complicated relationship between the Faith, Iranian culture, aesthetics, and politics. Prior to the 1979 Revolution, most communities in Canada and the USA boasted small Iranian memberships—a fact that changed dramatically after waves of immigration in the early 1980s. The traumatic stories of Iranian Baha'i refugees, however, radically transformed international perceptions of the Faith and inspired several musicians to document these persecutory narratives. Through a number of institutional and individual arts initiatives, martyr songs formed a major part of Baha’i musical repertoire, addressing legacies of oppression that shaped the Faith since its inception in mid-19th century Iran. Given the ongoing persecution of Baha’is in the Islamic Republic, many of these songs endure, galvanizing members of the Faith and inspiring new compositions from across the genres of folk, pop, classical, and hip-hop.
University of Alberta
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