A youthful singer with an alternative hairstyle and a beaded necklace isn't exactly the poster-child of Iran's theocratic regime. But this music video above by Amir Tataloo, a well-known Iranian rapper whose real name is Amir Hussein Maghsoudloo, is an interesting bit of nationalist propaganda.
As noted by Al-Monitor, the song, called "Energy Hasteei," or "Nuclear Energy," hails Iran's nuclear energy program and its peaceful intentions in the Middle East. On the deck of an Iranian warship, Tataloo sings the chorus, "This is our absolute right, to have an armed Persian Gulf." In another scene, he gets backup vocals from ranks of clean-shaven, stern-faced Iranian soldiers.
The implication is perhaps not as war-mongering as it may sound. The video, which periodically shows regular Iranians holding up posters in English declaring their peacefulness, echoes Tehran's longstanding contention that it has no intention of weaponizing its nuclear program, while also playing up Iran's right "to be strong" and defend its sovereignty. Judging from the subtitles, the lyrics clearly lose something in translation.
“No power can prevent the Iranian nation from having peaceful nuclear energy," reads a line opening the video.
As Al-Monitor observes, it's a curious role for Tataloo, who was arrested by Iran's morality police in 2013 for illegally distributing his music to foreign sources. Narges Bajoghli, an NYU anthropologist, explains the significance of his involvement in the video to the Middle East affairs news site:
The fact that the military would agree to participate on this level for a music video points to something larger: The cultural and political elite in the Islamic Republic believe it is of utmost importance to garner the support of Iran's youthful population, support which they know to be shaky since the 2009 Green Movement. The regime's media producers admit today that in the 1980s and 1990s they churned out propaganda that does not resonate with today's youth. It is in this context that the video was shot on a military ship. Even though rap music has been branded as obscene by the government, the authorities know that by sanctioning a rap video about their military might, they are able to meet two of their goals: ‘speak’ to youth in their language and further their message of defenders of peace in a volatile region.
Given how Iranian social media has echoed the surging popularity for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in the wake of the nuclear deal, it's not a surprise the regime is embracing new methods of delivering its message.
But some are not impressed with Tataloo's music video, according to Al-Monitor. Fans of the musician complained on Facebook that the artist was "selling out," while ardent supporters of Iran's military grumbled over the indignity of the armed forces appearing alongside the gesticulating rapper.
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