The traditional instruments of the group were all set up on stage when the show was cancelled at the last minute. 
In Iran, obtaining a permit to hold a concert is no easy feat. But even when musicians do get their hands on this precious document, the concerts can still be forcibly cancelled at the last minute. That’s what recently happened to two bands in the southwestern city of Abadan, after religious hardliners launched a campaign labelling their music as “debauched”.
Two bands, one that plays pop music and the other that plays traditional Iranian music, were scheduled to play at different venues on the same night, October 28. The pop singer Majid Kharrat-has, who is well-known in Iran, and the traditional local group Sayyeh. According to the local press, they had obtained the necessary permits, rented out the venues, and advertised their shows. But on October 28, concertgoers who turned up with tickets in hand, found that the concerts had been cancelled.
Protesters in front of the Islamic Culture Ministry's office in Adaban on October 27.
For several days before the concerts, religious hardliners, led by Abadan’s Friday Prayers Leader – who is the city’s top cleric – went on a campaign to discredit the musicians. First, text messages were sent around condemning the shows as “unconventional”, and Friday Prayers Leader Ali Ebrahimipour dedicated an entire sermon to denouncing them. Then, the day before the concerts, a group of conservative students and supporters of Ansar-e Hezbollah, a hardline group, gathered in front of the city’s Islamic Culture Ministry office to demand their cancellation. The next day, just hours before the musicians were scheduled to go on stage, several dozen students belonging to the Basij – the national volunteer paramilitary group – held another protest in front of the local governor’s office.
After the concerts were cancelled, Abadan residents reported seeing this sign pop up at government offices throughout this city. It is a list of "the disadvantages of music". It lists: "poverty; discord; barbarity; God ignores your prayers; makes God angry; makes angels flee; attracts evil spirits; destroys modesty; causes natural disasters."
Since the concerts’ cancelations, the Islamic Culture Ministry has kept silent about the incident. The city’s Friday Prayers Leader, however, told an Iranian journalist that (contrary to previous reports by journalists) the musicians did not have permits, and that “90 percent of locals were against” the shows taking place. He added, “I’m not against people have fun or against art” but that these musicians “were not trying to get people to have fun, they were trying to incite debauchery and therefore had to be stopped”.

“At past concerts, I didn’t see anyone dance, take off their hijabs, or do anything else that could be considered un-Islamic”

Nasser, 30, lives in Abadan.
This is the first time I have ever heard of a concert being cancelled in Abadan. One of the excuses used by the Friday Prayers Leader to object to these concerts was that un-Islamic and indecent things had happened at previous concerts held in the city, but this is not true. Nobody has heard of any such thing. I myself have gone to concerts and festivals here, which are usually held in the Abadan Free Zone [a part of the city with tax exemptions to encourage business and tourism] and I didn’t see anyone dance, take off their hijabs, or do anything else that could be considered un-Islamic.
It seems that this new Friday Prayers Leader, who was appointed just a few months ago, is trying to make the city much more conservative. If he objects to even traditional music, we imagine he will object to all other types of music, as well. Since he’s arrived, we have also noticed an increase in the activities of the morality police. [Editor’s Note: In Iran, morality police are tasked with cracking down on a wide variety of behaviours considered indecent, from women wearing loose headdresses to playing with squirt guns].
Ticket holders waiting outside the venue where the pop singer's concert was cancelled on October 28.
“There’s very little for youth to do here”
I find this very sad, because there’s very little for young people in Abadan to do during their free time. Our city was once vibrant, with lots of cultural events, but we lost much of our infrastructure during the eight year war with Iraq [1980-1988]. Today, Abadan is a shadow of what it once was. There are no recreational facilities for young people apart from a few coffee houses. We don’t even have a decent public library. So young people spend most of their time walking around the streets of the city. [Editor’s Note: when the Friday Prayers Leader welcomed a new dean of medicine at the local university recently, he asked him to look into the problems of depression and mental illness in the city.]”