Emad Ghavidel is an up-and-coming rapper whose songs focus on the ills afflicting Iranian society. In his latest hit, “Taxi Driver,” which is making the rounds online, he raps about the daily difficulties faced by the Iranian working class.
The 23-year-old lives in Rasht, in northern Iran. He was first exposed to Persian rap in the 1990s, and in 2009 met YAS, one of Iran’s most famous rappers, who was the first one authorized to produce rap music in Iran. This meeting was pivotal for Ghavidel, and inspired him to start rapping about social issues.
“When people bargain over 30 cents, there’s a problem”
I know what one endures as a taxi driver: poverty, as well as the family conflicts it causes. I was once a taxi driver for a period of time [Editor’s Note: It is fairly common for Iranians to become taxi drivers in addition to holding down another job. According to our Iranian Observers, a taxi ride costs at minimum 5,000 rials, or about 30 euro cents. Taxi drivers make on average about 10 euros per day. In 2012, Iranians’ average monthly salary was about 300 euros].It’s a very difficult life. I once knew a taxi driver who, while he was driving someone along the Rasht-Teheran route, was stopped by police at a checkpoint and spent a year in jail because one of his passengers was carrying drugs. He lost his taxi, which was his livelihood. Over time, after seeing all these problems and speaking with lots of drivers, I decided to write this song. I wrote the lyrics over a couple of days during the Nowruz celebrations [the Iranian new year, the first day of spring].I don’t think I took any particular risks by speaking about the economic problems encountered by average Iranians. Everyone is already talking about these issues. We can’t deny that there is a real problem when people try to bargain over 5,000 rials (30 euro cents) with their taxi driver!“Rap tends to mostly deal with partying and sex, but it’s time for it to become more socially oriented”Rap is an underground music style in Iran; the government generally does not approve it [only a handful of rap artists are authorised]. But this hasn’t stopped my song from becoming popular. It all started when the song was aired on PMC [a Los Angeles-based TV station which broadcasts in Persian]. To date, all the taxi drivers I’ve come across told me they appreciated my song.I believe that rap today should be dealing with social issues. Until now, most songs have been about partying, love, and sex, but I think it’s now time for rappers to deal with the real social problems they are observing around them and that affect them.I’ve always loved singing. In my city, we only had two shops that sold musical instruments, and the salesmen almost never put guitars out on display because they were considered as being too western. But whenever they did occasionally display guitars, I would always stop on my way to school to gaze at them. And then one day, finally, my mother bought me one; it was the best day of my life. I then discovered rappers like Eminem, as well as Persian rap. And since I had a lot to say, I decided to start rapping as well.My first song was a duo with another singer, about Homs. I called it “Battle for Homs” in solidarity with the Syrian fighters from that city, fighting for freedom. I also wrote songs about women who had acid thrown into their faces because men deemed them immoral. Such acts have unfortunately taken place in Iran.
Post written with journalist Omid Habibinia.