Today's Song of the Day, as chosen by Darek Mazzone, host of Wo'Pop on KEXP, in celebration of the Persian New Year, is “Zan Bezan” by Liraz, from the 2020 album Zan on Dead Sea Recordings.
photo by Mu Tunç
written by Janice Headley

Women, sing it
You’re allowed to dance
You’re allowed to sing
You’re allowed to rejoice

Liraz Charhi's family emigrated to Israel during the '70s at the brink of the Iranian Revolution. Nearly 50 years later, it's still a major influence in the music she writes under the name Liraz. "Music in Iran in the ’70s was characterized by resistance to traditional music and a desire to find a universal sound," she explained to the Haaretz Newspaper. At the time of the revolt, leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa forbidding women from singing in public. "The fight for women’s freedom of expression is in my DNA," she continued. "Everything I do in life is connected to the ban on women’s singing... In high school, the first paper I wrote in the theater track was about how a woman in a Persian home has to keep her mouth shut. It pained me even then, at 16."

Today's Song of the Day translates to "Women, Sing" — it's a call to action for women to join her personal revolution. Upon releasing today's featured track, she wrote the following on her Facebook page:

I wrote 'Zan Bezan' (Women, Sing) when I was eight months pregnant. I was sitting in my studio, wondering what I can do with these extreme feelings about how extreme Iran became.

I’m an Iranian born in Israel. My parents left Iran before the revolution. I grew up with parents who tried hard to erase their roots and be as Israeli as possible after they left all their memories behind. Although I inherited their culture and stories, all my life I felt foreign. Physically I was in Israel but my mind, heart and soul were in Iran.

There isn’t one second during the day when I don’t think of Iran. I feel my roots burning in my blood and calling me - asking me - to sing. In Farsi. My home language. I feel that is the only way to find the answers to my deepest questions. Who am I, where did I come from, and what I really want to be. What do I pass on to my two daughters. I can’t stop wondering what would have happened if I was born and raised in Iran. Would I be singing? or escaping Iran to be able to sing?

After growing up with the beautiful women in my family, who got married at ages 13, 15... and had been forced to be silent, I needed to raise my voice and try to make a little change with my art. For me it’s a dream coming true. Especially today, in these chaotic times in Iran. It’s been 40 years of silence for women.

Iran is not mine, nor my parents’s anymore. Yet I know exactly how to describe its beautiful places, it’s smells, it’s colours. The song I wrote is a symbol of struggle against the suppression of women. In the video, I am myself, singing with Iranian women and to all of you.

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