Afrang Nordlöf Malekian: Keeping up with the Iranians


Thesis Advisor: Ana Teixeira Pinto

Thesis: Keeping up with the Iranians

July 2022


Iranian music has never been light entertainment for me. It has been and remains a lifeline of survival—an attempt to escape everyday life. Against the backdrop of my biography, I survey the (il)legal distribution of the Iranian music genre, mbuli dimbol, composed in Los Angeles, listening to how it choreographs belonging. A fugitive culture of dance, music, and joy—commonly played at a mehmooni (a social gathering by invitation to someone’s home, e.g., dinner, dance party, celebration, etc.)—which has a long tradition of being discredited by intellectuals, Marxists, and Westerners as apolitical and poisoned art. In contradistinction, I argue that this overly commercial, cheap, kitschy, or gaudy culture is not an improbable channel for political change but a site where dispersed individuals and families organize political agency through enthusiasm at the lowest frequencies of society. In the three-four minutes of a Tehrangeles’ mbuli dimbol song at a secret mehmooni, the composers, listeners, dancers, singers, and lovers call for neither Western modernity nor the Iranian Islamic regime but the improbable and impossible future triumphing right there, on the dancefloor.

Author: Afrang Nordlöf Malekian