I've just learned about and Iranian-born country artist -- Erfan "Elf" Rezayatbakhsh -- who a founded a country band -- The Dream Rovers -- a few years ago and has tried to bring country music to his home country.
The web site "Saving Country Music" wrote in an article and interview in January:
He’s a singer and songwriter from Tehran, and along with guitar player Ahmad Motevassel, they are the Dream Rovers.
This is not some weird-sounding Iranian techno music with a banjo slid in there to certify it as “country.” The first album of the Dream Rovers was a covers record that included old country music classics like Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen Tons,” and Merle Haggard’s “Hungry Eyes.” The band first formed as the Persian Rovers in January of 2007, and shorty after were forced to go on a hiatus after Elf was conscripted into the Iranian military service. After a few personnel changes, the band re-formed as the Dream Rovers—Iran’s first country music band.
Here's "Superstar," their first official video, released in 2011. The song was insired by Taylor Swift:
The Saving Country Music article tates:
Though most of Western music in Iran can only exist in forbidden, underground channels, Elf and the Dream Rovers were able to present their music publicly at the Sharif University of Technology (SUT) in Tehran on multiple occasions, and for audiences of more than 500 people.
“I was born and raised in a country that has absolutely zero background in country music,” Elf tells Saving Country Music. “Yet I am very passionate about preserving the true country music, which is the most important and authentic part of the American heritage and culture and introduce it to the people of Iran through workshops, concerts, and the release of albums and singles.”
Here's a video of the band performing at the university:
Elf went on to study country music in the East Tennessee State University’s bluegrass, old time, and country music program in Johnson City, Tennessee and graduated Summa cum Laude in 2014. He now lives in Canada.
He and his music were brought to my attention by ETSU Prof. Lee Bidgood, who teaches in the old time and bluegrass program -- and who has been a friend, advisor and sounding board on issues of "the imaginary west" and country music outisde the US ever since we met more than a dozen years ago. Lee's book on Czech bluegrass is coming out this fall, and it is he who was the driving force behind the documentary on Czech Bluegrass, Banjo Romantika, in which I am an onscreen commentator.
The Saving Country Music article concludes -- echoing the words and attitudes of many European country artists:
Erfan “Elf” Rezayatbakhsh and the Dream Rovers may not be your next favorite honky tonk band, but you may also be surprised by their knowledge of country music and proficiency. Like many country music artists and bands from non English-speaking countries, some of the subtleties of the art form can get lost in the translation. But that says nothing about the heart and dedication Elf has brought to the music, recording country songs in both English and his native tongue, and illustrating how even country music, which seems so characteristic of a specific place, can defy borders, and perforate insular environments and the inherent differences between the American and Iranian mindset.
“When there is music, nobody thinks of fighting,” says Elf. “That’s why I came to the United States—not only to study country music in its homeland, but also to travel to the country which had been introduced to me by the media in Iran as ‘the enemy’ and ‘the great Satan’ and see the people, talk to them, and learn about their culture through them.”
Click to read the full article