Iranians often regard themselves as self-centered. "Got to take care of myself first," is a phrase heard one too many times. Although this self-centeredness is usually thought of as not constructive, there are many instances when we witness a sense of group-in-fusion. On the occasion of a celebration or mourning ceremony all family members and acquaintances get together to make the occasion as glamorous as possible. This is not a simple given but is made possible if a collective consciousness is in existence, one that has deep social roots.
Iran’s entrance into the modern world has often been sited as the reason for a duality in collective action that, on the one hand, makes “modern” institutions ineffective and, on the hand, maintains the structure of the traditional ones. The new generation of Iranians has tried to adjust itself to the changing conditions. In the world of music, the western musical bands rebelled against the conservatism of the 50s that took individuality to extremes. Within Iran, groups that took part in the Underground Music Competition formed new alliances that resembled those of their western counterparts. But these alliances were fragile and threatened to disintegrate.
One of the groups anticipated to break up was Jam. Some of the musicians in Jam are active members of professional bands. But when we conducted our interview, we realized that their sense of belonging to a band was more complex. Those who were part of other bands didn't feel that it had adverse effects on their band. Jam does not define the real identity of a band the way it 60's counterpart did. Under any title or name, what matters to members is that when it comes to playing music they are together.
At first Dara Daraee, the bassist, and Alireza Tabataba'i, the drummer, started playing together, out of sheer fun. They played for themselves and felt satisfied just with the music. Later, they started working with guitarist Arash Minoo’i, in a group called Image. The trio continued working with no particular style. The first album of Jam, which is a hodgepodge of different styles, has traces of that early period.
The time came that Dara and Alireza felt inclined to sing Persian lyrics and remembered Hooman Nasseri. Hooman was a friend with a good voice and tasteful lyrics with a simple structure. The three went on working for a while but the pieces still lacked some thing. Here is where Babak Akhundi, electric guitar player, and Reza Tajbakhsh, the pianist entered the scene. Babak heard the pieces when they arrived at the studio and worked on the guitar parts. Reza, who used to play the piano, decided to sit behind the keyboard. The foundation of Jam group was laid.
It's been a while since Jam has assumed a group identity. The band’s work has been recorded in an album, and it has even been granted permission for release. Still, some of the members work with other groups. For example, Alireza is in the famous Pop band Arian; Babak and Dara work together in the fusion band Rumi (lead by Pedram Derakhshani) and also play for the Rock band Meera. Dara believes that cooperating with other groups has nothing to do with their work in Jam, "Today, we have a file for any work we want to do.
Babak and I may play in Rumi, whose works is very different in style, but we know how to shift from that work to our work in Jam." Alireza continues, "the criterion is that we are together, whether it is Jam or [any other name]…. We feel very close to each other, taste-wise, thought-wise, loyalty-wise and so on".
Members of Jam rehearse 4 or 5 hours a week, come rain or shine, and their practice sessions is in Alireza's house, in a small room that may have been the utility room previously. Now the walls are covered with carpet, and the room is filled with different sound equipments; when you go to see them you have to ring a secret bell so that a red light goes on in their studio and they let you in.
"Jam" is not going to be the final name for the band because another musician has previously registered it with the ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, although the band goes by that name among it fans.
In answer to the question, “if you had a sponsor and were financially supported would you only play in Jam?” Dara and Babak reply, "We are in a situation that we need money, even if we do not agree with many of the works we have to do. That's how we make our living… but if there was a sponsor and we had financial security, we would have made better music and have had a more lasting band."
In Iran, the problem of working in a group is not limited to Rock music. Even traditional music, which has been around, cannot boast of many professional ensembles. Groups like Aaref and Dastan have been formed that do not have a very vast range of activities. Compared to these ensembles, we see groups such as Arian that owe their success mostly to the support and backup of a “real producer”, as Jam members call it.
Jam thinks of participation in the Underground Music Competition as a real turn in its career as a band. However, any band needs time, stamina, and support to acquire experience and become known among the public, just as Pop did when it broke into the post-revolutionary scene a decade ago. When traditional musicians like Saba, Qamar-molook Vaziri and Badi'zadeh were the giants in music, Banan and Homayoonfar arrived with a new style, gradually establishing their brand of music. It was then the turn of likes of Googoosh and Ebi to come under the limelight. Musical tastes change with time and the socio-political milieu. Rock music arose against the backdrop of the conservative individualism of the 1950s. Perhaps a different impulse may bring it into prominence within Iran; an impulse that desires music not represented entirely by the voice of the singer or any single musician but is produced collectively and and performed by a group.