I was excited on Friday to see that the Huffington Post has published an article about Iranian hip hop artist, Yas.  This article had personal resonance because I have been lucky enough to have seen Yas perform live on my college campus.  Yas’ performance, as well as a screening of the film “Nobody’s Enemy” and a presentation by the film’s maker, Neda Sarmast, were part of an event that exposed American college students to Iranian culture.

The film “Nobody’s Enemy” is an amazing window into the youth culture of Iran.  It features interviews with Iranian students on a variety of subjects, including Iran’s relationship with the US, coverage of the most recent presidential election in Iran, and a close look at Iran’s underground hip hop scene.  What makes the film so remarkably compelling is that it allows its subjects to speak for themselves.  Ordinary Iranians, young and old, express their opinions and beliefs directly to the camera, without media distortion or government censorship.  As a student, I found the voices of fellow young people to be especially moving.  As I watched the film, I became increasingly aware of the need for more communication between youth in America and in Iran to promote more understanding between our two cultures.

Yas‘ music is a perfect example of such communication.  As one of Iran’s top hip hop artists, he works to produce songs have both catchy beats and relevant messages. Singing about the issues that are most important to young people, his songs are a voice for his generation in a society where such voices are often silenced.  One example is a song entitled “CD ro Beshkan” or “Break that CD”.  This song refers to a scandal in Iran involving the wide-spread circulation of a sex tape of a well-know actress.  In his lyrics, Yas asked listeners to delete or destroy any copies of the tape that they may have on their computers or phones out of respect for the victimized actress.  This song demonstrates how Yas’ music expresses values that are not exclusive to one society or culture.  Yas himself has said, “…my biggest goal is to get my voice out to the world. Why should it matter that my language happens to be Farsi? My words are about my culture but also about the world as a whole.”

Yas’ music and message were certainly well-received on my campus.  Even after the more than three hour-long event had ended, dozens of students remained to ask Neda and Yas questions.  A few students even beat-boxed so that Yas could  freestyle.  Seeing American students respond enthusiastically to the voices of fellow youth in Iran gave me hope that the future leaders of Iran and the U.S. will have a better understanding of each other and of the values that their two cultures share.  Hopefully that the Huffington Post’s article will bring Yas’ music and his message to an even larger audience.

Both Yas’ music and “Nobody’s Enemy” serve as poignant reminders that humanity transcends national borders and societal differences.  I hope that in the future there will be more opportunities for cultural exchange between Iran and the U.S., whether is is through diplomatic trips, foreign study, or hip hop.  These cultural exchanges are especially important for young people in each country, as they will  allow us to plant the seeds of a long-tern relationship based on mutual respect.

I highly reccomend checking out Yas’ music at http://www.myspace.com/yaspersian2 and clips of “Nobody’s Enemy” at http://www.myspace.com/nobodysenemy.