Arts, Culture & Media

The underground band Yellow Dogs left Iran only to have their dreams cut short in Brooklyn


Soroush Farazmand performing with his band, "The Yellow Dogs" at the Cameo Gallery in Brooklyn. Farazmand and his brother, drummer Arash Farazmand, were murdered early Monday morning in their Brooklyn apartment along with another Iranian musician, Ali Eskandarian.

The story of the Iranian band Yellow Dogs was a dream come true: Hipsters in an unhip country finally get to live out their rockstar dreams in hipdom. But this story ended in tragedy early Monday morning.

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That's when two of the band members were murdered, along with another Iranian musician, in their Williamsburg, Brooklyn apartment.

The person who killed band members was a fellow Iranian musician. His motivation isn't clear. He killed himself with the same gun he used to kill the others.

The BBC's Faranak Amidi first met the Yellow Dogs in a shabby, makeshift studio built on the roof of an apartment building in Tehran. "They were jamming with a few other guys and we just dropped by," said Amidi.

"Like most of the other kids there, we just smoked a cigarette and had a drink." Amidi is now a producer with the BBC Persian Service. But back then, she was just another Iranian drawn to the thriving underground music scene in Tehran.

"Music, especially rock music, is basically illegal in Iran, so everything is underground and when you're into music, you just naturally know what's going on underground, where the studios and gigs are," she said.

Iranian filmmaker Bahman Bhobadi made the Yellow Dogs famous in his film, "No One Knows About Persian Cats", about Iranian musicians trying to skirt government control.

The international notoriety generated by the film enabled the members of the Yellow Dogs to leave Iran and resettle in Brooklyn. Amidi says in Iran, most people who play music want to leave. 

"In Iran, what are you going to do? You can't have a gig. You can't put a record out. In Iran, if you just have an electric guitar and have a bit of shabby long hair, you're considered a rebel." 

Amidi thinks she heard a change in the Yellow Dogs music after they left Iran. "When they were in Iran, the music and lyrics were a bit darker.

"When they left I think it just reflected their own mood, which was a bit happier. It was kind of like post-punk music. You could totally dance to it and jam to it." 

Amidi caught up with members of the Yellow Dogs last year at a party in Brooklyn. "They were just having a really, really good time," she said. "They left Iran with a dream, to be able to perform, to be the rock stars that they always wanted to be."

She says it was clear from their Facebook page that the band was excited about even the smallest gigs they had. "They appreciated it so much and it's so sad that all of this was taken away from them in a split second."