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Rising Iranian Musicians Slain in New York

  • RFE/RL

FILE - Ali Eskandarian performs at Joe's Pub's 10th Anniversary Gala and tribute to Judy Collins at the Public Theater in New York, Oct. 10, 2008.

FILE - Ali Eskandarian performs at Joe's Pub's 10th Anniversary Gala and tribute to Judy Collins at the Public Theater in New York, Oct. 10, 2008.

A gunman has shot dead three Iranian musicians in New York before turning the gun on himself.

Two of the victims were members of the Iranian indie rock band Yellow Dogs, which became famous after appearing in the award-winning movie No One Knows About Persian Cats.

The members of Yellow Dogs moved to the United States three years ago in a bid to pursue their rock-and-roll dream in a climate of greater freedom.

At home in Iran, Yellow Dogs were part of that country's underground music scene. With rock concerts banned, bands are forced to operate clandestinely to avoid punishment by the state.

Details of the shooting at a building in Brooklyn, New York, are still unclear. But on November 11, two members of the band -- two brothers -- were shot dead by the gunman, who has been identified in media reports as a musician from another band.

The perpetrator also shot dead another Iranian musician in the same building and then killed himself.

The band’s manager, Ali Salehzadeh, told The New York Times that Soroush Farazmand, a guitarist, and Arash Farazmand, the drummer, had been killed.

Another man in the house reportedly survived the shooting with an arm injury. His condition has been reported as stable.

The reason for the attack, which occurred after midnight, is not clear. Some news reports initially suggested that the shooter was a former member of the Yellow Dogs who had been kicked out of the band after a dispute over money, although that was disputed by later reports.

Investigators were still trying to determine the details of the shooting spree.

Reports say police officers who arrived at the scene of the shooting found the bodies of three men on the second and third floors. Two had been shot in the head and one in the chest, police said. The body of the suspected shooter was found on the roof of the building with a rifle next to him. He had apparently died from a self-inflicted wound to the head.

Fame and Scrutiny

The tragic incident has caused shock and sadness among fans of the Yellow Dogs.

They were among the underground musicians featured in Bahman Ghobadi's widely acclaimed movie No One Knows About Persian Cats, which focuses on Iran's underground music scene.

The movie brought the Tehran band fame and also more scrutiny from the regime, which led to them leaving the country and seeking asylum in the United States.

In one of the movie's scenes the band is rehearsing in a makeshift studio on a Tehran rooftop. In a 2011 interview, members of the band told RFE/RL that they had built the soundproof studio themselves.

All they wanted was to achieve their dream of "playing music everywhere in this world," the band said. "We don't like to use our Iranian nationality for being famous. There are [Iranian musicians] dying for that, here they exaggerate these topics," -- a reference to repression and human rights violations in Iran -- "just to go to festivals and make money out of it."

Members of the band left Iran following the 2009 mass street protests after the re-election of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They said some of their friends had been among those arrested and injured in the crackdown.

"A lot of our friends were in trouble, some went to the hospital, other were jailed. Some cops, we don't know if they were from the government, they came and took some photographs of that dark house, the practicing room that we had on the rooftop, and there was more attention after the movie [came out]. We felt it might be a little dangerous, especially for our music, because our music -- we sing in English, and most people [in Iran] don't really understand -- but if you go and check out our lyrics, they're really aggressive," one of the band members, who is unidentified in the interview, told RFE/RL.

After fleeing Iran, they performed in Istanbul in what was reportedly their first public concert. Their rock-and-roll career continued in New York, where the band settled in Brooklyn and played at a number of well-known venues and festivals.

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