Iran’s latest pop sensation has a staggering family background: his father is one of the country’s most conservative clerics, while his older brother is a reformist blogger jailed for his vocal criticism of the Iranian government.
Mohammad-Hossein Khazaali, who is better known by his stage name Samir Zand, took the media by storm on Monday after releasing a music video clip, which combines bouncy elements of deep techno, trance, and house music, Bahar News reports.
The video clip also features former Los Angeles-based singer Habib Mohebbian, who fled Iran following the 1979 revolution and returned only a few years ago to try his chances in the country’s music industry after more than 25 years.
"At first, it was a challenge for Habib to get a music license, but with the help and cooperation of high-ranking cultural officials, Habib is once again a certified singer who can work within the legal frameworks of Iran’s music industry," Zand said via Bahar News.
The news comes a week after five Iranian musicians were arrested for allegedly producing underground songs for LA-based Iranian singers and providing videos to Farsi-speaking dissident channels, the Associated Press notes. Prominent songwriter Roozbeh Bemani was reportedly among the arrested, according to the Guardian.
Apparently, having a high-ranking cleric as a father has its perks, even for pop stars. According to opposition website Kaleme, Zand is the youngest son of Ayatollah Abulghasem Khazaali -- a leading right-wing cleric who until a few years ago held a key role in the influential Guardian Council. His brother, Mehdi, is a leading reformist and blogger currently serving a 14-year jail sentence for his criticism of state theocracy and the Ahmadinejad administration, according to the Prague-based Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
A few weeks after his arrest, Mehdi Khazali went on hunger strike to protest his imprisonment, which was strongly supported by his father and, strangely enough, his pop-star younger brother.
"My father has given up on my brother. He says he wouldn't care even if he dies from hunger strike in prison. He has completely washed his hands off Mehdi and has vowed not to bail him out," Samir Zand said, according to Kalemeh.
Check out the music video below to see just how far the apple has fallen from the tree: