“Somewhere Over the Underground”
A Tribute to The Yellow Dogs
When I was a teenager, I was excited about the underground scene in Manhattan. I would search for little gems on the Lower East Side and Alphabet City. I was looking for anything hidden, secret and special. There were squats, abandoned warehouses and empty basements where I could find make-shift venues serving alcohol, showcasing live bands, art installations, dancing, avant guard performances and fake ID’s were a-okay. Totally fun, and totally illegal. Sometimes the cops would turn a blind eye, but often there would be police raids. Cops storming in to the space and kicking everyone out, searching for those who put it together, or arresting any one of the fleeing patrons they could catch.
I see it as rare beauty among the everyday mundane. Because, when there are those who are willing to break the rules, climb over obstacles, and tear down boundaries to share their vision to the public, you can’t deny the specialness of it. The immense power in it. And that power is a rare beauty, a secret revealed.
The Yellow Dogs were a band that knew that secret well. They were rocknrollers from a real underground… in Tehran, Iran. Rocknroll music is considered contraband in the oppressive police state of Iran, and if you play in a rocknroll band, you play it in extreme danger. And that’s the chance some musicians are willing to take.
It started in 2006 when they were teenagers. Koory and Looloosh started playing with the band, Hypernova, in Tehran. Then in 2008, when Hypernova pioneered the high-risk move to tour the United States, the two stayed behind in Iran to form another band and continue to brave Tehran’s increasingly hostile environment. Obash, Koory and brothers Looloosh and Arash formed The Yellow Dogs. They rehearsed in a rooftop space, soundproofed and hidden. They invited friends to exclusive live shows if they promised not to tell anyone. Invitation only. A brave feat considering the severe punishment. In 2009, the band members became the subject of the award winning film, “No One Knows About Persian Cats.” It is the story of how the band got together against the odds, and the challenges they went through to keep their group a secret from the authorities. In 2010, they performed their songs live for the after party of the film’s premiere screening in New York City. There is no escaping the intense political vibe surrounding the band, although they preferred not to emphasize Iran’s politics in their music. Their songs were sung in english, with a dance/post-punk feel. It was upbeat music and they seemed to be fun loving guys. They played freely in New York City and Brooklyn, to a growing network of friends and fans. But they were unable to visit loved ones back in Iran. Because they chose to follow their passion as rock musicians, they were banned from reentering their country. So the band members continued to play and made their home in an artist space warehouse in Brooklyn, along with many other artists and musicians. These rebels of Tehran fit in perfectly with the artists of New York. Without a record label, these guys still maintained a popular musical career, and they deserved it. After a long process, the band members had finally received political Asylum in the U.S.
But 2 days ago, we lost two members of Yellow Dogs, brothers Looloosh and Arash, along with their friend Ali. They were all senselessly killed in their home at the artist warehouse in Brooklyn. The reasons why are unclear, yet any reasons would be useless. The fact is that this is a great loss, to their loved ones, their fans, those who never met them and even those who have never heard of them. They lived their lives with conviction, bravery and dedication to their calling, with love and devotion to each other. They worked hard to bring their own rare beauty to the public. To me, that is the secret to their power.
The Yellow Dogs have a magnificent story of hope and success that was cut devastatingly short. I wish I had known them personally, but luckily we have mutual friends that bring me closer to their world, their truth, their life. One of my friends told me they were “peaceful and sweet” guys. They were happy to have the opportunity to do what they love in a city that was equally grateful to have them here. They had a great bond with each other, which is clear when you look at where they came from and everything they went through to achieve their dreams together.
From Mandrake Magazine
Nov. 14th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Käla Mandrake. All rights reserved.