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Voice of courage and defiance -

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Voice of courage and defiance

Broadcast: 13/05/2010

Reporter: John Taylor

Mohammad Reza Shajarian, a superstar of Persian traditional music is currently touring Australia.
He is considered a living legend within his home country of Iran and has played to packed halls
here. While some artists have been punished for speaking out, Mohammad Shajarian believes it's time
for art, and religion, to be separated from politics.


KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: Iran's diplomatic isolation is said to increase with the US pushing for
more punitive sanctions over concern about the country's nuclear ambition.

While pressure is mounting the unrest after the disputed presidential election last year shows many
Iranians are pressing for change. Among them is Mohammad Reza Shajarian, superstar of Persian
traditional music who is currently touring Australia.

He is considered a living legend in his country and has played to packed halls here. While some
artists have been punished for speaking out, Mohammad Reza Shajarian believes it is time for art
and religion to be separated from politics.

John Taylor reports from Brisbane.

JOHN TAYLOR, REPORTER: It is a rare concert that begins with a standing ovation.

For his fans in Australia Mohammad Reza Shajarian is a touchstone to a distant homeland.

FAN 1: If you go to any Iranian Persian house you will find his tape as one of the collection of
the music. To me his voice is heavenly.

FAN 2: It is a unique opportunity to be here because, for people in Iran, finding a ticket for his
concert is no mean feat.

JOHN TAYLOR: Mohammad Reza Shajarian is a living legend of Iranian classical music. His mastery of
a complex weave of rigid structure, ancient poetry and and improvisation has brought him
considerable fame back home.

MOHAMMAD REZA SHAJARIAN, MUSICIAN: We keep the art for people and this is for the people that we
are living among. And that is very satisfying for me. I'm living among the people, we have the same
thoughts: I love them, and they love me.

For decades the 69 year old has been at the forefront of Iranian traditional music. Music is his
life and every performance is intense.

MOHAMMAD REZA SHAJARIAN: If I don't have anything to say I couldn't even sing. I always have to
have something. I mean an artist is like a pregnant woman.that's giving birth. On the stage I have
a similar feeling. When I come on the stage, whatever is bottled up inside me I throw it out.
Whatever is in me, it's releated to my environment and the society that I'm living in.

That proved especially so last year after Iran's disputed presidential election.

As people marched and died Mohammad Reza Shajarian demanded state radio and television stop
broadcasting his music.

MOHAMMAD REZA SHAJARIAN: Because the President came and insulted people and called them dirt and
dust, "these people who are coming here and complaining they are a bunch of dirt and dust". Then I
said ok, I'm from the same dirt and dust too. 19:02 My voice was has been for the dirt and dust and
I do not give permission to broadcast my voice on your radio and television.

Broadcasters did so but others called him a traitor. Some broadcasters have been detained but the
singer says he is not afraid.

MOHAMMAD REZA SHAJARIAN: Now after 30 years since religion came and entered politics and started
handling the government, because this has had a very, very bad result, everyone has come to this
belief we must separate religion from politics.

In Australia he is still pushing the boundaries, allowing his daughter to sing solo in front of
mixed audiences.

JOHN TAYLOR: By calling for your music not to be played after the disputed election and by your
actions with your daughter singing in front of mixed audiences in concerts, are you ever so gently
trying to push the authorities in Iran?

MOHAMMAD REZA SHAJARIAN: No. No. Because they ... they're taking their path and as they say these
are divine laws and you can't change them. And whatever we say they do whatever they want to. They
do whatever they want to do and we do whatever we want to do.