Iran's Latest Ambassadors

When Americans speak about an Iranian invasion, few are referring to a rock band. But here they are in New York, four young Iranians who call their band Hypernova.

The group is enjoying unexpected popularity during its first tour of the United States. The band played a packed show Monday night at Arlene's Grocery, on New York City's Lower East Side.

The band's lead singer, Raam, wore his glee and appreciation on his sleeve as he opened the set: "Thank you for having us, America -- being here is a dream come true."

Raam, 25; lead guitar player, Kodi, 17; Jam, 26, on bass; and drummer Kami, 25; shared their delight and discomfort with the attention their band has received.

Though they are open to interviews, the band members refuse to provide their last names for fear of attracting unwanted attention back home in Iran. They won't disclose the names and professions of their parents either. It is clear, however, that these young men are remarkably self-aware, understanding the need to strike a balance between being rock musicians and citizens of a closed society such as Iran.

It seems that this band is representative of a class of young people who are in a tacit agreement with Iran's conservative government. They love their country, largely because they are able to live their lives generally skirting the conservative laws of the mullahs that affect most people there.

Though they do not give many details about their families, these young men belong to Iran's affluent classes. Their parents are educated and well-off; some have even lived and been educated in the West, choosing to return to Iran.

"I do not want to get anyone in trouble for my stupid band," says Raam, who serves as spokesman for the group. "I do not want to get people close to me in trouble."

This band is, after all, from a country with strict rules on what people can say and do in public without suffering reprisals from the conservative Islamic government.

Hypernova is much more than just any stupid band, though. The band has dared to go where no Iranian rock outfit has gone in many years. It has toured parts of Europe and is now in the middle of organizing an American tour.

There are also plans in the works for organizing a benefit concert for the city of New Orleans. "How cool would that be?" Raam excitedly adds. "Kids from Iran trying to help out people from New Orleans."

Raam, who also writes songs, lived in Oregon for several years until he was about 9. His entrepreneurial drive and spirit have brought the band this far. He speaks fluent English and serves as a translator for two members of band.

He also has a keen understanding of Western media, which allows him to get his message through rather succinctly. "We are representative of Iran," he says. "We are here to tell America that there are people like us back in Iran."

These young men seem strangely oblivious to the Western view of Iran -- the nuclear program and the current crisis involving British soldiers has little do with their lives. They instead spend their time in their country planning underground parties. Hypernova claims to have done more for the underground music scene in Iran than any other band. The members say they regularly play to audiences of hundreds, once even playing a four-hour gig.

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