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Iranian rockers find their voice

They once feared criticizing Ahmadinejad, but events in Tehran have emboldened US-based rock group Hypernova.

Hypernova (L-R): Poya, Jam, "King" Raam, Kodi and Kami. (Farhad Samari)

BOSTON — When he arrived on American soil two years ago, "King Raam" admitted to being afraid.

The young Iranian rocker, fresh from Tehran's music underground, was not scared of failure, though the odds of U.S. music industry success were long for even the most well connected of rock wanna-be's.

Nor was he overly worried about JFK passport control: after all, he had a properly issued visa — though it had been delayed in Dubai because of a stand-off over the boatload of British sailors being held by Iran's Revolutionary Guards not far from the coastal southern Iranian town of Bushehr, where he was born.

Raam's biggest fear in those heady days of March 2007, sleeping on friends' floors and playing gigs in late-opening bars on Manhattan's Lower East Side, was being seen publicly criticizing Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the fearsome band of mullahs pulling the strings in the Islamic Republic.

But now, spurred by the tumultuous events in Iran, Raam and his band, Hypernova, have seemingly found their voice in opposing the Iranian government.

"Because of the internet, the people of the world are being exposed to the horrific reality of the streets," Raam said Wednesday. "The oppressive government is continuously trying to clean up after itself through misinformation and propaganda.

"There have been many other fascists like Hitler, Stalin and Franco who have suppressed the people and the truth far too long before they were defeated, but thanks to the amazing flow of information there is only so much that this fascist government can do."

While Raam admits that Hypernova has a way to go before realizing the rock stardom they crave, they can claim a measure of success.

The band is at the forefront of the Iranian rock movement, having achieved celebrity in the "underground" scene at home before coming to the U.S., “with a guitar, $400 and no expectations.”

In Iran, bands compete to have their music played in online "festivals" as a way of getting around a 2005 ban on Western music that was part of Ahmadinejad's efforts to roll back the reforms of his more liberal predecessor, Mohammad Khatami. Defiance of the ban can lead to arrest, large fines and even a public flogging.