Khosravi arrived in Harstad a week ago after fleeing from Iran to Turkey in 2017 because of severe threats and harassment - and a 6 years prison sentence. In 2016, he stood trial in Iran on several charges, among them, blasphemy, political and anti-religious lyrics, illegal underground activity and interviews with illegal foreign radio stations.
A young and prolific metal musician
Nikan Khosravi set up his heavy metal band Confess in 2010, already in his teenages. The band produced their first album Beginning of Dominion soon after, followed by four singles. The single Encase Your Gun from in 2012 criticised the Iranian government’s treatment of dissent following the 2009 Green democracy movement. Other singles were Painter of Pain (2012), This Love (Pantera Cover) (2013) and Edge of Mind (2013). In 2014, the band released the 6-track EP, Back to My Future 2/4.
The topics and lyrics of Confess’ songs, are coruscating, using strong imagery and references to death, mythology, challenges to religion and anger against authority, as well as making liberal use of profanities.
Defying government restrictions
The nature of metal music, usually played loud and with its theme of rage and politics, coupled with a culture of tattoos and other insignia makes it particularly transgressive and a target for conservatives in Iran. Despite this repression, there is a sizeable underground heavy metal scene in Iran, with performances staged in secret venues, and metal fans in Iran are able to circumvent government censorship and obtain forbidden music through the internet.
All music that is not licensed by the Iranian government is illegal, alongside a ban against solo female performers, arrests of artists who tackle taboo topics and who criticise social-political subjects. For the band to be able to produce its own work in Iran, in 2014, Khosravi founded the Opposite Records Label.
The case of Khosravi and his band mate Arash Ilkhani, also sentenced to 6 years in prison, has been the interest of international media and human rights community since the trial in 2017. In June 2017, while still in Iran awaiting an appeal hearing, Khosravi gave an interview on his arrest to Metal Injection, an online heavy metal magazine based in New York, in which he described his arrest and trial, and the support he has had from metal musicians and fans abroad. The interview was widely publicised across the specialist music press, such as Loudwire and Decibel for which Khosravi gave an interview in March 2018. The case has made it into more mainstream music publications, such as Rolling Stone, and foreign newspapers such as the UK’s Independent and Daily Mail.
Harstad City of Refuge
The City of Harstad joined ICORN in 2014 as the first official city of refuge for musicians. Khosravi is the third musician welcomed in an ICORN residency in Harstad. Sudanese musician Abazar Hamid was the first musician who arrived through the programme in 2014, Afghan musician Hamid Sakhizada arrived in 2016.