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February 2, 2023 3:04 pm

Singer From Pop Band Hanson Invites 16,000 Voices to Record New Version of Iranian Protest Anthem ‘Baraye’


avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Taylor Hanson, center, with his brothers and Hanson bandmates Isaac and Zac Hanson in a video interview with People magazine. Photo: YouTube screenshot.

American singer Taylor Hanson, from the multi-platinum pop band Hanson, is co-organizing a project that aims to get 16,000 voices to record a new arrangement of a song in support of the mass anti-government protests in Iran that started following the death of Mahsa Amini in September.

The “MMMBop” singer and the new non-profit called For Women, Life, Freedom have invited the general public as well as leading musicians and others in the music industry to participate in a new recording of Baraye by Iranian artist Shervin Hajipour.

The initiative is being called The Voices Project and participants are being asked to help sing, online or in-person, an English translation of the final refrain of Hajipour’s song — “For women, life, freedom.” Voice submissions can be made online and the in-person recording session will take place on Feb. 4 at the iconic Henson Studios in Los Angeles, where leading artists gathered 38 years ago to record We Are the World. The new song will be called Baraye – For Women, Life, Freedom and it will be the largest single studio recording of voices in history, according to The Voices Project.

The new arrangement of Baraye is being produced by Hanson; Iranian-American musician Hamid Saeidi of the Grammy-winning group Opium Moon; Grammy-winning producer and engineer Jim Scott; and producer and musician David Garza with assistance from CJ Eiriksson. Variety reported that The Voices Project hopes to release Baraye – For Women, Life, Freedom on Feb. 10, the day before the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.

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The goal of the project is to bring awareness and unified support to those in Iran who are protesting Amini’s death on September 16 while she was in the custody of Iran’s morality police, who arrested the 22-year-old for not properly wearing a headscarf. Amini’s family claim she was beaten to death by police, though authorities deny all wrongdoing. So far thousands have been arrested — some executed and others given long prison sentences — for participating in the protests. Hajipour was also arrested after his song turned into an anthem for protesters in Iran.

“Since September, over 16,000 people have been arrested for protesting peacefully in the street. We will be their voice,” it says on the sign-up page for The Voice Project.

“The idea for The Voices Project was born as a touchpoint, a gateway to connect with the issues [in Iran] in a different way. My hope is it becomes octane towards unifying this overall movement,” Hanson — who is on the board of directors of For Women, Life, Freedom — told Variety.

The singer also helped Baraye receive a nomination at the upcoming Grammys in its new Song For Social Change Special Merit Award category. Hanson is the president of the Texas chapter of the Recording Academy.

“This cause broke my heart,” Hanson added. “My whole life, I don’t think I’ve been able to ask myself if I see any difference between the Iranian government and the Iranian people. The government [of Iran] has been seen as very much not a friend to our nation. But the people [of Iran] are the ones being oppressed.

“Considering the level of atrocity that has unfolded [in Iran] … Considering how vital this is, how critical, that it hasn’t reached the consciousness of as many people as it should, just doesn’t add up. My thinking was, ‘What way can this movement break through?’ Music might have a real role to play here.”

Hanson also told Variety that he realizes the risks of standing in solidarity with a cause that is “dangerous” and has turned violent in Iran. He knows his efforts with The Voices Project might make him an enemy of the Iranian government but explained that he believes “inaction is what allows violent action to proliferate.”

“I think any risk I am taking by calling people together to sing for a cause is a fraction of the risks thousands have already taken to stand up for their lives,” he noted. “I believe that this movement came to me for a reason. How many people must die, [and] how many people must live oppressed for us to think it matters? What we are doing is shining of light so bright it cannot be ignored or overlooked.”

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