I went to bed last full of hope, hope that acclaimed recognition would be given to Iranians worldwide and their quest for freedom on a platform as huge as the Grammys. Being in the UK the awards ceremony took place while we slept, therefore as I woke up (early doors, thanks Lily) and checked my phone, I was immediately served up a post announcing Shervin Hajipour as the winner for the Grammys new special merit category recognising Best Song for Social Change - if there ever was an award so fitting for the song “Baraye", this was it.
It’s a song that became synonymous with the women-led protests that have swept through Iran since September 2022. A song that, through grief and pain, evokes a yearning for change… a song that Hajipour himself was jailed by the Islamic Republic of Iran for writing.
The first lady of the United States, Jill Biden, introduced the award. “A song can unite, inspire and ultimately change the world,” she said. “Baraye,” she added, was “a powerful and poetic call for freedom and women’s rights” that continues to resonate across the world.
As she read out the award winner, Hajipour’s original video and song played on two screens as she emphasised the slogan from the uprising: “For Women, Life, Freedom.”
Hajipour was a relatively unknown artist until he released “Baraye”. The song was composed and recorded from his bedroom in the Iranian city of Babolsar and released last September around the protests, which started in response to the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who had been in the custody of Iran’s morality police for allegedly wearing “improper hijab.”
The original “Baraye” video went viral after generating over 40 million views in 48 hours. Hajipour was arrested shortly after releasing the video, the video was deleted and he is currently out on bail awaiting trial. “I wrote this song in solidarity with the people who are critical of the situation like many of our artists who reacted,” he said in a video message, in early October.
“Baraye”, in Farsi translates to “Because Of” Hajipour said he wrote the lyrics based on tweets posted by young Iranians that list the reasons why they continue to protest against the Iranian Regime. The song’s lyrics begin with: “For dancing in the streets,” “for the fear we feel when we kiss.”and ends with the widely chanted phrase “for woman, life, freedom.”
Following Hajipour’s arrest, TikTok users urged viewers to nominate “Baraye” for the award. The Recording Academy said it was “deeply moved” by the overwhelming number of submissions for the song with it to have been reported in receiving over 95,000 (83%) of the 115,000 total submissions for the new category.
Musicians around the world have displayed their solidarity with Iranians by covering / playing the song, Coldplay performed the song with the Iranian-French actress Golshifteh Farahani in Buenos Aires, Jean Paul Gaultier used it as a soundtrack as models walked the runway and Rana Mansour performed a cover of the song on The Voice Germany. More recently, American singer Taylor Hanson and a new non-profit, For Women Life Freedom, organised a massive project, which aimed to bring together 16,000 voices for a new recording of “Baraye.” Participants were asked to help sing an English translation of the final refrain of Hajipour’s song, “For women, life, freedom.”.
Hajipour’s Grammy brings great pride to Iranians worldwide, reminding us that together we stand strong and united #ZanZendegiAzadi.