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Iranian musicians slain in New York admired by young fans back home

November 12, 2013|By Ramin Mostaghim and Patrick J. McDonnell
  • The Iranian band Yellow Dogs appear in a promotional photo in 2012. Soroush Farazmand, 27, far left, and Arash Farazmand, 28, far right, were found dead in their apartment in Brooklyn early Monday morning. Band members Koory Mirzeai, center left, and Siavash Karampour, center right, were not harmed.
The Iranian band Yellow Dogs appear in a promotional photo in 2012. Soroush… (Danny Krug )

TEHRAN -- It was headline material in New York, but the killing rampage that took the lives of three young Iranian musicians in Brooklyn early Monday merited only a brief mention in the news here, resonating largely amid a coterie of young fans who admired the slain rockers’ work.

“I’m very sad to hear it,” said Amirali, a graffiti artist who knew two of the victims, Arash and Soroush Farazmand, brothers and members of the Yellow Dogs band, which had achieved a measure of fame among young Iranians at home and in the United States.

“They were very nice guys,” said Amirali, who, like others interviewed, withheld his last name for privacy reasons. “Civilized and artistic.”

The brothers and a third Iranian musician, Ali Eskandarian, 35, were shot dead in what New York police called a murder-suicide.

The attacker, Ali Akbar Mohammadi Rafie, 29, also an Iranian expatriate musician, later took his own life, shooting himself in the head, according to police accounts. Rafie was found dead on the roof of the building where he shot the others with a rifle that he may have concealed in a guitar case before the rampage, police told reporters. Authorities were investigating whether Rafie was enraged about having been sacked from another band.

The underground and diverse Tehran rock scene that spawned the Yellow Dogs and other groups achieved a measure of international fame after the release of the 2009 Iranian film, "No One Knows About Persian Cats," which chronicled young musicians as they practiced their craft in a nation where such secular music is frowned upon. The Yellow Dogs appeared in the film.

The band moved to the United States and the two brothers, Arash, 28, the drummer, and Soroush, 27, the guitarist, received political asylum, according to press accounts. Two other band members, the bass player and lead singer, were not in the apartment at the time of the attack and were not harmed, police said.

One acquaintance recalled hanging out with the band members before their move in a Tehran green space nicknamed “Frog’s Park” because of the noisy frogs inhabiting ponds and streams.

Tehran’s alternative music scene continues to thrive, aficionados say, and musicians playing rock, punk, hip-hop and other genres still have to be discreet and wary of police. Mingling of men and women at performances is especially frowned upon.

Some musicians have become semi-famous and made a good living as wedding performers. Others, like the Yellow Dogs, sought their fortune elsewhere, often in Europe or the United States.

“We have lost three very good artists because a disturbed person lost his mind and turned out to be a killer,” Amirali said. “They were very classy, fantastic guys.”


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Special correspondent Mostaghim reported from Tehran and staff Writer McDonnell reported from Beirut.

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