‘Baraye,’ the Anthem of Iran’s Protest Movement, Wins a Grammy (2023)


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Shervin Hajipour won in a new special merit category recognizing a song for social change. The song has become the anthem of protests that have swept through Iran in recent months.

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By Farnaz Fassihi

He was a relatively unknown young pop singer who had been eliminated in the final round of Iran’s version of “American Idol.” Then he wrote a protest song. On Sunday, he won a Grammy Award.

Shervin Hajipour, 25, won in a new special merit category recognizing a song for social change for his hit “Baraye.” The song has become the anthem of protests that have swept through Iran in recent months, evoking grief, anger, hope and a yearning for change.

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.

(Video) 'We send our support': Coldplay perform Iranian protest song Baraye in Buenos Aires

And as Hajipour’s image and song played on two screens, she reiterated the bedrock slogan of Iran’s uprising: “For Women, Life, Freedom.”

“Congratulations Shervin, and thank you for your song,” she said.

Hajipour lives in Iran and did not respond to a request for comment. “We won,” he posted on Instagram after the award was given.

A video circulated on social media that seemed to capture the moment when Mr. Hajipour, surrounded by friends and watching the ceremony on television, heard his name announced as the winner. He appeared stunned as friends screamed, cheered and hugged him.

“My God, my God, I can’t believe it,” said one of his friends, according to the video.

He was arrested by the intelligence ministry shortly after his song went viral in September, generating some 40 million views — close to 87 million people live in Iran — in 48 hours. He is currently out on bail and awaiting trial, and has made only one short video message since his release.

“I wrote this song in solidarity with the people who are critical of the situation like many of our artists who reacted,” said Hajipour in the video message, from early October.

In late September, protests erupted across Iran as tens of thousands of people, led by women and girls, demanded liberation from the Islamic Republic’s theocracy. The protests were set off by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old who had been in the custody of the morality police on the allegation of violating hijab rules.

Iranians tweeted their reasons for protesting using the hashtag #baraye (or “#for”). Hajipour wove those tweets into lyrics, naming his song after the hashtag. He composed and recorded the song from his bedroom in his parents’ house in the coastal city of Babolsar.

(Video) Iran protest song that's become the soundtrack to civil uprising

As Iranians shared the reasons they were protesting via tweets, Hajipour wove some of them into his verses:

For embarrassment due to being penniless; For yearning for an ordinary life; For the child laborer and his dreams; For this dictatorial economy; For this polluted air; For this forced paradise; For jailed intellectuals; For all the empty slogans”

For the past five months, everywhere Iranians congregated inside and outside the country, be it protests, funerals, celebrations, hikes, concerts, malls, cafes, university campuses, high schools or traffic jams, they blasted the song and sang the lyrics in unison:

For the feeling of peace; For the sunrise after long dark nights; For the stress and insomnia pills; For man, motherland, prosperity; For the girl who wished she was born a boy; For woman, life, freedom…For Freedom.”

The Grammy will raise the song’s profile even more.

“‘Baraye’ winning a Grammy sends the message to Iranians that the world has heard them and is acknowledging their freedom struggle,” said Nahid Siamdoust, the author of “Soundtrack of the Revolution: The Politics of Music in Iran.” “It is awarding their protest anthem with the highest musical honor.”

Siamdoust, who is also an assistant professor of media and Middle East studies at the University of Texas at Austin, said that while music has played an important political role in Iran since the constitutional revolution a century ago, no song compared to “Baraye” in terms of reach and impact. “Music can travel and traverse homes and communities and spread sentiment in a way that few other means can achieve,” she said.

In a 2019 documentary short about his musical journey that recently aired on BBC Persian, Mr. Hajipour said that he began training as a classical violinist at the age of 8, started composing music at 12. He also said he has a college degree in economics but works as a professional musician, composing music for clients and recording his own songs.

He said that his passion was creating music that broke form and that he drew inspiration from the pain and suffering he experienced and witnessed.

“My biggest pain and my biggest problems have turned into my best work. And they will do so in the future as well,” he said in the documentary in what turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

While Hajipour was in detention, “Baraye” disappeared from his Instagram page. Iranians mobilized, posting and reposting the song. “For Shervin” trended on Twitter with demands of his release.

“Shervin is an extremely talented, innocent and shy young man,” said a prominent Iranian singer, Mohammad Esfahani, who had met him when he was a contestant on the television show.

(Video) The Musical Anthem of Iran’s Protest Movement

The Recording Academy said it was “deeply moved” by the overwhelming number of submissions for “Baraye,” which received over 95,000 of the 115,000 submissions for the new category. The award was proposed by academy members and determined by the Grammys’ blue ribbon committee, a panel of music experts, and ratified by the Recording Academy’s board of trustees.

“Baraye” became the vehicle through which people around the world displayed their solidarity to Iranians. Scores of musicians have covered the song, including Coldplay and Jon Batiste. The German electronic artist Jan Blomqvist remixed it as a dance tune. The designer Jean Paul Gaultier used it as a soundtrack as models walked the runway last month at his show during Paris fashion week, and Malala Yousafzai, who won the Nobel Peace Prize, played it in the background in a message to the girls and women of Iran.

The lyrics have been translated and performed in various genres: jazz and opera in English, metal in Germany, choir by French school children and pop in Swedish among others. It has also inspired a number of dance performances, including in Israel. Some artists around the world have covered it verbatim in Persian, including one in Ukraine who said she sang it to highlight the plight of the Iranian people.

Hajipour’s Grammy win stirred pride among many Iranians online after the award was announced.

“God, I am crying from joy,” a Twitter user named Melody posted about Hajipour’s victory.

“A song about the most basic rights of a human, the most simple wishes of an Iranian,” an Iranian journalist, Farzad Nikghadam, tweeted. “A nation crying for gender equality and freedom.”

In the documentary, Hajipour spoke about the importance of music. “The biggest miracle in my life has been music,” he said. “I would like to be successful and to be able to make a living with music that comes from my heart.”


Continue reading the main story


Did Baraye win grammy 2023? ›

Protest Song: Shervin Hajipour's “Baraye,” which has become the anthem of the protests in Iran, won in a new special merit category recognizing a song for social change.

Who won the 2023 Grammy Award? ›

Beyoncé became the most decorated artist in history and 50 years of hip-hop were honored at the 65th annual Grammy Awards. Trevor Noah returned to host the ceremony for a third straight time as the evening concluded with Harry Styles taking home the coveted award for album of the year.

Who has won a Grammy 3 times? ›

Three-time winner Stevie Wonder who won in 1974, 1975 and 1977. Three-time winner Paul Simon who won twice as the main credited artist, in 1976 and 1987. Taylor Swift is the first woman to win two and three times as a lead artist, in 2010, 2016 and 2021. U2 is the only group act to win twice, in 1988 and 2006.

Did Shervin Hajipour win? ›

U.S. first lady Jill Biden announced Hajipour's win of the U.S. Recording Academy's first-ever Song for Social Change Special Merit Award at Sunday's annual ceremony in Los Angeles.

Who is a 7 time Grammy winner? ›

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Who's the youngest person to win a GRAMMY? ›

Country-pop sensation LeAnn Rimes made history in 1997 when she, at just 14 years old, became the youngest person ever to win a GRAMMY, taking home Best New Artist and Best Female Country Vocal Performance (for her rendition of "Blue," a cover of Bill Mack's 1958 track).

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Samara Joy won a GRAMMY for Best New Artist at the 2023 GRAMMYs. Samara Joy won the GRAMMY for Best New Artist at the 2023 GRAMMYs. Anitta, Omar Apollo, DOMi & JD Beck, Muni Long, Latto, Måneskin, Tobe Nwigwe, Molly Tuttle, and Wet Leg were the other nominees in the prestigious category.

Who won best new artist 2023? ›

Music's biggest night also gave fans some nice surprises, including Bonnie Raitt taking home song of the year, Lizzo winning record of the year and jazz singer Samara Joy being named best new artist.

Who has most GRAMMYs before Beyoncé? ›

Person of interest: Georg Solti

Late conductor Georg Solti held the record for the most Grammy wins until Beyoncé claimed the crown. Throughout his four decade-long career, the British-Hungarian received 70 nominations, of which he won 31.

Who won 4 Grammys in one night? ›

Most wins in one night: Solti won four awards in 1984, including two for Mahler: Symphony No. 9 in D, which was voted best classical album and best orchestral recording. Solti was one of the night's biggest winners, along with Michael Jackson, who took a record-setting eight awards, and Quincy Jones, who also won four.

How many GRAMMYs do michael Jackson have? ›

Michael Jackson won 13 Grammy Awards, including 8 for the album Thriller. Jackson was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame twice: in 1997 as a member of the Jackson 5 and in 2001 for his solo career. Jackson also helped open the doors for Black artists on the radio and on television (particularly MTV).

Did Shervin win Grammy 2023? ›

First Lady of the United States Dr. Jill Biden announces the "Best Song For Social Change" award to Shervin Hajipour for "Baraye" onstage during the 65th Grammy Awards at Crypto.com Arena on Feb. 5, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.

Who is Shervin Hajipour? ›

Shervin Haji Aghapour (Persian: شروین حاجی‌ آقاپور; born 30 March 1997) is an Iranian singer-songwriter. Born in Babol, he began posting covers to his social media in late 2018.

Who won song for social change? ›

Shervin Hajipour received the Special Merit Award for Best Song For Social Change for "Baraye" at the 2023 GRAMMYs. A new Special Merit Award introduced this year, the award was presented by First Lady Jill Biden, who highlighted the message of the Iranian singer/songwriter.

Who has 14 Grammys? ›

Alison Krauss, 27

She has won slightly more than half of these Grammys (14) with the ensemble Alison Krauss & Union Station. Krauss, 49, won her first Grammy at the 1990 awards for her album I've Got That Old Feeling; her most recent one at the 2011 awards for the Union Station album Paper Airplane.

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Bonnie Raitt – 10 Grammys.

What are Big 4 Grammys? ›

The Big Four Grammy Awards (also known as the General Field) are four Grammy awards presented by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences which go to musical acts and works which are not restricted by genre or another criterion.

Which singer has more Grammys? ›

Georg Solti holds the record for most Grammy awards, having received 31 in his career, according to the Recording Academy.

Has a black person won a Grammy? ›

African-American artists have been making history at the GRAMMYs since the awards were first presented on May 4, 1959. Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie each took home two awards that night.

Can you own a Grammy? ›

The verbiage in that agreement explicitly states that by accepting the award, you agree that it is “for your own personal, noncommercial purposes” and that “sale, auction, public exhibition, reproduction or other public or commercial exploitation of the Statuette,” without permission from the Academy, is prohibited.

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Clarkson became the first "Idol" winner to win a GRAMMY two years later, when she scooped up two awards: Best Pop Vocal Album for Breakaway, and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for her smash "Since U Been Gone."

How many GRAMMYs has Beyoncé won? ›

In the win heard around the world, Beyoncé became the person with the most GRAMMYs of all time at the 2023 GRAMMYs. Her win for Best Dance/Electronic Music Album for RENAISSANCE put her at 32 golden gramophones — and in host Trevor Noah's eyes, that solidified her title as the GRAMMY GOAT.

Who won best artist? ›

Grammy Award for Best New Artist

Who won best album GRAMMYs 2023? ›

How Harry's House Beat Beyoncé Adele turned out to be the least of Beyoncé's worries. On Sunday evening, it was a different British pop star who stood between her and her first Grammy for Album of the Year: Harry Styles.

Who won best new artist 2023 GRAMMYs? ›

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Who won best R&B album Grammy 2023? ›

Robert Glasper Wins Best R&B Album For 'Black Radio III' 2023 GRAMMYs Acceptance Speech. GRAMMY.com.

Who is the youngest person in the world to win a Grammy? ›

LeAnn Rimes

Rimes was just 14 years old when she won two Grammy Awards: one for best new artist and the other for best female country vocal performance. This made her the youngest Grammy winner in history.

Can you vote for Grammys? ›

While the Grammys aren't voted on by the public, fans can still support their favorite artists by posting about them on social media to put them on the Recording Academy's radar.

Who won best album? ›

Grammy Award for Album of the Year


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