Sunday, October 23, 2005

Racist Hate Pop

Young Singers Spread Racist Hate
Duo Considered the Olsen Twins of the White Nationalist Movement

Oct. 20, 2005 — - Thirteen-year-old twins Lamb and Lynx Gaede have one album out, another on the way, a music video, and lots of fans.

They may remind you another famous pair of singers, the Olsen Twins, and the girls say they like that. But unlike the Olsens, who built a media empire on their fun-loving, squeaky-clean image, Lamb and Lynx are cultivating a much darker personna. They are white nationalists and use their talents to preach a message of hate.

Kn//own as "Prussian Blue" -- a nod to their German heritage and bright blue eyes -- the girls from Bakersfield, Calif., have been performing songs about white nationalism before all-white crowds since they were nine.

"We're proud of being white, we want to keep being white," said Lynx. "We want our people to stay white ... we don't want to just be, you know, a big muddle. We just want to preserve our race."

Lynx and Lamb have been nurtured on racist beliefs since birth by their mother April. "They need to have the background to understand why certain things are happening," said April, a stay-at-home mom who no longer lives with the twins' father. "I'm going to give them, give them my opinion just like any, any parent would."

April home-schools the girls, teaching them her own unique perspective on everything from current to historical events. In addition, April's father surrounds the family with symbols of his beliefs -- specifically the Nazi swastika. It appears on his belt buckle, on the side of his pick-up truck and he's even registered it as his cattle brand with the Bureau of Livestock Identification.

"Because it's provocative," explains April of the cattle brand, "to him he thinks it's important as a symbol of freedom of speech that he can use it as his cattle brand."

Teaching Hate

Songs like "Sacrifice" -- a tribute to Nazi Rudolf Hess, Hitler's deputy Fuhrer -- clearly show the effect of the girls' upbringing. The lyrics praise Hess as a "man of peace who wouldn't give up."

"It really breaks my heart to see those two girls spewing out that kind of garbage," said Ted Shaw, civil rights advocate and president of the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund -- though Shaw points out that the girls aren't espousing their own opinions but ones they're being taught.

On that point, April Gaede and Ted Shaw apparently agree.

"Well, all children pretty much espouse their parents' attitudes," she said. "We're white nationalists and of course that's a part of our life and I'm going to share that part of my life with my children."

Since they began singing, the girls have become such a force in the white nationalist movement, that David Duke -- the former presidential candidate, one-time Ku-Klux-Klan grand wizard and outspoken white supremacist -- uses the twins to draw a crowd.

Prussian Blue supporter Erich Gliebe, operator of one of the nation's most notorious hate music labels, Resistance Records, hopes younger performers like Lynx and Lamb will help expand the base of the White Nationalist cause.

"Eleven and 12 years old," he said, "I think that's the perfect age to start grooming kids and instill in them a strong racial identity."

Gliebe, who targets young, mainstream white rockers at music festivals like this past summer's "Ozzfest," says he uses music to get his message out.

But with names like Blue-Eyed Devils and Angry Aryans, these tunes are far more extreme than the ones sung by Lamb and Lynx.

"We give them a CD, we give them something as simple as a stick, they can go to our Web site and see other music and download some of our music," said Gliebe. "To me, that's the best propaganda tool for our youth."

A Taste for Hate

Gliebe says he hopes that as younger racist listeners mature, so will their tastes for harder, angrier music like that of Shawn Sugg of Max Resist.

One of Sugg's songs is a fantasy piece about a possible future racial war that goes: "Let the cities burn, let the streets run red, if you ain't white you'll be dead."

"I'd like to compare it to gangsta rap," explained Sugg, "where they glorify, you know, shooting n****** and pimping whores."

Sugg shrugs off criticism that music like his should not be handed out to schoolyard children, arguing that "it's just music, it's not like you're handing out AK-47s."

Perhaps not, but Shaw says it's the ideas in the music that are dangerous.

"When you talk about people being dead if they're not white," said Shaw, "I don't think there is much question that that is hateful."

A Place to Call Home

Despite the success of Prussian Blue and bands like Max Resist within the White Nationalism movement, most Americans don't accept their racist message.

Like many children across the country, Lamb and Lynx decided to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina -- the white ones.

The girls' donations were handed out by a White Nationalist organization who also left a pamphlet promoting their group and beliefs -- some of the intended recipients were more than a little displeased.

After a day of trying, the supplies ended up with few takers, dumped at a local shop that sells Confederate memorabilia.

Last month, the girls were scheduled to perform at the local county fair in their hometown. But when some people in the community protested, Prussian Blue was removed from the line-up.

But even before that, April had decided that Bakersfield was not "white" enough, so she sold her home, and hopes that she and the girls can find an all-white community in the Pacific Northwest.

Copyright © 2005 ABC News Internet Ventures

Monday, October 17, 2005

Hidden (Music) Costs of Documentaries

New York Times
October 16, 2005
The Hidden Cost of Documentaries

THE moment seemed innocuous enough.

Michael Vaccaro, a fourth grader, had just left P.S. 112 in Brooklyn and was headed home with his mother. Two filmmakers were in front of him, their camera capturing his every movement on video, when his mother's cellphone rang.

"It was such an indicator of today's culture," said Amy Sewell, a producer of "Mad Hot Ballroom," the documentary that follows New York City children as they learn ballroom dancing and prepare for a citywide contest. "Michael's mom had just asked him how school was, her cellphone rings, she answers it, and the look on his face says, 'I don't get to tell my mom about my day.' "

In addition, the ringtone was "Gonna Fly Now," the theme from "Rocky," and the neighborhood was Bensonhurst. "How perfect was that?" Ms. Sewell said.

Perfect, but a problem. Had the ringtone been a common telephone ring, the scene could have dropped into the final edit without a hitch, the moment providing a quick bit of emotional texture to the film. But EMI Music Publishing, which owns the rights to "Gonna Fly Now," was asking the first-time producer for $10,000 to use those six seconds.

Ms. Sewell considered relying on fair use, the aspect of copyright law that allows the unlicensed use of material when the public benefit significantly outweighs the costs or losses to the copyright owner. But her lawyer advised against it. "I'm a real Norma Rae-type personality," Ms. Sewell said, "but the lawyer said, 'Honestly, for your first film, you don't have enough money to fight the music industry.' " After four months of negotiating - "I begged and begged," Ms. Sewell said - she ended up paying EMI $2,500. (Total music clearance costs for "Mad Hot Ballroom," which featured songs of Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee, came to $170,000; total costs over all were about $500,000.)

Today, anyone armed with a video camera and movie-editing software can make a documentary. But can everyone afford to make it legally?

Clearance costs - licensing fees paid to copyright holders for permission to use material like music, archival photographs and film and news clips - can send expenses for filmmakers soaring into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Jonathan Caouette's "Tarnation," for instance - a portrait of a young man's relationship with his mentally ill mother that Mr. Caouette edited at home, on a laptop computer - was widely reported to have cost $218. In fact, after a distributor picked up "Tarnation," improved the quality with post-production editing and cleared music rights, the real cost came to more than $460,000. Clearance expenses were about half the total.

Securing rights to music has long been a serious challenge. Ten years ago, for instance, the filmmaker Steve James paid $5,000 to include the song "Happy Birthday" in "Hoop Dreams," the 1994 documentary that followed two Chicago basketball players through high school. One memorable scene portrayed a young man's 18th birthday, as the family sang "and his mom baked him a cake," Mr. James said. "It was an important scene, there was some amazement that Arthur had made it to 18. Of course, we wanted that in."

Scrutiny by rights holders has increased, Mr. James said, as the profit potential in documentaries has risen. "When I was starting out, documentaries were under the umbrella of journalism," he said. "Now, the more commercially successful documentaries have become and the more they're in the public eye, the more they're perceived as entertainment."

In another change, said Peter Jaszi, a law professor at American University, "rights holders are slicing their bundle of rights in finer and finer ways and selling them off in smaller and smaller pieces." He asked: "Would music copyright owners 10 years ago have predicted they'd be making a substantial part of their money over ringtones on cellphones?" (It's now a reported $3 billion industry.) As a result, he said, there's been "a tremendous upsurge in intellectual property consciousness and anxiety on the part of all kinds of users."

Mr. Jaszi is an author, with Patricia Aufderheide, the director of American University's Center for Social Media, of a report titled "Untold Stories: Creative Consequences of the Rights Clearance Culture for Documentary Filmmakers," for which 45 filmmakers were interviewed. Among the more striking examples he cites is "Eyes on the Prize," the series on the civil rights movement. Henry Louis Gates Jr., chairman of the department of African and African-American studies at Harvard, has called "Eyes" "the most sophisticated and most poignant documentary of African-American history ever made." But it was last broadcast in 1993, and while schools or libraries may have a copy, it is not legally available for sale or rent on DVD or video.

"There's a whole generation out there who have not seen the program," said Sandy Forman, an entertainment lawyer heading a project to reclear the rights so that "Eyes" can be rebroadcast and distributed to the educational market. "When the rights were originally cleared, they were acquired for different terms. Some were in perpetuity, some were for 3 years, some for 7, some for 10." Once just one group of rights expired - and there are 272 still photographs and 492 minutes of scenes from more than 80 archives, plus the music - "we had to pull the film from distribution."

In August, the project received $600,000 from the Ford Foundation and $250,000 from the New York philanthropist Richard Gilder. PBS's "American Experience" is considering a 2006 broadcast of "Eyes."

"It's not clear that anyone could even make 'Eyes on the Prize' today because of rights clearances," Mr. Jaszi said. "What's really important here is that documentary commitment to telling the truth is being compromised by the need to accommodate perceived intellectual and copyright constraints."

On occasion, storytelling takes a back seat to legal and financial considerations. When Jon Else was completing his film "Sing Faster: The Stagehands' Ring Cycle," a backstage look at an opera company that won a Filmmakers Trophy at the Sundance Film Festival in 1999, he wanted to use a scene in which the stagehands watched "The Simpsons" as Wagner roared overhead.

"I felt it was a wonderful cultural moment to see two stagehands playing checkers while the gods are singing about destiny and free will and Marge and Homer are arguing on the television set," Mr. Else said. "We got permission from Matt Groening's company," which produces "The Simpsons," and then went to Fox.

"The first response was $10,000 for four seconds," Mr. Else said. "When I explained this was for public television, they replied that was their public television minimum. We eventually worked our way down to $7,000, but it was at the end of production, we were exhausted and out of money." It became more complicated. "Fox said, Wait a minute, any chance you're going to sell this? It wasn't the case of Fox being intractable jerks; it's just this odd gray area.

"At the last second, I replaced it with a shot of a film that I own," he said, adding, "I'll burn in journalistic hell for that."

Monday, October 10, 2005

A Slain Berber Singer's Voice Rouses His Hometown

New York Times
October 10, 2005
A Slain Berber Singer's Voice Rouses His Hometown

TIZI OUZOU, Algeria - High in the jagged mountains covered with olive and fig trees, his voice booms from a minivan as it twists along narrow winding roads to drop off students after a day of school.

Head down into this city and there he is again, this time larger than life, in a poster mounted on a cafe wall while, of course, his voice booms from the stereo behind the counter. In shops, offices, restaurants - everywhere in this region, it seems - is the voice of Lounès Matoub.

"Never surrender, never surrender," he sings, strong and folksy. "Of course times change, but you should never forget."

Someone tried to silence Mr. Matoub on June 25, 1998; his car was sprayed with 79 bullets. Instead, he became in death a powerful symbol of defiance for an ethnic minority that has challenged the government's decision to define Algeria as an Arab nation.

This is Kabylia, one of Algeria's most restive regions - home to a stubborn and proud ethnic minority of Berbers who since independence four decades ago have fought to preserve their cultural identity and independence. While politicians and village elders have helped lead the fight, the soul of this struggle is captured in music, especially the music of Mr. Matoub.

"Music is much more a symbol of our identity than it is about entertainment," said Ousmail Abderrahmane, owner of a music shop in this city, the Kabylia region's capital.

Considered by many the original inhabitants of northern Africa, the Berbers had their own language, music and culture until the region was effectively Arabized as Islam spread a thousand years ago.

While many people in Algeria have Berber ancestors, those in the Kabylia region cling to their language and customs, even while adopting Islam as a faith. The women wear bright-colored traditional dress, and the men participate in elder councils, which govern affairs in their mountain villages. The Berbers were also known as fierce fighters, and Kabylia contributed many forces during the eight-year war of independence from France.

But after more than a century under French rule, Algeria's new government decided to forge an Arab identity, and the Berbers felt betrayed. They had believed that independence would give them greater autonomy over their affairs, not less. Over time, the Berbers of Kabylia began to organize, politically and socially, staging boycotts and acts of civil disobedience to force the government into talks. There have been violent confrontations as well.

In battles of identity, language often becomes the front line, and so while the issues for the Berbers are many, the flash point is the government's insistence that Arabic serve as the only official language. People from this region want their language, Tamazight, to have equal status, but the president refuses to budge.

"Algeria above all," read a recent headline in El Moudjahid, the government-controlled daily newspaper. "The head of state has chaired a rally on Thursday in Constantine, and he has stated Arabic will remain the sole official language."

Through brutal force and careful political calculation, the government has managed to secure the country. But the people of Kabylia are still fighting: boycotting elections, refusing to pay utility bills, insisting on greater democracy and some degree of self-rule. Music has helped pass the struggle from generation to generation, to unite political factions behind common ideas and to help keep the fires of resistance burning.

The region's four most popular musicians sing about the struggle for identity. Indeed, one of them, Idir, has an album titled "Identity." But Mr. Matoub remains the biggest seller, said Mr. Abderrahmane, the music shop owner. His lyrics tell of daily life in Kabylia, of oppression and of contemporary events, like the day in 2001 when the military opened fire on citizens protesting and rioting after a local boy was killed while in custody.

"O my life, o my life, the mountains are my life, Kabylia is my whole life." The words are Mr. Matoub's, but they are being sung softly by three young women standing side by side on the edge of a mountain road. Dahbir Ouidir is 19 years old. Sabina Wahan and Yasmine Lasmi are 16. They are a year behind in their studies because they joined thousands of other young people in a one-year school boycott as a sign of defiance.

They came home from school in a minivan, as the driver played a Matoub album. Stepping out, they said they would be happy to sing their favorite Matoub song, and soon the three , eyes closed, drew a crowd.

"People identify with his poetry," Ms. Ouidir said, her face flushed after singing.

Samir Rehane, a tall, slender 18-year-old with a book bag under his arm, overheard the conversation and walked over. "Matoub is a son of my village," he said. "He is a teacher for us. He is a symbol of freedom."

Down the road, in the village of Taourirt Moussa, a red marble tomb is decorated with dozens of tiny Algerian flags. It is where Mr. Matoub is buried, and it has become a pilgrimage site. The tomb is in front of Mr. Matoub's childhood home, which has been transformed into a shrine. The bullet-riddled Mercedes sedan he was driving when he was killed is parked in the garage, with a piece of tape on the driver's seat that marks a hole from the fatal bullet.

"We are not only interested in his music," said Ali Yashir, 21, who visited the grave one recent day. "We are interested in what he stands for. His struggle and his ideas will go on forever."

There is another shrine for Mr. Matoub at the mountainside scene of the ambush. A large metal sculpture, it depicts the Berber symbol of freedom, a crude stick figure of a person with raised hands. Mounted between the hands is a drawing by a popular Algerian political cartoonist, Ali Dilem, which was used as one of Mr. Matoub's album covers.

There is also a carved stone plaque nearby with a phrase that might well have been a chorus in one of Mr. Matoub's own songs: "Even if you are dead, you are still alive. A History. A Struggle. A Hope."

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Jazz Funeral in Nola

Jazz Funeral Procession Back in Big Easy

By RACHEL LA CORTE, Associated Press Writer 51 minutes ago

This city's historical jazz funeral procession returned to debris-lined streets Sunday to honor a famous chef who died last month in Atlanta, where he had evacuated after being rescued from Hurricane Katrina's floodwaters.

More than two dozen people carrying black and white photos of a smiling Austin Leslie marched down the streets of the devastated Seventh Ward in New Orleans, celebrating the life of the famous chef whose Chez Helene soul food restaurant inspired the television show "Frank's Place" in the 1980s.

Leslie, 71, was rescued from his home two days after Hurricane Katrina and went to Atlanta to be with relatives. He died Sept. 29 after falling ill. An autopsy report was pending.

A brass band started Sunday's procession with a spiritual hymn, "A Closer Walk With Thee," which was followed by dancing, singing and the waving and twirling of yellow umbrellas.

Stan "Pampy" Barre, the owner of Pampy's Creole Kitchen in New Orleans, the restaurant where Leslie had last worked and where the procession began, said the crowd was "going to march into New Orleans and dance him into heaven."

The group made several stops, including the former location of Chez Helene, dancing past debris and garbage that remained along the streets six weeks after Katrina flooded the city.

"It's going to get back to normal eventually," said snare drum player Dinerral Shavers, 24. "We're going to bring the life back."

As the procession made its way toward the Backstreet Cultural Museum on the outskirts of the French Quarter, the few residents who have returned home came out of their houses and joined in the jubilance by dancing, clapping and singing.

Mildred Matthews, 79, was swaying on her front porch waving a fly swatter in the air as they passed.

"You all come back to New Orleans," she yelled out.

Gralen Banks, a member of a local social club leading the procession, said the scaled-back procession was a first-step toward restoring New Orleans' jazz heritage.

"This is how we do it. We ain't closed. Tell your friends," he said.

But Jason Berry, an author who has written a history of New Orleans music and is working on a book about the history of jazz funerals in the city, said the city's musical establishment still has a way to go before returning to its pre-Katrina status.

"On a sentimental level, one can't help but be delighted," he said. "It certainly speaks about the endurance of the art form of jazz and the funeral traditions associated with it.

"Until all the musicians are back, and until the brass bands as a community gather and begin to play funerals on a regular basis, I don't think it's fair to say that New Orleans has regained that cultural territory that was so rich and beautiful."

A similar jazz funeral for Leslie was held Friday in Atlanta.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Man Who Took Hip-Hop's Baby Pictures

New York Times
October 4, 2005

The Man Who Took Hip-Hop's Baby Pictures

Joe Conzo Jr. clocked his 15 minutes of fame one-sixtieth of a second at a time. As a teenager, his friends in the Cold Crush Brothers invited him to tag along to photograph the pioneering days of hip-hop. His family's connections in community activism and Latin music led him to chronicle the giants of salsa and the South Bronx.

Those thousands of images almost vanished, lost except in the memories of the lucky few who witnessed many of the fabled rap battles that took place at school gymnasiums and neighborhood discos.

But Joe Conzo Jr. a k a Joey Kane, lives on, and his work does, too. His mother, Lorraine Montenegro, saved his negatives when he could barely save himself from drugs. Thanks to her, and some friendships from the days when Puma sneakers were the epitome of street fashion, Mr. Conzo's photographic record of the Bronx in the 1970's and 1980's is now being hailed as a unique contribution to that era's history.

Despite whatever personal crises he was fighting - and despite the devastation that was sweeping over the borough during those years - his photographs exude a tender, almost innocent love for the music and streets of his boyhood. During the days of furry Kangol caps, fat laces and white-gloved b-boys, he was never far, snapping away in the wings while rappers dueled with tongue-twisting rhymes set to dizzying breakbeats.

He was there during protests against the 1981 movie "Fort Apache, the Bronx," catching Paul Newman glaring at him while a production assistant tried to block the shot. And he was there when Latin music greats like Tito Puente and Machito relaxed over drinks at a farewell party for their friend and fellow musician Charlie Palmieri.

"I've been blessed," he said. "I always knew I had a treasure trove of photos. Now I'm being called the first hip-hop photographer. I'm not interested in titles, but yeah, I was there at the beginning."

Mr. Conzo might have been fated to do this. His grandmother was Evelina Antonetty, a legendary activist for better schools and housing who was known as "the Hell Lady of the Bronx." His father - who was divorced from his mother - was such a close friend of Tito Puente's that he came to be considered the leading expert on the man and his music.

Mr. Conzo took up photography in elementary school, he said, at the urging of his stepfather, Michael Kane. He found out he had a knack for it. He carried his camera to South Bronx High School, where in 1978 he befriended several members of a rap crew that would become famous as the Cold Crush Brothers.

"I was into disco, I didn't know anything about hip-hop." Mr. Conzo said. "But I was invited to take pictures of the Cold Crush, and one thing led to another. We played the T-Connection, Disco Fever, the Ecstasy Garage, the Hoe Avenue Boys Club, St. Martin's."

That last venue was not the Caribbean island, but a Catholic school gym close to the homes of several members of the group.

"I was part of the group," he said. "The Cold Crush were the first to have a personal photographer. They were the first to have a tape master recording their music at all the shows. They were the first to use fog machines."

Charlie Chase, the group's D.J. (along with Tony Tone), said nobody knew at the time this would make serious money - for other people.

"Joey was a friend who had a camera and took pictures of the good times," he said. "We did this because we wanted to have fun and get girls. But if it wasn't for the pictures, nobody would know we existed. And nobody would believe we did what we did."

Among the photographs Mr. Conzo took were several from the 1981 Harlem World battle against the Fantastic Five, where the Cold Crush Brothers stepped out gangster-style in suits and fedoras, toting plastic guns. To this day, aficionados - including some millionaire rappers who weren't even old enough to stay up for, much less attend, the show - speak in awed tones about the face-off.

Drugs had also been a recreational thing for Mr. Conzo, but by 1984, soon after his grandmother died, they were the only thing. He sold his cameras. His mother saved his negatives.

"I worked so hard raising five kids, that I was not about to let heroin take one of them," Ms. Montenegro said. "I guess it was more spiritual than anything else, so I kept whatever else of him I could. I just collected this stuff and kept it there."

That stuff - in shoe boxes and closets - stayed stashed during several attempts at going clean, including a stint in the Army. By 1991, however, it all fell apart: Mr. Conzo was arrested for stealing food.

"Here I was, I came from a good family, a political family," he said. "I never thought I was an addict because I always had a job. And here I am, a junkie skell in jail."

He was ordered to go into treatment, where he learned how to be an emergency medical technician. When he got out, he landed a job with the city, a job he still has, working a Fire Department ambulance in the very neighborhood where he used to run around with the Cold Crush Brothers. In time he learned that his mother had saved his negatives. He went out and started taking pictures again, too.

About two years ago, a friend of his from the Cold Crush Brothers introduced him to Johan Kugelberg, a European collector interested in hip-hop's early days, who arranged for a London exhibit earlier this year.

"Nobody has seen photographs like this from the early jams," Mr. Conzo said. His father is as proud as he is surprised.

"Here was this kid who used to be my little tail," his father said. "He met all these guys. You name it, he got them: Tito, Celia, Willie Bobo, Rita Moreno. Little did I know this kid was taking pictures of rap in the Bronx. I'm so proud of him, it ain't funny."

His father has the kind of no-nonsense gravelly voice that underscores the "ain't funny" part.

"Joey was there when this sucker was born," he said. "Anybody can have pictures of old celebrities. You got to say, damn, that's a mind-blower that he saw this thing go from nothing to what it is today."

His son speaks with a quiet warmth about how this all turned out. Given his past, he is on bonus time right now. And even though he shoots for a London-based magazine, he has no plans to quit his city job. Nor does he plan to settle scores with those people who used his old photos in books and movies without so much as a credit.

"I'm 42; my days of chasing anything are over," he said. "Call it cocky. Call it humble. That's how I am. This, to me, is gravy."

It is, he said, not just where he's from, but where he's at.

"When I'm gone from this world, I hope my grandchildren can go to a library and see Joe Conzo images," he said. "I am carrying on in the legacy of my grandmother, photographing music and the community. I don't think I'll get rich off this. But having this legacy is worth more than money."

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Iran and Popular Music

from the October 03, 2005 edition -

Iranian musicians try to hit the right note
A conductor voices the hopes of many in a call from his concert podium for less politics in music.

By Scott Peterson | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

TEHRAN, IRAN - The day ultraconservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected to the presidency last June, an Iranian rock band received a phone call.

A nervous Interior Ministry official was on the line. An concert scheduled to take place at the ministry - sanctuary of powerful security and intelligence agencies - would have to be called off, he said, because "we can't guarantee your security."

Stunned, the rockers thought they were witnessing the start of a long-expected clampdown against social restrictions that had eased during the era of President Mohammad Khatami.

But that appears to have been a false alarm, band-members say - for now. "Very little has changed so far," says guitarist Amir Tehrani. "We are expecting it, but it hasn't come. Yet."

In fact, three months after Mr. Ahmadinejad's victory, Iranians have seen relatively few signs of a rollback of the increased tolerance in recent years of everything from more form-fitting women's attire to rock 'n' roll.

But tough and capricious rules are still in force. And as interest in music of all types deepens across Iran - and as Tehran marked International Music Day on Saturday - musicians of all styles say the country is entering a critical phase that will define the future of musical performance here.

Capping the day with a concert of traditional and avant-garde music in Tehran's plush Vahdat Hall, they say the time has come to clarify the new government's position.

"The music we are performing now is a [test] to find out how they will react, how the new government is thinking," says Kambiz Roshanraven, director of the House of Music in Tehran, an independent umbrella group for musicians he founded six years ago. "I'm not sure what will happen after Music Day, but I think the House of Music will continue proudly as a center for music."

Uncertainty has troubled the music scene since the 1979 Islamic Revolution forced musicians to hide their instruments. It took an edict from Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of the revolution, to convince some that it was safe to begin playing again - though martial music to boost war efforts against Iraq in the 1980s was officially preferred, and harsh restrictions applied.

Until a few years ago, only live performances of traditional music were allowed. While male singing is now permitted, female vocals are not. It remains illegal for TV to show instruments - which required a special permit even to transport, for a time in 1996. But today, every other car seems to have a young driver at the wheel, blasting ear-shattering and sometimes lewd Western rock 'n' roll tunes.

At a concert capping International Day performances Saturday, veteran conductor and composer Alireza Mashayekhi asked for reassurance from the podium.

"Please clarify the position of music one time - just once! - so we know what to do about it," he asked, before conducting one of his own powerfully rhythmic, unconventional works for percussion and piano.

"If you don't have knowledge of [music], then don't make any comment," added Mr. Mashayekhi, decrying political control of musical life. There were no turbans in the audience, denoting an absent of clerics, but several men wore once-forbidden Western ties.

"One person works months and months on this piece, and how can you say immediately this is 'good' or 'bad'?" asked Mashayekhi of critics. "You can say you like it, or not, but don't make a scientific analysis of it."

Underground heavy metal bands long played in hidden rooms, finally winning the fight in recent years to play publicly, though approved venues include small hospital auditoriums and the Interior Ministry.

Bass guitar player Babak Riahipour, renowned in Iran and now developing a band that sings in English, says the number of his students has grown to 40 from four. A planned concert of his at a horse track last week was canceled.

The House of Music, which represents 7,000 musicians and has a waiting list of 400 more, says there are now 1,000 instrument makers in Iran. Before the revolution, there were a dozen music schools. That number has multiplied to 600 in the capital alone, and 600 more nationally.

"It's unbelievable," says director Roshanraven, who says he expects to meet in the coming days with new officials of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance to lobby for greater openness.

"We can't find a time when music has been so widely played in Iran," says Roshanraven, who earned his PhD in composition at the University of Southern California long ago. "We are trying to find out what makes a concert be canceled. We have to do something about it - we must protect these groups."

Different rules apply to traditional and pop groups. A dozen or so foreign ensembles visit each year, including a French group that played Western classical music last week.

At the Fajr music festival in Tehran each February, musicians play 20 venues for 20 days. "We have intelligent, talented musicians, but without enough [government] support," says Mehdi Siadat, who plays the santur, or dulcimer, in the traditional group Javan, or "Young."

"We always have [fear of greater restrictions]," says Mr. Siadat. "The government promises more and more. I'm an optimist, but...."

Few are predicting new opening by Ahmadinejad, who has filled key security slots with men with hard-line, basij backgrounds. Their commitment to letting Iranians play and hear what they want is unclear.

"Maybe it will be better, because Iranians are young people, and young people like pop and classical," says Mohammad Ali Kianinejad, director of Javan. He notes that symphonic concerts - including one last week for Beethoven afficianados - are in great demand. "They played six nights here and were all sold out, so how can that be stopped?"