As Sadeq Jafari switched on his electric piano, his students shunted their wheelchairs enthusiastically around him to rehearse new songs.
Music therapy, a common practice in large parts of the world, is extremely rare in Iran, where conservative clerics outlawed pop music after the country’s 1979 Islamic revolution.
Jafari, 33, is one of a handful of therapists in the Islamic state who use music to help severely disabled people find their voices, risking the ire of his conservative family and censure from religious authorities.
Kahrizak Charity Foundation, in a leafy campus on the outskirts of the capital Tehran, is home to hundreds of physically handicapped people, young and old, who lack financial support.
Each Monday, dozens wait impatiently for Jafari to walk through the door.
Jafari grew up in a religious family which found all forms of music unacceptable. His relatives initially cut ties with him, but their stance softened when they saw the impact of his work on the lives of his patients.
Reza Bakhtiari was paralyzed at six and lost his sight at the age of 30. “It has been three years since I began to attend these classes ... It is like a life skills training,” said Bakhtiari, now 45. “Now that I’ve got the courage, I have published two poetry books.”
It can take up to three months to teach a new song. Jafari also has to overcome cultural barriers, including the shyness of his female students. Many Iranians disapprove of women raising their voices, a problem when it comes to rehearsals.
Iran’s musical restrictions have eased over the past decade and pop music has become increasingly common in some parts of society. But the idea of female artists singing or dancing in front of male audiences is still completely taboo.
Staff at the center say music does much more than cheer people up. “Music shortens the recovery period since it has a calming effect ... It gives them energy and even alleviates the physical pain,” psychologist Marzieh Alaleh told Reuters.
Jafari uses a lot of traditional Persian folk songs with familiar themes. He describes the changes in his patients as ”tangible.”
1. ire n.
憤怒 (fen4 nu4)
例: Heated debates thwarted all progress during the negotiations, drawing ire from both parties.
2. taboo n.
禁忌 (jin4 ji4)
例: The 228 Incident of 1947 was taboo in Taiwan for decades, but it is now openly discussed.
3. tangible adj.
有目共睹的 (you3 mu4 gong4 du3 de5)
例: Some tangible achievements were seen during the mayor’s first term in office.
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