Even as international politics drive Iran further into isolation, a music record label in Germany is more determined to introduce Iranian artists and their music to international audiences.

Hamburg-based 30M Records, founded earlier this year by Matthias Koch, will later this week release its first album by two Iranian artists, offering a mix of traditional Iranian music and modern sounds.

As its first project, 30M Records will release RAAZ – “secret” in Farsi – on November 20.

The album is a collaboration between composer and pianist Hooshyar Khayam, and Bamdad Afshar, a musician, and award-winning cinema and theatre composer.

The album is focused on the music of Sistan and Balochistan, a large province located in southeastern Iran, bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“I have a deep fascination with Iranian cultural traditions and history. I love traditional instruments like kamancheh, tar, setar, and daf,” the 49-year-old Koch told Al Jazeera.

He first traveled to Iran in 2016. Koch was among the organizers of performances by German composer Martin Kohlstedt and Icelandic multi-instrumentalist Olafur Arnalds at Tehran in 2017.


International range, efforts for a change with Iranian music

Koch says US sanctions were one of the reasons that prompted him to establish 30M Records.

“I want to make it possible for Iranian musicians to release their music, especially in times of the US economic sanctions, and give them access to international networks,” he said.

“I think Iran has a fascinating music scene which deserves a worldwide audience.”

Koch explained that at the moment, Iranian artists may face unfavorable conditions, including higher than usual fees if they manage to find foreign labels willing to work with them.

“So I want to offer them fair contracts, good payment, and wide consulting for cooperation with concert agencies, publishers, and media in Europe and the rest of the world,” he said.

As its first project, 30M Records will release RAAZ – “secret” in Farsi – on November 20.

In the run-up to the album’s release, two singles were published on major international platforms, including Spotify, and physical vinyl and CD editions are out soon, which Koch said will “give the music the value it deserves”.




Matthias Koch

Release of three albums by the end of 2021

The German label’s name, 30M Records, is short for Simorgh (30 is pronounced “si” in Farsi, and “Morgh” means bird), a mythical Persian bird.

The name is inspired by the story of the Conference of the Birds, a famous 12th-century poem by the renowned Persian poet and Sufi, Attar of Nishapur.

In the story, a large flock of birds set off to find the bird king, Simorgh. At the end of a long and arduous journey, 30 birds reach the destination only to find the king does not exist, but they themselves have become kings.

In this vein, 30M Records aims to celebrate Iranian art and musicians, who are rich by virtue of their traditions, Koch said.

Koch, who for years worked with German and European labels and music managers before founding 30M, said he plans to follow RAAZ with a wide variety of releases from Iran.

The label is planning to release a compilation album called: This is Tehran? containing a dozen tracks from various Iranian artists in January 2021. Artists on the record include electronic musician Ata Ebtekar and composer Pedram Babaei among others.

A third release, which Koch described as “kamancheh meets electronic music” composed by electronic musician Saba Alizadeh, is planned for later in 2021.

بامداد افشار

Allocating all the sales from Album release to the children of Sistaan and Balouchestaan

Bamdad Afshar is known for his work on "Maghzhaye Koochake Zang Zadeh(2018), Skin(2020), and Tamaroz (2017).

Collaborating with 30M Records Company, Afshaar informed Honar Online; 'Raaz' (secret) is an album that I worked on with Hooshyar Khayam. This album has a license to be released in both Iran and Germany, and we are supposed to dedicate all the sales from its domestic release to the homeless children of Sistaan and Balouchestaan. Because this album is related to the local music of that region which combined with electronic and orchestral music.

This album is based on Guati music of Sistaan and Balouchestaan, which is a combination of experimental music, Electronic and orchestral with Sistaani musical flavors and motifs, he added.

Its version to be released in Iran has 9 tracks but its Germany chapter will be released in the market with 10 tracks.

Koch believes Iran has a fascinating music scene that deserves a worldwide audience. He wants to make it possible for Iranian musicians to release their music, especially in times of the US economic sanctions, and give them access to international networks.

In the end, our contract with 30M Records Company issued in such a way that we are able to continue our collaboration for the next albums. At the moment this company is about to release a full album of regional Iranian music which we participated in that collection for a song too.