Iranian musical group DasandazBand has recently seen their parody love song about the filtering of Telegram go viral on social media.
Think of the American Lonely Island band, but cultivated in the Islamic Republic of Iran and dealing with Iranian issues, and you'll get a sense of the comedy musicians behind DasandazBand. Instead of explicit material such as “I Just Had Sex” or “The Creep,” this musical troupe tackle controversial issues such as travelling with groups of friends that include men and women in “When you have friends who are game for a journey, but nowhere to go.”
Another is “The state of Iranians who go outside of Iran for five days,” which jokes about all the fake luxury such Iranians post on their social media accounts alongside their misplaced sense of being non-Iranian.
وقتی که پایهی سفر داری ولی مکان نداری ??
— دَسَنداز بند (@DasandazBand) April 9, 2018
When you have friends who are game for a journey but you have nowhere to go ??
— دَسَنداز بند (@DasandazBand) October 12, 2017
The state of many Iranians when they leave the country for five days. ?
The music video that went viral from DasandazBand, however, was about the government's decision to censor a platform used by almost all of Iran's internet users: the messaging service Telegram. Iran counted more than 40 million users of the app who relied it for a wide range of purposes including business, entertainment, communicating with friends and family, news, university, work, and politics.
The Iranian Judiciary issued an order on April 30, 2018 to block Telegram on national security grounds, a decision which seems to have been driven by the platforms perceived role of the platform during the January 2018 protests. Other reasons given for the order included Telegram’s failure to relocate its servers in Iran in compliance with Iranian law – i.e. potentially making the data of its Iranian users accessible to authorities – and its refusal to work with the Iranian authorities to regulate content on the platform.
The band released the video on their Telegram channel on May 8, a few days afterward. DasandazBand is based in Iran and maintains a channel on Iranian video host Aparat (YouTube is blocked in Iran), a platform that abides by the Islamic Republic's moral and political guidelines and thus censors content. It's notable, therefore, that DasandazBand has not featured its Telegram music video on Aparat, but only on their Twitter and Telegram accounts – both platforms that are now blocked in Iran.
— دَسَنداز بند (@DasandazBand) May 8, 2018
The lyrics poke fun at the government's filtering of Telegram and their attempts to get Iranians to use the government-developed Soroush platform:
One day you came along and asked me to stay with you, and you promised you'll stay forever too. Now you're not around for me to tell you this, that someone wants to take your place with the name of Soroush.
They say he has everything you have and you'll not be missed that much but everyday I think of you and the walls that separate us, oh Telegram.
Just when I was relying on you, you were suddenly blocked and gone and all I have left is this VPN, that's the only bridge between you and I.
I remember all our groups and memories, what am I going to do with your stickers?
You were with me through all these years, now how can I install Soroush while you still linger?
On Telegram, DasandazBand's small following of only a few thousand saw the video receive over 40,000 views and widely shared and discussed on Twitter as well.
Measurements by the University of Tehran's Social Labs and the Google App store in Iran have both indicated that despite the censorship of Telegram, Iranians are increasingly finding effective circumvention tools to access the app. While usage of Telegram dipped when it was first filtered on April 30, recent weeks have shown usage in Iran slowly returning to former levels.