Iranian singer-songwriter Shervin Hajipour has won the first award for Best Song for Social Change at the Grammys 2023.
Hajipour’s song, Baraye, which was viewed more than 40 million times in two days on his Instagram account, became the unofficial anthem of the Iranian protests that were sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, who had been in the custody of the morality police after violating hijab rules.
Baraye became a viral sensation even among non-Farsi-speaking music fans who were in support of the protests.
In October, British indie band Coldplay also made headlines after the group invited Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani to perform the song onstage with them in Buenos Aires.
The Grammy was presented by US first lady Jill Biden, who said “a song can unite, inspire and ultimately change the world”, and that the new award was put in place to recognise a tune that “responds to the social issues of our time and has the potential for positive global impact”.
Biden said she was "honoured" to announce the first winner of the award and described Baraye as "stirring".
“This song became the anthem of the Mahsa Amini protests, a powerful and poetic poem for freedom and women’s rights," she added.
Biden also said that more than 130,000 people sent their submissions for the first award. In October, it was reported by Variety that 95,000 of the submissions were for Hajipour’s song.
Recording Academy chief executive Harvey Mason Jr said at the time that the Grammys body was "deeply moved by the overwhelming volume of submissions for Shervin Hajipour’s Baraye (For the Sake Of)".
“We are humbled by the knowledge that the Academy is a platform for people who want to show support for the idea that music is a powerful catalyst for change,” he added.
Hajipour composed Baraye from messages Iranians were posting online about why they are protesting.
The word baraye, which translates from Farsi as “for …” or “for the sake of”, is used at the start of every lyric: “For dancing in the streets, for students and their future”, and “for women, life, freedom”.
Hajipour gained popularity in 2019 when he appeared as a contestant in New Era, an Iranian television talent competition.
After Baraye went viral, Hajipour was arrested and the song was removed from his Instagram page, but it was still shared widely online.
Hajipour was released on bail in October and his case will be going through the legal process, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency.
After winning the Grammy, Hajipour simply wrote on Instagram: "We won."