Roya Arab

Roya Arab (born 1967) is a UK-based Iranian musician and archaeologist. Besides music, she has a passion for all things Iranian/Persian, past and present.

Musical career

Born in Tehran, Iran, Roya Arab learned the craft of singing during jam sessions around London in the early and mid-1990s.[1] She was the first Iranian female to receive a publishing and recording deal from a major Western label, when she was signed as a member of Archive to Island Records in 1994, and the album Londinium was released in 1996.[2][3][4] The band broke up shortly after. Arab went on to work with various artists, including Leila in Like Weather[5][6][7], Grooverider in Mysteries of Funk[8][9], followed by some work in Paris with Zend Avesta and Naab, before working on a project with Mike Figgis. Courtesy of Choice (2000) by Leila was the last album Arab appeared on before leaving music to study archaeology.

In 2008 Roya sang on Blood, Looms and Blooms,[10][11][12] before joining Leila on a European tour in 2009[13][14]. Realising that she missed music, Roya started working with young Iranian musicians leaving Iran including Hichkas and Ash Koosha, and performing live again. She then appeared on Rosko John's debut solo album call to arms in 2012.


Roya Arab attended Maktabe Tarbiat school in Tehran, while also studying at summer schools in Montana, Switzerland, and St Georges in Ascot. After the 1979 revolution she boarded at Ancaster House School in Bexhill-on-Sea, before taking her A-levels at North Westminster community school. She then attended one year of a copywriting/advertising course before taking time out from education.

She joined UCL (UCL) in 2000 to complete a BA and MA in Archaeology and Public Archaeology. She is currently undertaking a PhD on music in Iranian film at City, University of London.

Archiving, socio-political commentary and promoting cultures of the Middle East and North Africa

During and after Arab's studies in public archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology at UCL she has archived[15] historical documents including the Wertime Collection[16] and the Campbell archives.[17]

She has also written various reports and papers on the political situation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), including articles in CounterPunch[18][19] and Media Diversified[20] Roya promotes the cultures of the MENA region with a special interest in Iran. She has worked with organisations and festivals such as Nour (RBKC)[21] and the London Middle East Institute (LMEI) at SOAS, University of London[22] to curate events celebrating the art, music, literature and beauty of Middle East and North Africa.

Selected discography

  • 1996: Archive, Londinium (Island Records): "All Time", "So few Words", "Ubiquitous Wife" (a.k.a. "Headspace"), "Darkroom", "Londinium", "Nothing Else", "Parvaneh (Butterfly)", "Last Five", "Ubiquitous Wife Remix" (hidden song)
  • 1998: Grooverider, Mysteries of Funk: "Rainbows of Colour" (Arab, Grooverider, Optical)
  • 1998: Leila, Like Weather: "Blue Grace" (R. Arab, L. Arab)
  • 1999: Naab, L’étranger: "L’étranger" (Arab, Naab)
  • 2000: Zend Avesta, Organique: "À la Manière" (Arab, Rebotini)
  • 2000: Leila, Courtesy of Choice: "Different time" (R. Arab, L. Arab, G. Jones, Woolley)
  • 2008: Leila, Blood, Looms and Blooms: "Daisies, Cats and Spacemen" (R. Arab, L. Arab)
  • 2011: R. Arab & Hichkas, "Killing Fields" (R.Arab & Hichkas)
  • 2012: Rosko John, "Tactical light" (Rosko John and R.Arab)
  • 2013: Hichkas, R. Arab & Dariush "Mooye Parishoon" (Hichkas, R. Arab, Dariush & Mahdyar Aghajani)
  • 2014: R. Arab, "Siren's call" film score for Hinterland a short film by Sebastian Lister
  • 2014: Rosko John, Call to Arms: "March Forth" (Rosko John, R. Arab & Mahdyar Aghajani)

Selected publications

  • Arab, R. 2016. "The changing use of music in Iranian films reflects a complex culture in flux". 30 April 2016 in
  • Arab, R. 2016. "Swaying to Persian and Middle Eastern tunes in London", The Middle East in London. Vol 12, No 2, February/March 2016: 19–20.
  • Arab, R. 2015. "Can Composition and Performance be Research?" 25 November 2015. City University Blogspot.
  • Arab, R. 2015. "Review and reflections on Culture in Crisis Conference V&A April 2015". 20 May 2015 in

.* Arab, R. 2014. "Campbell, John Nicholl Robert ii. The Archives", Encyclopædia Iranica.

  • Arab, R. 2013, "Terror and I", 23 July 2013 in
  • Arab, R. & N. Earl. 2011. "Persians, Classics and Secondary Education", The Journal of Classics Teaching, no. 24, Autumn 2011: 11–14.
  • Arab, R. 2010. "Open letter on Iranian heritage". Public Archaeology, Vol 9, No 2: 108–120.
  • Arab, R. 2009. "Comments and Reflections on ‘Archaeology in Conflict: Cultural heritage, site management and sustainable developments in conflict and post- conflict states in the Middle East" in
  • Arab, R. 2005. Student Guide Book for IHF educational programme in conjunction with the British Museum exhibition British Museum with Achaemenid assistance from S. Razmjou, edited by F. Hakimzadeh & R. Dwyer.
  • Arab, R. & Rehren, Th. 2004. ‘The Wertime Pyrotechnological Expedition of 1968’, IAMS, Vol 24: 29–34.
  • Arab. R & Rehren.Th 2004. "The pyrotechnological expedition of 1968". In: Th. Stöllner, R. Slotta and A. Vatandoust, eds), Persiens Antike Pracht, Bergbau Handwerk Archäogie, Deutsches Bergbau-Museum, Bochum: 550–555.


  • 2010. "An overview of ‘State terrorism and Libya’s record on human rights: fact of fiction? A Conference by Society Outreach", House of Lords, 27 January 2010.
  • 2009. "A report of the seminar for National Interfaith week" at the Zoroastrian Centre in London (ZTFE), 18 November 2009.
  • 2009. "Review and reflections on: Is the kingdom of Saudi Arabia prepared to defend Human Rights, Civil Liberties and Fight Terrorism". A Conference by Society Outreach, House of Lords, 7 December 2009.


  1. Straight No Chaser, Spring 1999.
  2. NME, 28 September 1996.
  3. Mojo, January 1997.
  4. Sunday Times, 6 October 1996.
  5. Melody Maker, 28 February 1998.
  6. Ben Willmott album of the month, VOX, May 1998.
  7. NME album of the month, 28 March 1998.
  8. Blues and Soul, 1 September 1998.
  9. Record Mirror, 29 August 1998.
  10. Review NME: Courtesy Of Choice
  11. Review Pichfork: Blood, Looms and Blooms
  12. Review Metro: Leila: Blood, Looms And Blooms
  13. Le Télégramme: Dernière minute : Roya Arab remplace Terry Hall
  14. Montreux Jazz Live
  15. British Institute of Persian Studies, 2007 - Iran Iran, Volume 45
  16. "WERTIME, Theodore", Encyclopædia Iranica.
  17. "CAMPBELL, JOHN NICHOLL ROBERT ii. The Archives", Encyclopædia Iranica.
  18. CounterPunch: Syria: a Serious Situation for Us All
  19. CounterPunch:Fascism in Fancy Dress for the 21st Century
  20. "Reflections on a Culture in Crisis", Media Diversified.
  21. Nour Festival: Poets in Exile
  22. SOAS Centenary Event - Youth, Cinema and War in Iran

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