Pub­lished on November 22, 2017
Esti­mate 5 minutes read­ing

The pho­tog­ra­phy team went in the ear­ly morn­ing to search for Athens for the per­fect sto­ry in a pho­to. That left us at home to work out the post­ings for the last few days, and to antic­i­pate the arrival of Ziad and Hussein.

Ziad Al Abdul­lah, or Ali for short, is a pro­fes­sion­al Oud play­er and music edu­ca­tor from Syr­ia. Today would be the first time that we would hear him play. He set down to work with Damien and the Note­flight pro­gram. It was his first time hear­ing the song Amali.” He seemed to under­stand the song as soon as hear­ing it. You would play the melody, and he would fol­low the notes instan­ta­neous­ly with com­plete accu­ra­cy, and whats more, he knew the names of the notes he was play­ing by ear, a skill that’s known as per­fect pitch.” We went over the song time and again, and soon we were all com­fort­able with his accom­pa­ni­ment. We moved on to oth­er songs.


More musi­cal friends came over to play. Shayan T, a gui­tarist from Iran, had a dif­fer­ent artis­tic per­spec­tive than the oth­er musi­cians we had encoun­tered. To be a play­er of met­al or rock music in Iran is almost like being an activist. In Iran music is heav­i­ly cen­sored, and alter­na­tive” music, such as heavy met­al, is a crime. Expres­sion there has become very politi­cised. Art and music in Iran are only accept­ed if they are for the gov­ern­ment ben­e­fit. If they are seen hav­ing a mes­sage or view­point with­in that expres­sion that is a threat” to gov­ern­ment con­trol, they are sub­ject to cen­sor­ship. Shayan told us that once he was out in the street with a friend when they were assault­ed by a police­man, who arrest­ed his friend on the spot for hav­ing a Heavy met­al band t‑shirt. The police­man called him a Satanist” and said that he drinks blood.” He spent sev­er­al days in jail because of that. Oth­er peo­ple have died because of their musi­cal per­spec­tives. It’s almost as if they would rather hang peo­ple than keep them in prison, per­haps to save space. If you can­not serve the gov­ern­ment, you are trapped, yet at the same time, you don’t belong. Rock, met­al, and punk music in Iran have become a sym­bol of eman­ci­pa­tion. What you want from music becomes what you want to be.


We moved out into the night and played all along the way. We played in the metro, we played as we walked. We stopped to give a spe­cial per­for­mance to the delight­ful young daugh­ter of a fruit vendor.


Peo­ple stopped to dance with us. We arrived at La Platafor­ma.” La Platafor­ma is an inde­pen­dent music stu­dio and com­mu­ni­ty space where they have reg­u­lar jam ses­sions. Jam ses­sions are a great way to con­nect with musi­cians and to devel­op new cre­ative move­ment in an open set­ting. We played a wide vari­ety of song, clas­si­cal Ara­bic, Russ­ian folk songs, punk rock music, and our own musi­cal con­coc­tions. We spoke of new direc­tions, and places we had been, and most of all we got to know each other.