ATHENS DAY 6
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.