Presidential elections are exciting times for Iran and its government. Not that Iranians have any real choice. The candidates are handpicked, the government manipulates the outcome, and the highest position of power can’t be voted for But it’s important for Iran’s government to at least pretend they are a democracy. It’s also around election time that valuable new sources of news come into existence. Here’s a small round up of new go to places:
Starting tomorrow the new civil reporting site Iran Wire will go online. The site is primarily in Persian, but will feature English translations of selected articles.
Iran Election Watch, a site dedicated to news related to the elections has been launched.
At the previous elections Tehran Bureau was an invaluable source of information. Since then they’ve moved to a dedicated page at the Guardian.
Radio Zamaneh has launched an English language twitter feed.
As more appear on our radar we’ll link to them on this blog. Also, if you have suggestions let us know.
Most of the time this blog is used to talk about all the stuff we find interesting / important, which we don’t cover in our newsletter our live events. Every once in a while we mix it up by telling the blog readers the cool stuff we’re up to. Here’s the latest batch:
Storytelling events in Berlin in May and London in June. The Mezrab Collective will do the music for the Berlin event. The London show will feature the unforgettable Amin and Parham of the Ajam Band. As soon as the final confirmations are made info on the events will appear on the Mezrab site.
The Amsterdam Art Fund (AFK) has pledged its support for our new show Baba Yaga. The show which features pianist Marnix van der Pol playing classical Russian pieces, Marjolein Vogels doing modern interpretations of Russian dance steps and Sahand Sahebdivani telling the tales of the Russian Witch Baba Yaga. The show will be performed this summer in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht as part of the Parade Theater Tour.
Beware the Baba Yaga crew!
And last but not least, we’ve started a new blog called Silk Rope Chronicles. It’s dedicated to Sexuality, acceptance of the LGBT community and Feminism in the Middle East. We’ve got so much to say about those particular issues, we didn’t want to clutter up the Mezrab blog with all the posts. Go forth and spread the word!
A while ago we posted a list of our favorite Azeri tracks. Of all Caucasus nations their music is probably best known but it would be a great disservice to our readers and listeners not to mention the heartbreaking songs that come from its neighbouring countries. Have a listen to a few Armenian folk tracks we’ve picked to delight your ears.
To understand Armenians (and by extension, Armenian music) is to understand the blanket of melancholy that covers its people. More than half of all Armenians do not live in current day Armenia. And the ones who do have no access to some of the mountains and vales they hold dear. So obviously a song about being separated from a love, is about being separated from the mountains of the motherland. This rendition of Sareri Hovin Mernem (I Would Die for the Winds of the Mountains) is performed by the Syrian Armenian Lena Chamamyan
Of course not all Armenian music is sadness and melancholy. Check out this song by the American Armenian band Arev. The uptempo 9-beat, also common in Turkey and many of the Balkan countries makes it hard to sit still while listening to this song. The lyrics of Garun Yekav are written by a blind early 20th century troubadour called Havasi.
Armenian musicians have always been very influential in Iran. Not only because of their folk music, but also as a caste of musicians that was very knowledgable of western musical style. For instance the opera that was composed on the text of the Iranian epic poem Shahname was done so by the Iranian Armenian composer Tjaknavorian. Also many of the first Iranian pop singers were originally Armenian. Their songs were the soundtrack to the life of hip and happening Iranians in the sixties and seventies and are still evergreen classics to this day. Our very own mama Mezrab (Parwin) made a recording of her rendition of Iranian Armenian rock legend Vigen’s Lalaei (Lullaby). Though not a very pop-y tune, we’re sure you’ll enjoy it:
To Armenian friends the feeling of the song is immediately recognizable. Though I didn’t know exactly how much until listening to this particular lullaby from the Tigranakert region. I’m not sure if it’s directly the song that influenced Vigen to compose his Lullaby, but the similarity in feel is striking. Especially considering the way we arranged it with the Mezrab, with a violin that emulates the long tones of the Armenian Duduk, the strings that dance around the melody. And all without having heard the Armenian Lullaby:
For the final song we end with a tune that’s known in Iran as well as Armenia, but for completely different reasons. In the time of the revolution many political groups wrote sloganistic songs to get the people to have faith in a better tomorrow and rise up. Often the melodies were based on folk songs of the different regions of Iran. One of more famous ones is a song that in Iranian translated to “Winter Has Come to an End”. The Armenian original is, of course, about longing for a love who will descend from the mountains:
Mezrab congratulates Wijnand Stomp on becoming storyteller of the year in the Netherlands. He’s a true professional with over 25 years of stage experience, which he utilizes with the sparkling energy of a twenty year old. The storytelling community could not have done better than to pick this craftsman as its ambassador, a dedicated artist who will continue to introduce the art to countless of new audiences.
If you have a chance to go to one of his shows, don’t miss it!
One of my frustrations is that World Storytelling Day is observed on the first day of spring. A day that has been celebrated by Iranians as their New Year for a few millenia. As an Iranian-Dutch Storyteller I feel torn, having to choose between gigs and family time. Some years I ignore the storytelling events, other years the Persian New Year celebrations and the family time that goes with it.
This year I don’t really have a choice, one of the main storytelling events, in which Dutch storytellers connect with storytellers from around the world via Skype, will be held at the Mezrab. At the same event the Dutch storytelling community will announce who the Dutch Storyteller of the year will be, and I’ve been nominated as one of the five candidates.
You are of course all welcome to join us at this event. We start our story connection at 16.00, Between 20.00 and 22.00 the storyteller of the year will be announced.
After the contested Iranian elections of 2009, a few artists emerged as voices of the oppressed. One is Shahin Najafi, Singer/Rapper who had to go into hiding when his satirical song about one of the Shi’a Imams was deemed offensive by Iranian clerics. The other is Mohsen Namjoo, singer-songwriter with a crazy talent for classical lyrics and singing techniques with modern texts and orgasmic shouts.
A third artist who’s been at it for quite a while, but definately got a wider following in the past years is political cartoonist Mana Neyestani. Drawing for Radio Zamaneh and Mardomak, his iconic images of Basij and Sepah officers are probably the first thing people think of when considering the forces that oppress the Iranian people.
Now they’ve joined forces to produce a new song (by Najafi, Namjoo singing the refrains, Neyestani designing the cover), which I’m sure will delight some and offend others. The song is subtitled, but as is often the case trying to translate political poetics, many of the double entendres are lost. Anyway, have a listen here:
Here’s another musical bit to warm the heart, a report about hip hop hijabees. Go Feminist Islam!
Iran has claimed it has sent a Monkey into space about a week ago. If it’s true I’m sure it was the work of some very serious looking scientist fellas, using the countries finest scientific facilities, and all the luck to them! The sooner they are capable of launching a human, the sooner current president Ahmadinejad will board that missile. He stated today he’s absolutely willing to be the first person to be launched by Iranian scientists:
However, if and when they succeed, they’re still a long way from a claim made by Iran many years ago: that an Iranian high school girl had enriched Uranium in her kitchen using regular supplies such as a rice cooker. We will never know whether that particular statement is true, given the difficulties the International Atomic Agency faces when requesting to inspect certain sites. But until we do find out, here’s another girl science power video to warm the hearts. A project in which a couple of 12 year old girls send a kitten to space and back. Enjoy: