How I wish it were possible that I could remove my face and put it in place of your burned face and then forever turn a mirror toward you.
[Shams, Fatemeh. “Acid Throwing”. When They Broke Down The Door, Mage Publishers, 2016. Translated from Persian by Dick Davis.]
Awarded poet, literary scholar, former Oxford teacher, the well-respected member of our community Fatemeh Shams honoured us by sharing one of her poems to accompany the present review, on a VA dedicated to the people fighting for freedom in Iran. As a renowned dissident poet from the Middle East country and activist against the compulsory hijab and anti-women laws, Fatemeh Shams had no other choice but to flee Iran in 2009. Living today in The USA, she looks at her motherland with sad eyes.
Indeed, on September 2022, a horrible tragedy in Tehran made world headlines and shed light one more time on the opaque nature of the Iranian regime. A young woman and aspiring university student, described as “shy and reserved”, got arrested on her way to visit her brother, by the local religious morality police, because “a strand of hair was out of her hijab”. Witnesses have reported that she got brutalised by the police in the van and she died some hours later. The incident caused one of Iran’s biggest political crises and revolts, still ongoing today.
However, unlike in most countries, the repression in Iran is particularly severe and inhuman: the police don’t hesitate to open fire on the demonstrators, and since September 2022, they killed nearly 500 people, including 64 children. In a viral video, we see a victim from the crowd lying on the floor, inactive, being repeatedly beaten, rolled over by a motorcycle and finally shot by the police.
In the eighteenth century, Thomas Jefferson wrote: “The purpose of government is to enable the people of a nation to live in safety and happiness. Government exists for the interests of the governed, not for the governors.” Is the world more civilised three centuries after?
It is obvious that the Iranian regime is on a different page, while the population chants the slogan “Zan, Zendegi, Azadi” (“Women, Life, Freedom”). It is the voice of a young woman, who died from violence, against a regime which kills children and innocent people, destabilises the region, creates a nuclear threat, furnishes weapons to Russia, rests on terror, torture and executions. If religion rules the regime, we pray that the crisis will bring back the sacred message of love at the centre of the government’s concern.
Our present words are probably too politicised for a humble music-oriented blog, but the cause emotionally touches us. Between the brave Iranian people, looking for justice, freedom and fraternity, and the oppressive Iranian regime, we’ve made a clear choice. With techno’s motto “Peace, Love, Unity, Respect”, and that of Street Parade which adds the notions of “freedom and tolerance”, it is certain that the Iranians’ search for both resonates with our deepest values.
Furthermore, we believe that Art has the power to create awareness, following Ukrainian Victor Pinchuk’s famous quote “Art, freedom and creativity will change society faster than politics”.
When an anonymous artist in Tehran turns fountains’ waters red symbolising spilt blood, it is more talkative than thousands of speeches. When almost all the walls in Zanjan are covered with anti-regime Graffiti, it is an instantly visible and meaningful symbol of the political divide. When Fatemeh Shams denounces through her poem the 2014 series of acid attacks on women in Isfahan, “punished” for their dress judged “inappropriate”, our spirits are charged from the opposition between the sadness of the dreadful news and the beauty of the impactful poetic words. As impressionist Edgar Degas said: “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see”.
The acid attacks echo the ongoing wave of poisoning of thousands of female students, “condemned” for their presence in schools. In front of such fundamentalism, this is now through the beauty of the music, in a VA proposed by the young label Lotus Parable, run by Iranian Hani Sama, that we bring a hypnotic techno refuge built by talented female producers for all of us who are sensitive to the Iranian cause, and for you, dear victim.
Exclusively created by international artists, the range of sounds present in “Dawn” is a strong representation of the layers of context. Being a sonic interpretation of the struggles experienced in Iran is a statement in itself, considering the long-lasting crack-down on the underground rave culture, again by the religious morality police.
Flautist, composer and live performer, TVS aptly introduced the VA with a solemn instrumental melody, resonant with traditional Persian musical culture. Electronic layers of the track emerge from a feminine vocal, gentle yet loaded with emotion, as if carrying the weight of a centuries-long tradition of struggle and unrest.
The robust build-up of Laima Adelaide’s input allows the listeners to picture an energy of resistance and defiance. The harsh, electric hi-hats bubbling to the surface, gather a hypnotic momentum which continues to unfurl into Isabel Soto’s track “0 Gravity”.
The pounding, reverberating bassline whirls into an energetic array of flowing percussions which in turn continue to transform in the expressive “Long way”. Synonymous with Yuka, elements seem to rotate in a dizzying, orb-like pattern, designed to emphasise a feeling of expanse. Bringing a hymn-like vocal adds to coherency in a manner which highlights the collaborative beauty of such a release.
In the well-balanced colourful VA, Theony brings a more groove-oriented touch with “Exhale”, rejecting destructive instincts through the psychedelic influences which shine in the hard-hitting transitions, composed by drum machines and hardware synths.
“Portal” by Dianthe exudes a deep, dark, minimal rawness which seems to carry hope through the climatic impulse built throughout the previous tracks. Wisps of soft details, which flutter in and out of presence, accent the intensity of the dynamic drive.
Sig Valax “closes the loop” by adding a soft mesmerising layer to the slogan “Women, Life, Freedom”. Within the piece, other-worldly characteristics accompany the melancholic piano notes, while a sonic breeze whistles as if bringing to attention the stretch of an immense landscape. Then, the light slowly starts to illuminate the realities beyond…
A “parable” is described by Hani Sama as “a simple story to illustrate a spiritual lesson”. While complex in sounds, this moving compilation sheds light on the beauty, power and importance of a critical mass connected to defying the shattering forces of a brutal regime.
“Women, Life, Freedom”…
WRITING BY: TINA CAMILLERI AND CEDRIC FINKBEINER | 6 MARCH 2023