A Persian Amsterdammer Blogs.

Wednesday, 31 December 2008

The Glass House

Is a documentary shot in Iran by Melissa Hibbard and Hamid Rahmanian. It breaks my heart.

For the trailer go here.
For clips go here.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

My Projects

I'm not so good at promoting my own projects. Probable because I believe whatever has quality finds its way to people anyway. This is something you might enjoy seeing though:

- Daphne took this amazing picture during a jam at our cultural cafe "Mezrab":


If you want to receive mails about Cafe Mezrab activities write me a line at cafemezrab@gmail.com and I'll add you to the list.

- Some nice technicians shot this video during a soundcheck before a show of Babak-o-Doestan.

More Babak-o-Doestan can be found here: http://www.myspace.com/babakodoestan

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Digital Revolution

If we are serious about political and social change we have to embrace all the technologies available to us. Especially in a country like Iran where the state has a monopoly on education, media and most cultural events in the public sphere. Creative use of new media and technology was instrumental in getting rid of repressive regimes in Indonedia and Serbia (have a look at these interesting but dry articles on the spread of internet and its role in the revolutions of Indonesia and Serbia Serbia ), but even in the west the world is changing fundamentally: in a time that newspapers suffer from poor sales and ad-revenues one important reason for Obama's victory was his supporter's embrace of new media like blogs and Youtube.

One man who understands all this (and more, I'm struggling to catch up with him) is Arash, a Persian blogger in Canada. In his great blog he posts about current events in Iran, and especially things that happen in Iranian cyberspace. For instance, check out his recent post on the creation of the new digital police in Iran: http://kamangir.net/2008/12/18/new-digital-police-to-establish-in-iran/

So there you have it. If there's a new revolution on the way it will present itself in small messages delivered to your computer with hip music and slick animation.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Go East

It's time to interrupt our social and political commentary with some music. And for this we go east again.

My last gig with Caspian Hat Dance was at the Roots festival in Amsterdam. It had always been a dream of mine to be part of the great line up of world music artists performing in the Oosterpark once a year. A band who played at the same day was KAL - A Rock-n-Roll Gypsy band from Serbia. Here's a laid back tune of them called "Komedija".

In 2000 the Russian submarine Kursk, the largest attack submarine ever built, perished after suffering an accident. No one on board survived, but in his last hours Captain Lieutenant Dmitry Kolesnikov managed to write some notes and letters. This song is based on what he wrote to his wife:

Friday, 26 December 2008

Social Commentary

My friend J. (non-Iranian) spends significant amounts of time in Teheran and other parts of Iran for a project he's doing. From time to time he writes an insightful observation, so good it's a shame not to share it with you all. Here's what he wrote when we were discussing internet filtering in Iran (which he has to deal with every day):

The Iranian government Internet firewall is mostly just stupid – it's implemented with all the subtlety of an anti-porn public library filter [which it may, in fact, be], with a few political sites thrown into the list. Plus, they nix all the social networking sites like FaceBook and YouTube, etc. – they also kill a lot of the "left-wing" press in the US like Salon.com, the Seattle PI, Huffington Post etc – but they let through most of the "mainstream" press like the NYT, Washington Post, and Israeli press, for example, like the right-wing Jerusalem Post and other such things.

There's really no sense that can be discerned to it – mostly I think they just don't know what they're doing. More than anything, I think this government is just out of touch with the rest of the world and extremely self-conscious. Which would make it an accurate reflection of the society as a whole, except without the social niceties.

I mean, the psyche of the government seems disconnected from the population until you watch the way people drive here. In fact, I'm starting to think that the Iranian government is following a pattern similar to most of the Iranian governments going back into history – that is to say, authoritarian, illogical, inefficient, corrupt, paranoid and unreasonable. When people get fed up with it there's some sea change, and then everybody starts to fall into the old pattern again. Hasn't it always been like this? A country of pleasant, disappointed people, never quite living up to their potential and always worried that other people think they have small penises, or that Arabs have larger penises, or whatever? It's what Israel would be if Israel were actually 5,000 years old, less geographically avaricious and had better manners and food culture. Ironic Republic.


Another nice (and not quite flattering) view of Teheran can be seen in the pictures of Reza Nadji. Warning, the pictures are brutally honest and can break the heart of anyone remembering the Teheran of the seventies: http://www.rezanadjitehran.com/

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Lucya Por Favor

A few years ago I met and spent a day in Barcelona with Lucya, a beautiful Italian artist. We were supposed to be together for only a little while, but I ended up playing my tar for her in the Ramblas and on the stairs of a church behind a fish market. She painted for me and cooked for me in her little shared appartment as we discussed life, art, death and madness. We never met since, it was the perfect day never to be repeated: her one visit to Amsterdam co-incided with my band's tour in Eastern Europe. I am very happy to see that she still produces beautiful pieces of art which she posts on her artblog:


Here's the poem I wrote for her:


Lucya por favor,

draw me the new man
draw me the new man as you would like him to be

give him four arms

two for him to play you music with
one for him to write you letters

and one, perhaps, to hold behind his back
in his hand holding a small present

draw the new man a mouth
if you want him to tell you stories
or sing
whisper sweet nothings in your ear as you sleep

or if you want him to be quiet

draw him no mouth

give the new man strong legs
as many as you can imagine

the new man will want to
jump and
kick and
swim and
run from ocean to ocean
before the sun sets

but Lucya,
por favor,

do not draw the new man eyes

to drown you in.


Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Human rights news links.

- A few days ago the office of the Iranian nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi was closed by the government. Read the full story here:


- Greece is burning, but luckily it makes for great pictures. Click away:


- Here's a link to a PBS documentary episode about former Jihadis in Rehab. Quite surreal, very interesting and extremely important in the years to come. Have a look:



And not quite human rights news, but here's a link to the pictures of last weekend's performance of my former band Caspian Hat Dance:


All for now kiddies

Monday, 22 December 2008

The Blogging Revolution

When you live in the free world and have unlimited access to quality newspapers, internet-articles, radio and tv channels, andsoforth, you might not always be aware of how precious free press is. It's not always easy to genuinely feel the importance of blogging in a country like Iran. Even I sometimes forget it, but the reality is, when you've lost faith in your country's papers and journalists (as most of the good ones have been closed down, imprisoned or left the country) the voice of the people becomes even more precious than it already is.

In Iran the medium is now fully embraced (with 700.000 blogs of which about 100.000 or updated regularly). It is also fully respected by the government: bloggers have been arrested and jailed, blogs appear on the internet filter lists and members of parliament like Ahmadinejad have their own blogs.

Here's an animation that sums the situation up quite beautifully.

Another ally in the struggle for free speech is Radio Zamaneh, the Amsterdam based radio and internet station I work for. For 2.5 years Zamaneh has been tireless in reporting the unreported for it's Iranian audience. I'll add a banner to the blog shortly for easy linkage.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Music Mash

- If you're a fan of Caspian Hat Dance you'll be glad to hear the band has a new website, featuring clips, downloadable songs and Caspian Madness. Have a listen if you d are: http://www.caspianhatdance.com/

- Some people think I listen to complicated world music all day. Not true! Though I enjoy some good Mongolian throat singing or a frantic darbouka solo from time to time, I also listen to songs you hear on MTV. Here's a recent favorite of mine:

(you might recognise it from the trailer of the horribly crappy tv-series "Moonlight")

- Ofcourse if complicated world music is what you want, look no further! This song starts quite uninspired with bored looking musicians in bow ties. Just as you're about to click away a heavily made up singer starts to sing with the most amazing deep voice! My only regret is that it's too short!

Making a Change 104 + links of the day

A few of my friends sent me this link, it's a novel way of saving the world, one print at a time.



I'm very curious about this film. It's bound to offend some of my friends but I like Bill Maher and Borat (in a twisted way) .


Cute, a dutch video report on the Iranian graffiti scene:


Monday, 15 December 2008

Arundhati Roy

- Arundhati Roy is not only one of my favorite writers (if you havn't read her excellent "God of Small Things" you've missed out), she's also a major righter of wrongs in and out of India. I was happy to read her recent nuanced perspective on the Mumbai attacks and terrorism in general. Have a peek here:


- Is the following message sappy and corny? Probably. But I thought it was also sweet and I know a couple of the faces personally. Here's an Iranian-American message of peace:

Saturday, 13 December 2008


Here's some things you might find interesting.

A) My friend Pouyan Tamimi Arab is a martial arts killing machine. Having studied Tea Kwan Do and Karate he knows 12 ways of killing a man using his left thumb. He's also a student of art history and philosophy. I imagine him sitting in a garden reading up on his Adorno, sipping some Jasmin tea and writing a haiku on the mortality of man, before stepping into his dojo and beating up 12 adversaries. It is no surprise then that he shows up as a guest columnist on Thomas Erdbrink's blog: http://onzemaninteheran.com/?p=556 (Dutch)

B) More and more of my friends have confessed to being map-nerds, cartography-freaks, or however you would call this sub-species of human. I have to say, I'm also intruiged by them, maps say as much about the mapped as the mapper. What was left in and what was left out? How are the proportions, what is the accuracy? Historical maps (often showing a comparetively large Europe and gigantic UK) are visual history books teaching us about society, politics and common assumptions at the time they were made. Here's an interesting site to dive in to:


C) As you might know I work for the Iranian radio station Radio Zamaneh. If you don't speak Persian you have very little use for the link to the station as half the time we're babbling away in our crazy chatter language. For those who are challenged in their Persian speaking skills, here's a link to an all music all the time internet radio station, which even allows you to pick your flavor:


D) Another human rights awarenes initiative, Witness: http://hub.witness.org/udhr60

All for now kiddies.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Human Rights

Today 60 years ago the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations. The cynical view is that not much has changed in the world; there's still a terrific amount of war going on, terrorism, exploitation, etcetera. However, look at all the things that have changed: In 1948 the US had racial segregation laws, South Africa with its apartheid was a friendly nation, many european countries still were colonial powers and/or fascist dictatorships, the rest were communist lackey states.

Things have changed indeed, and call me an optimist, but I believe more things can change if we put effort into it. Today I had the honour to meet with Justine Masika Bihamba a couragious woman who for 20 years has been fighting for human rights in Congo. In this memorable day Justine Masika was awarded the Tulip (Dutch annual human rights award).

Tomorrow I will interview Ibrahim al-Muqaiteeb, a human rights activist from Saudi Arabia.

These are the people who show us the way, all we have to do is follow. It's not that hard.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

You Dance as You Make Love

According to Mundo Leone, the singer songwriter I had the pleasure of sharing a stage with some days ago. Here's my translation of some of the lyrics:

They say you dance as you are in bed,
They say you dance as you are in bed,
Could it be? I think so...
Could it be? I fear so...
They think there's a link
between dancing and making love,

I worry about the Netherlands,
You can count the number of good dancers
on the fingers of one hand,

Ladies, discuss...

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Pink Film

I love Amsterdam because of its incredible cultural life and in particular the amazing festivals it hosts. There's the biggest documentary festival in the world the IDFA, the music biannales for various instruments in "Het Muziekgebouw", Africa in the Picture, the Roots festival, one could go on forever. Recently my attention has been drawn to another festival that will starts in a few days: The Pink Film Days. In 8 days all the latest Gay and Lesbian films will be shown in various locations in Amsterdam.
If you want to check out the programming have look on their site:

I have to make a special mention of the posters of the festival. Not only are they sweet and beautiful, they're also quite subtle: The Dutch (somewhat derogatory) term for a gay man is "poot", the leg of an animal, chair or table. For a lesbian it's "pot".

Thursday, 4 December 2008


I am not a big fan of musicals. I love singing, I love dance, I love theater, but the way these arts are often combined to appeal to a mass audience kills a lot of creativity. Luckily a few creatives are taking back the artform. First we had the amazing and unforgettable Dr Horrible.

And now, I bring you "proposition 8, the musical!"

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

Wow. No words for it.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008


Golrokh is an incredibly talented graphical artist / designer. Luckily (for us) she's also created a weblog to post her work on. Have a look here: http://golrokhn.blogspot.com/

I'm going to add her to my link bar, as I think you should check out her site regularly.

Speaking about regular checks, our favorite mobile-phone-picture-blogger added another monthly installment just yesterday. Apparently he's going to be in Berlin for a while:


Sunday, 30 November 2008

No News Music

Sadly I have no further news yet about either Kambakhsh or Kamangir, the Afghan and Iranian-Kurdish prisoners. While we wait for news good or bad, here's some music you should listen to.

The most famous album to come out of Cuba is ofcourse the multi-platinum recording of the Buena Vista Social Club. What many people don't know is that some of these "timeless classics" are not old songs with unknown origin, they are the creations of Guillermo Portabales, a singer and musician whose compositions more or less created this style of music. Ironically the musician who was responsible for the creation of Communist Cuba's finest export product actually fled the country when the revolutionaries were taking over. So it goes...

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Films you should't miss

Yesterday I met a Djinn. It is not a surprise, as I'm looking for them more and more: Men and Women who share my sardonical sense of humor, my cynical view of the world, my sense of wonder and amazement when experiencing art, when seeing a spider build a web, when having sex.

My grandfather was part Djinn, and a lot of it was passed on to my father. Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a Djinn, so is Hossein Alizadeh. Many greek Rembetika singers and southern Italian tambourine players are Djinns, but so are some of the Kurdish smugglers on the Iran-Iraq border. Obama might be a Djinn, I'm not sure yet, but who is definately a Djinn is the Israeli filmmaker Avi Mograbi.

This year IDFA showed his film Z32, which is about the confession of a Israeli soldier who killed 2 unarmed Palestinian policemen and is looking to be forgiven, but his finest work is probably "Avenge But One of My Two Eyes". Here's a scene from the film. The lyrics from the song that the extreme right winged rock band sings are from the story of Samson in the Old Testament. The filmmaker states that Samson is the first suicide terrorist in recorded history, and finds ir ironic that the Israelis see him as a hero.

The director, Avi Mograbi, didn't go to the first Lebanese war in 1982. As a conscientious objector he spent 1 month in jail. Who did go to war is the filmmaker Ari Folman. Now, more than 25 years after his experiences Folman has turned his past into an amazing film, Waltz with Bashir.

Check out either or both films, Waltz with Bashir is still shown in cinemas in the Netherlands.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Holy Crap

You should head to Tori and Kamran's blog right now!!

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Save an Afghani Student of Journalism

Remember a few blogposts ago I asked your attention about jailed journalists, bloggers and students? Well, it's time to undertake some action grassroots-style. Let's start off by mailing the Ambassador or Consul of whatever country you're in. As I am a Dutch citizen I will mail the Afghan Consul of the Netherlands.

This is the mail I'm writing them. If you don't want to write a whole new e-mail just copy and edit mine.


Dear Consul,

It is very sad to hear that in a country liberated from the Taliban people are still jailed for expressing views, and particularly in an academic environment. Ofcourse I am referring to the case of Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, the student who was first sentenced to death and now to 20 years in prison for spreading articles in his university.

The current regime of Afghanistan has asked and received the help of the international community to defeat the Taliban and start a democratisation process. The treatment of mr. Kambakhsh undermines Afghanistan's relations with all the democratic countries supporting it at the moment.

I myself was born in Iran and fled the country because of its barbaric treatment of its citizens. As a citizen of the Netherlands I am appaled that my fellow country men are fighting and dying in Afghanistan to root out the Taliban and rebuild the country, when at the same time the government that they support decided to support religious extremism over human rights in the case of mr. Kambakhsh.

I hope you will give this matter your attention and endeavor to free mr. Kambakhsh.

Kind regards,

Sahand Sahebdivani
Artist / Journalist


The mail address I sent it to is the following: afconsulholland2@gmail.com

If you're on facebook please also join the following group:


Spread the word!

Friday, 21 November 2008

Musical Performance

A while ago my mom, Branko Galoic and I were asked to perform for the programme "Obalive" in the Amsterdam public library. We played 4 songs: our own interpretations of classical and popular Iranian songs, as well as 2 songs by Branko. The big star ofcourse was my mom! Sadly the only song they put online doesn't feature her. But hey, Branko and I were not too bad either.

Check out the programme on:


(scroll to the bottom to find the link to our performance).

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

A Change is on its way!

America elects its first black president, Rotterdam its first Moroccan mayor, and now a small town in Oregon elects the nation's first openly transvestite mayor!

I don't know about you, but this fills me with wamr fuzzy feelings. The world is slowly turning into the one I want to live in.

Thursday, 13 November 2008


Sometimes I get frustrated being an Iranian. It seems there's great individual Iranians, but as a group we suck. Seriously, look at the country and the people in it.

At those times I fantasize about becoming Finnish. They're so relaxed about everything, and they've got Nokia. Look at how they vent their frustrations:

Finland, take me in your arms!

Monday, 10 November 2008

Thank You for the Music Mama Africa...

Last Friday one of the great voices of Africa, Miriam Makeba, had a concert in Amsterdam. It was our monthly storytelling night so obviously I couldn't go. No sweat, I thought, I'll catch her the next time she's in town. Last night Miriam Makeba, the grand old lady who fought Apartheid and was exiled from South Africa, only to return on Mandela's request after 30 years, played a concert in Italy and dedicated it to the struggle against the Maffia.

This morning Miriam Makeba passed away. She was 76 years old.


This song is part of a live concert she gave for Dutch TV in 1979:

Friday, 7 November 2008

Shameless Self-Promotion

Some weeks ago my Posse and I performed at the "No Label" festival in Utrecht. I don't really have a Posse in the classical sense of the word (we don't ride into town on horses to beat you up after you steal our cattle, unless you're really into that sort of thing and pay us well...), but it's a word I like to use. Some guys filmed parts of the show and interviewed the... well... Posse-members. Not mentioned in the clip is their names:

Babak on guitar
Amiracle on percussion
Eyesful beatboxing, on didge and mouthharp
Sieger with poetry and crazy movements

We had a great time!

I was also interviewed, but probably not deemed interesting enough to be included in the video.

And now, for no reason other than it being a beautiful clip of a beautiful person singing a beautiful song:

(Thanks Allen!)

Thursday, 6 November 2008

It's Back!

Apologies for my long absence.

Doctors were cutting in my eye. We're not talking wuss surgery with lasers here, but proper knives and scalpels and swords. Apparently it takes some time to recover from this process, time you cannot pass while reading or writing or pretty much any activity involving seeing things. Anyway... here's the next post.

Go read immediately the excellent thoughtprovoking article written by Tori about how the new America should deal with Iran:


And watch/listen to this, a great video made for/with the post-minimalist classical cellist and composer Giovanni Sollima:

Saturday, 25 October 2008


Some months ago I made a post about the American filmmaker Andrew Berends who was detained in Nigeria. Though I'm glad to report Andrew was released some time after, there's a few more prisoners of conscience whom we should not forget and leave to rot. Here's a small selection:

- Esha Momeni (28) / Iran

Iranian-American Women's rights advocate Esha Momeni was arrested October 15th. For her story check out the blog: http://for-esha.blogspot.com/ or her mention on the Amnesty site: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE13/155/2008/en

- Sayed Pervez Kambakhsh (24) / Afghanistan

A journalism student who got the death sentence at the age of 23 for distributing articles about human rights abuses as well as Quranic verses about women. A few days ago the sentences was overturned, he's now "only" sentenced to 20 years for questioning Islam. What is especially painful is that this happens in a country "liberated" by the West, where western soldiers still give their lives to fight Taliban and Al-Qaeda.


Et tu Karzai?

- Abdel Kareem Soliman (23) / Egypt

A law student and blogger who was jailed at the age of 22 for saying writing about his (former) university and the Egyptian president.


Did you notice how young these activists are? Makes me want to break something.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008


It's a well known fact that I love to travel. Sadly, this year I didn't travel nearly enough. My only time spent abroad was 3 days in a haunted house in London. And I got rained on. Luckily I have many traveling friends who not only go to far away places, but also share their adventures with me.

Have a look at the travellogs of Nafis Nia. She's a good friend, filmmaker and journalist. To read/see/listen to her reports from the trip she was on to develop the state of journalism in Afghanistan check out her articles at the "Trouw" newspaper and her personal blog (both in Dutch).


Another beautiful adventure is the journey of my friend Allen "mr. Fish" of Caspian Hat Dance fame. He recently sent me an e-mail from Rumania. With his kind permission I'll copy a part of it:

"i'm slowly heading back to cluj to rest and regroup because i am COLD and out of money. the adventures have been amazing and we recorded a lot, plus i've recorded a lot alone, but nothing for Caspian, i think. i've eaten chickenliver (disgusting), pure pig fat (disgusting), different types of sausages and soups and ham (lekker). some people think i'm neat. other people threaten me and yell at me. i can kind of speak romanian. i was bitten by a dog. it sounded like this: "woof, munch". i'm not pregnant. last night i slept in a single room with a family whose mom works in a store 13 hours a day, 7 days a week, and hasn't had one day's rest for the last 4 years. life can never be bad again (for me) if i just think about her. i also slept at a homemade palinka plant, powered by a stream. it was the most beautiful place, too, in the mountains, and the (free) palinka literally flowed like water from a tap -- you guys would have loved it. i mean, because you like nature.

some (assimilated) gypsies wanted me to translate 'amari szi amari' into ... romanian of course! but i couldn't. old men give me grapes. children sing for me. some people are truly wonderful. others are serious motherfuckers. one 12-year old (assimilated gypsy) boy i met calls me every couple of days to ask me if i've eaten anything. when i say, "yes", he says, "what did you eat?" sometimes i wonder if i need to ask him for permission if i stay out late. i would love to play in cluj with you guys after budapest. also maybe we could go to one of the villages i've been to, like negresti oas in the north.

i'm gonna try and sleep in a synagogue tonight. hopefully the guy who invited me isn't gonna expect me to be all jewish all over the place. much love, see you soon"

Monday, 20 October 2008


Look! It's me, talking about Hafez on Dutch Radio/TV:


And here's my mom giving an interview. A bit shy when asked questions, but wait for the moment that she starts to sing! (you have to click on the first clip and fast forward to 3.45)

Saturday, 18 October 2008

The Foundation

When young artists who think outside the box get creative and work together miracles happen. Witness for instance this music video made by young documentary director Ryan Ferguson. The clip is the debut of young chicago rapper Phero. The images are a tribute to a neighbourhood in Chicago that's rapidly gentrifying, and as a result losing its character and spirit.


I am honestly excited by Phero and Ryan!

Now, compare this with some other brilliant work by our young creatives (please note obvious sarcasm):

Young Iranians in the US. But seriously, they could be of any ethnicity, in any country...

... as evidenced by the following clip, made by young Turks in the NL.

In conclusion, it's not Hip Hop that's unexciting as an art, it's the creativity deficit in most of its producers and consumers

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

The Wind Will Take Us...

... is A) a poem by Forough Farrokhzad:


In my small night, ah
the wind has a date with the leaves of the trees
in my small night there is agony of destruction
do you hear the darkness blowing?
I look upon this bliss as a stranger
I am addicted to my despair.

listen do you hear the darkness blowing?
something is passing in the night
the moon is restless and red
and over this rooftop
where crumbling is a constant fear
clouds, like a procession of mourners
seem to be waiting for the moment of rain.
a moment
and then nothing
night shudders beyond this window
and the earth winds to a halt
beyond this window
something unknown is watching you and me.

O green from head to foot
place your hands like a burning memory
in my loving hands
give your lips to the caresses
of my loving lips
like the warm perception of being
the wind will take us
the wind will take us.


... it is B) also a song by the French band Noir Désir:

Monday, 13 October 2008

Iranian artist

Though at the moment our dear government in Iran is doing everything in its power to destroy the artistic scene in Iran I am happy to report this scene is alive and well. It has gone underground, but thrives to the degree that one important art critic calls it the third most exciting country (after Japan & China) in Asia.

Last Saturday I was introduced to a young lady who has exhibitions all over the world. She's in Amsterdam till the end of the month, and then will leave for Teheran to prepare another exhibition.

Ladies and gents, I present to you Golnar Tabibzadeh

Saturday, 11 October 2008


One of the oldest arts that has never failed to bring people together is storytelling. I am very happy to report that everyday more people are convinced of the beauty of it, and spend more time surrounded with friends and strangers to share their stories.

In Amsterdam we've had a monthly night going for close to 4 years, and recently we've added an English night to the Dutch one. Other groups are getting together in other cities. One great group that's been around for a while as well is run by Mary-Sue Siegel an American-Dutch storyteller/therapist. Her group gets together in Rotterdam. I was very honoured to be able to participate in one of them. Here she is addressing the group:

Check out her site as well:


Saturday, 27 September 2008

Making a Change 103

Reza Deghati is a dedicated and award winning photographer. He was very close to Ahmad Shah Massoud, the Afghan freedom fighter who got killed by Al-Qaeda 2 days before the attacks on the twin towers.

Reza still fights for human rights whenever, whereever and however he can, starting initiatives in Afghanistan and many other countries. One cause that he supports is "Reporters Without Borders". To help them out he's donated some of his pictures to be sold on their website:


Tuesday, 16 September 2008

The Power of 6.

I was recently tagged by my friend Eric Asp who runs one of the Fiction Critique Groups in the Mezrab. What does that mean? you ask. Well, here are the rules:

1. Post the rules on your blog
2. Write 6 random things about yourself
3. Tag 6 people at the end of your post
4. If you're tagged, DO IT and pass on the tag


1. This month the Sahebdivani family celebrates being in Europe for 25 years. That's a quarter of a century! C'mon people of Iran, when do you start a counter-revolution already so the family can have a decent vacation in the old country! Lazy gits! Seriously though, we should have a party or something.

2. My mom just returned home from a visit to her relatives (her second trip in 25 years) with about a million pounds of extra luggage: gifts her family and friends gave her to bring to Amsterdam. At the airport they demanded almost € 200,- to fly all the extra weight. I seriously doubt wether all the stuff was even worth half of that, but try to decline receiving gifts from Persian relatives. In our culture even kindness has a hint of the grotesque.

3. I want Nicholas Gurewitch to of http://www.pbfcomics.com/ to start drawing again. I think the man is brilliant. Here's a few of my favorite ones:


4. At the age of 4 I decided to become a biologist. I was good at math and the sciences and breezed through school without much effort. There was even a bug named after me when I was 11, it goes by the latin name of: Scottotympana Sahebdivanii (it's listed towards the end of the page.) I even studied biology at the University of Amsterdam but dropped out in the first year to become a writer/storyteller/musician. This was the scariest thing I had done in my life, as I didn't think I was particularly gifted as a musician or a writer and got nervous speaking in public.

5. I think this is the coolest man to have walked the face of the earth:

6. I fall in love with voices. The most georgious women I've loved were plain in the eyes of my friends who were deaf to the melodies of their words or the tone of their voices. For me the faces of supermodels become misformed and too horrible to behold when they screech rather then talk or converse in a whiny wimper.


Here are the people I tag, should they choose to accept their mission:

1. Derrick / An old friend, I havn't seen him for years. He often brightens up my day with his sense of humor.

2. Tori / A partner in crime! We have the cynical view about life and people in general. She has an excellent (and famous) blog with her husband Kamran.

3. Cousin N. / I last saw him 23 years ago. I hope it won't take much longer for us to meet again. Write more in English mister!

4. Farnaaz / A very inspiring young Iranian woman.

5. William Gibson / I don't actually know William, but I like to pretend that he reads my blog on a regular basis. And if he does, so should you!

6. Alborz / My little brother. A man with a heart of gold. He doesn't have a blog, but maybe this will convince him to start one.


That was fun! I'm off to sleep now.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Happy Birthday RadioZamaneh!

It's the birthday of our happy radiostation Radio Zamaneh! Woohoo! 2 years young and still going strong. I'm very proud to have been involved with this station since it's conception.

Ooh wait, the Beatles whant to say something:

And now I give the floor to Kamran Ashtary, head of Public Relations:

Radio Zamaneh Celebrates its Second Anniversary

Radio Zamaneh

Amsterdam September 10, 2008

Radio Zamaneh, a Persian-language media outlet headquartered in Amsterdam, is a participatory platform that encourages citizen journalism. During the past two years, it has published reports from professional journalists and authors, bloggers, and citizens. Within that short span of time, it has risen into the top 5000 sites out of 55 million ranked by Technorati (http://technorati.com/blogs/radiozamaaneh.com?reactions). According to the same source, radiozamaaneh.com currently has more than 36,000 blog reactions, more than any other Persian media located outside Iran. Its website is a top source of information, ranking first in link-sharing among Iranian bloggers according to the independent Didish Report (http://didish.kamangir.net/report/03mar08/sites.php).

In the last two years since the inauguration of Radio Zamaneh (Sep 11, 2006), a radio station with a multi-media website, it has actively worked to promote press freedoms and report on human rights. In March 2008 it was awarded "Best multi-media Persian website" by a leading group in Iran that presents annual awards for the best of the Persian language web: Haft Sang (http://www.topmedia.ir/).

In two short years, Radio Zamaneh has gained a strong following with an average of 4 million page impressions per month and more than 130,000 monthly visits from unique IP addresses. The absolute number of unique visitors during 2007 was 1,250,000.

In the first six months of 2008 alone, in addition to daily news on the situation in Iran, Radio Zamaneh presented more than 500 reports and interviews focusing on human rights and women in society.

Our Listeners

Everywhere you go in Iran, people discuss the day's issues. From breakfast with the family to the shared taxi ride to the butcher shop to the workplace to the park to the teahouses, everyone is talking and sharing information.

Every piece of information is examined, dissected, passed on. One access point, one person with a computer, or one person with a satellite connection can pass on information to thirty or more people either by sharing files or through conversation. In order to understand the impact of Radio Zamaneh, it is important to first understand how the information is shared. It is important to look beyond what the numbers of unique visitors to the website or Internet can tell us and imagine the many paths that information takes from one single access point.

Here is what one of our listeners, Mohammad, tells us. "We usually save the Audio-Books & Audio-Stories on the flash memories or cell phones, and we listen to them while having fun in a café or park, or while wasting time in the traffic, or on journeys. This happens several times a week. I sometimes capture RZ Satellite Radio and distribute it between my friends; for I'm the only person who uses DVB cards (I don't know what you call it… I mean an onboard satellite receiver that lets me record almost everything very easily and save them on the computer)."

Mohammad, a twenty-something translator in Esfahan who is also a blogger and often translates Radio Zamaneh pieces into English for his own English-language blog, continues:

Politics aside, from a cultural point of view, I feel passionate about RZ. It is doing a good business, reconciling some of the youth with Iran's and Farsi's rich cultural heritage. I'm to an extent a religious person; but I have come to believe that there is a need for a secular (or 'not that religious' or 'not regime-driven' or at least 'not politically affiliated with the regime/conservative parties') source propagating Iran's culture. That is because many of the youth resist the cultural food provided by regime-driven sources, thanks to negative political feelings some people possess toward the regime. And RZ is doing a good business in this case.

Another listener, Javid is a 43-year-old healthcare worker who has been living in Holland for the last 13 years contacted Radio Zamaneh to express his support for the programming. Here is what he had to say:

Radio Zamaneh is very positive about Iranians all over the world. They are not just interested in Muslims or other religions. They don't have just one idea or force their opinions on you. This is what I like about Radio Zamaneh.

I am Ba'hai myself, and I like that there are many ideas and no affiliations. When I first started listening to Radio Zamaneh, I thought it was like the other stations. Those stations force one idea of Iran and Iranians on you. They have a definite affiliation.

It seems that the other stations only want to talk to you if you say what they want you to say. This is not true for Radio Zamaneh. I like Radio Zamaneh now because it doesn't announce its affiliations on every page. Everybody may contribute their own ideas and make programs for Radio Zamaneh and this makes it different from the others.

About Radio Zamaneh

Since its inception, Press Now (http://www.pressnow.nl/) has helped raise funds, provided for the recruitment and selection of a director, and supported programming and organizational development with training and consulting. Radio Zamaneh was made possible because of funding from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs after a unanimous vote in parliament supporting media plurality in Iran.

Radio Zamaneh is a participatory platform that encourages citizen journalism. In addition to reports from professional journalists and authors, Zamaneh publishes reports from non-professionals. It offers training and support for home recording and invites written contributions from bloggers and others.

In the past two years, we have covered conferences and interviews with hundreds individuals including political experts, economic and social analysts, professors from all over the world, filmmakers and sports celebrities, political personalities and musicians. We have spoken to representatives of minority communities, covered stories ignored by others, and sparked debate in Iran.

Since the start of Zamaneh's broadcasts in August 2006, the audience has grown rapidly (growth rate was an estimated 30% in the first seven months). The growth rate among listeners and readers within Iran was unexpectedly quick given the fact that there has been no opportunity to advertise inside Iran.

For more information, contact Kamran Ashtary at (+31 6) 586 3399.

Email: kamran.ashtary@radiozamaneh.com


Wait, wait! There's a voice coming from beyond:

Monday, 8 September 2008

Monday = Revolution Day!

Here's 2 songs to energise the new week. They both go into the "Play Them As Loud As You Can" category. Hopefully they'll get you jumping off your chair, ready to start a revolution. The first is by Gogoll Bordello, one of the bands that initiated the Gypsy Balkan craze. I remember seeing them on the small stage of the Melkweg in Amsterdam, thinking, this is what we want to do, play as loud as this band on this very stage. A year later we did.

Of the next band I couldn't find a good clip on the internet. A shame, because these ladies rock! Iva Nova is an all female folk punk band from Saint Petersburg. We once opened for them in the OCCII, another great venue in Amsterdam. When these witches started to play we were all flabbergasted, our jaws on the floor, ready to give up music. The video doesn't do service to their actual live performance. If I'll find a better video I'll replace this one.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Friday Night Music

I'm not cool, I just know cool people! It's not totally true: I am kinda cool, but I try not to let it go to my head. Anyway, one of the cool people I know is Terry Man. The Rock and Roll legend of Amsterdam. Browsing around on the internet I saw that he has a new site up, as well as some new songs on his MySpace. Check it out here:


I especially like the songs Fire and Fear City.

Another cool project is Robin Block's band Wildeman. They combine poetry with soundscapes, rythmic wordsmithing with percussive emotions. Check out their material:



By the way, I'd like to share this little gem that I found as a response to an on-line article on love and science.

The user AstroFungalInfection made the following comment:

Love and Science mix like honey and mustard.
One's sweet and sticky, the other sharp.
Together, they make a sticky mess that's good for marinating pork.

Thursday, 4 September 2008


Hey Gang,

Here's some updates on things I think are important.

Freedom of Press - I'm very sad to say that accomplished filmmaker and journalist Andrew Berends as well as his translator Samuel George have been arrested by the Nigerian government on espionage charges. Andrew was making a film about the Niger Delta. Please spread the word about Andrew and Samuel.


Mujahedin - A while back I posted a link to James Longley's documentary about the Mojahedin. One of the people James interviewed for his film is Gareth Porter, an investigative journalist with a thing or two to say about the MEK. Now James posted the full 40 minute interview with Gareth on the following shared Vimeo channel:


Women's Rights - The most fun way to be a feminist is to attend LadyFest: a festival organised in different cities all over the world. This weekend there's one in Amsterdam (actually, the kick off is tonight) with concerts, films, workshops on making your own sanitary pads and sex toys and much, much more. Check out

And now for something completely different:

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Making a Change 102 - Women's rights in Iran

If you're as concerned as I am about women's rights in Iran (and the rest of the world), chances are you're also frustrated about what little there is that we can do. However, little does not mean nothing. The truth is, women in Iran are struggling to improve their lives even in these desperate times and though they will be the ones changing the system, they need every bit of help that we can offer.

Yesterday I spoke to a young well known activist who recently moved to the Netherlands to study journalism. She's been involved in the one million signatures campaign in Iran, and has faced harassment by the government. In our conversation she made a few interesting remarks. First of all she stressed to me how important it is for women to become financially independant. As in Europe a few decades ago legal equality alone doesn't mean much if women still have to depend on fathers and husbands.

She also told me how much the movement would be helped with books and films.

My question to you, the reader is the following, which books and films would you send to Iran? What are books that have informed and inspired you? What are the films that opened your eyes? Let's make a list together!

In the mean time, here's a link to the English site of the movement:


Saturday, 30 August 2008

Foto's LiteSide Performance

The show "Har(d/t)slag" that we made for the Lite Side Festival was a big succes. We, 7 musicians from 6 different countries and 1 dancer made a semi-improvised piece, drifting between different melodies and emotions. Our guest of honour was one of Amsterdam's great storytellers: my father Ali-Reza Sahebdivani.

If you don't want to miss out on future events, please send me a mail so I can add you to my mailinglist: cafemezrab@gmail.com

Pictures were taken by Alborz Sahebdivani

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Art installation

Beautiful art installation of pictures and sound recorded in Iran:

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Women Soldiers

There's really very little I can say about these pictures, other then that they move me.

Israeli Women Soldiers:


Friday, 22 August 2008


Oscar winning documentary filmmaker James Longley just finished a one hour documentary on the Mojahedin-e Khalq and posted it on his website:


Heavy stuff.

Monday, 18 August 2008


My mother is one of the strongest women I know. She's had a harder life than most people I know, and has been luckier than a few, and despite all the negative experiences in her life she only sees one thing: how much she has, and how much of that she can share with other people.

Some of the people she sets out to help are people I wouldn't have the patience to deal with. People who are so far gone only someone like my mother sees a way of helping. Some of these people don't particularly like my mother. They don't trust a woman who doesn't live like a traditional Iranian woman. They'd rather sit at home and be bullied by their husbands, children and traditions then to open up to the example of my mother. My dad and I laugh about them, but my mother, while frustrated, perseveres.

Then there's all the young kids my age who come from Spain, Germany, Bulgaria, Italy and dozens of other counties. Having left their mothers at home to study or live in Amsterdam, they've found a mother in mine, and a home in the Mezrab. A place which my mother views as her own home and fills with her warmth.

My mother, Parwin, is currently visiting her family in Iran for the second time in 25 years. For a few short weeks my mother will be a daughter and a sister again.

Here's a clip of her singing in the Mezrab

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Mutant Portugese Guitar Art

A little Portugese bird send me these, Mutant Portugese Guitar Art.

There's much truth in them.

Agony of an insect:


Monday, 11 August 2008

The Mighty Tree Has Fallen

A great artist has moved on. Thanks for the heartbreaking songs Šaban! Watch over the wandering tribes from your new home above the clouds.

Šaban Bajramović / 1936 - 2008

Thursday, 7 August 2008

I miss these guys

I havn't played with Caspian Hat Dance for a while. I miss them a lot! They're currently playing in Spain, or at least, that's where the last e-mail came from. At least there's a nice clip on YouTube to watch. It features me with long(ish) hair.

The song in the clip is a (Southern Italian) Pizzica, performed by Caspian. In the paradiso over 50-60 people joined in to perform this song with us. Your speakers should be loud to compensate for the not so excellent sound quality.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

God Hates the Gays prt. 2

My cousin told me he didn't understand my last post. It was wrong of me to assume everyone knows about gay-pride and canal parades. So if you're from Iran or a similar country, shielded off from all this sinful depravity, here's a quick update:

Amsterdam and the Netherlands have a long history of openness towards alternative (sexual) lifestyles and preferences. In the past many people who faced harrasment because they were gay started a new life in Amsterdam and other Dutch cities. In 2001 the Netherlands was the first country to allow same gender marriages.

Prides are events that celebrate an open attitude towards different sexual preferences. It's a vehicle to protest social injustice but in an open party atmosphere with lots of colour and happines. The last parade (the 13th) so far was a huge event in which boys and girls and everything inbetween turned the Amsterdam canals into one big floating party.

If you've missed it, here's a clock that counts down to the next one:



In other news, this is something I'm worried about:

More info on Global Voices Online

Sunday, 3 August 2008

God Hates the Gays

It's true, otherwise he wouldn't "Rain on our Parade". Despite the so-so weather Canal Pride was an overwhelming succes with about 500.000 visitor. I still don't know how to operate a camera, so here's a picture off the net:

God also showed his anger through his faithful servant Eimert van Middelkoop, the Dutch minister of defence. van Middelkoop was upset by the presence of no less than 5 Dutch Labour Party ministers and Secretaries of State at Canal Pride. Even though this year's theme was "Hope, Faith and Love" no ministers of the 2 Christian coalition parties joined the fun.
Still all this doesn't compare to the story of the Pride organisers in Jerusalem and their treatment by the leaders of the 3 big faiths. Please find the outstanding documentary that was made about it and give it a watch. It was shown this week in the Jewish Museum in Amsterdam, as well as on Dutch national TV.
Have fun and play safe!

Friday, 1 August 2008


James Longley is a renowned documentary-filmmaker. His two films on Iraq have both been nominated for an oscar. At the moment he's working on film in Iran. I have no idea what it will be about, but I can't wait to see it.

James is also a great photographer. Have a look on his site for pictures of Iraq and Iran: http://www.daylightfactory.com/


And now? Madness....

"Met the ghost of Stephen Foster at the Hotel Paradise,
and this is what I told him as I gazed into his eyes:
Whiskey's made for drinking,
ships are made for sinking,
if we were made of celophane, we'd all get stinking drunk much faster! Mwahaha"

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Poems of the Week

Russell Edson is a prose-poetry pioneer. His works are childish and profound at the same time. They are about cathing a stone and guarding it, they are about scientists counting tiny sheep in test-tubes and falling asleep. They are also about torturing angels.

Here's two of my favorites:



A father with a huge eraser erases his daughter. When he
finishes there's only a red smudge on the wall.
His wife says, where is Amyloo?
She's a mistake, I erased her.
What about all her lovely things? asks his wife.
I'll erase them too.
All her pretty clothes? . . .
I'll erase her closet, her dresser--shut up about Amyloo!
Bring your head over here and I'll erase Amyloo out of it.
The husband rubs his eraser on his wife's forehead, and as
she begins to forget she says, hummm, I wonder whatever
happened to Amyloo? . . .
Never heard of her, says her husband.
And you, she says, who are you? You're not Amyloo, are
you? I don't remember your being Amyloo. Are you my
Amyloo, whom I don't remember anymore? . . .
Of course not, Amyloo was a girl. Do I look like a girl?
. . . I don't know, I don't know what anything looks like
anymore. . .



In sleep when an old man's body is no longer
aware of his boundaries, and lies flattened by
gravity like a mere of wax in its bed . . . It drips
down to the floor and moves there like a tear down a
cheek . . . Under the back door into the silver meadow,
like a pool of sperm, frosty under the moon, as if in
his first nature, boneless and absurd.

The moon lifts him up into its white field, a cloud
shaped like an old man, porous with stars.

He floats through high dark branches, a corpse tangled
in a tree on a river.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Nostalgia (Iran and Rumania)

It's strange to feel nostalgic about someone I've only recently discovered. 4 years ago a friend gave me an incredible CD of a gray haired singer with beautiful and sad songs. I asked my father wether he knew the singer. "Farhad? Ofcourse I know him, everyone does!" Well, thanks for not bothering to introduce me to him before... hmpf.

The CD my friend gave me is a live recording of one of his last concerts. His voice doesn't have the power of the old days, and there's no other musicians accompanying him, but the emotion in his performance is stronger than almost anything I've heard.

I'm happy to have found many of the songs of this particular performance on YouTube:

Now off to Rumania for some golden oldies. Again, these are songs that I've gotten into only in the last few years, but imagine what memories these songs must evoke for certain people. We start off with Gabi Lunca & Dona Dumitru Siminica. For some reasons many of Dona Dumitru's songs are cut off on YouTube.

The next song is a personal favorite, but I must confess I had never seen the clip. It adds a surreal quality to the song.

Can't get enough of the Rumanians? Make sure to also check out
Maria Tanase

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Let's not hate the Americans!

The self-proclaimed Ayatollah of Rock-and-Rollah has a very improtant message for us: "Let's not hate the Americans!". His name is Sina Turner, and inbetween despondent bouts of self-loathing ("I can't actually play the guitar") he climbs the stage with his thought provoking messages. Sina Turner is a visionary. Even if he can't play the guitar.

Need more Sina Turner? Check out his YouTube Channel or go to where most of his alter egoes reside: www.sinakhani.com .

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Images of Iran and the Ultimate Break-Uo Song

Just some short notes:

Yesterday a reporter from Tapesh TV came over to Mezrab to make a little item about my family and our cultural cafe Mezrab. I played some songs with Babak Amiri and Kate Adams and then told some Shahname stories together with my father Ali-Reza. It was a blast, and as soon as the item hits the airwaves I'll let you all know.


Newsha Tavakolian is a talented young photographer. Her pictures often appear in international papers and magazines. If you don't know her, do yourself a favor and check out her site.

If you read Dutch than you should also head to her husband's excellent weblog.


Angus and Julia Stone are a husband and wife musical duo from Australia. Ever since my friend Atefe gave me their CD for my birthday I've been a huge fan.

There's 8 great songs (with some of the best videoclips I've seen) to find on their YouTube Channel, but the ultimate break up song is "Silver Coin"

"Heard the rattle from the chain,
this G*dd*mn room, it gets so small sometimes,
found the drink then hit the shame,
I had a dream that you were gone,

woke up... and you were gone."

Friday, 18 July 2008

Making A Change 101

Saving the world has never been so easy and fun to do! There's no more need to join movements that get stuck in dogmas or corrupted by megalomaniac party leaders. It's the time of individuals, and individuals are changing the world.

We all knew about Citizen Journalism and the ocean of bloggers observing and discussing the world. Stations like RadioZamaneh are all about it. One single blogger, Salam Pax, gave the people of Iraq a voice and a human face during the early period of the war.

Now the new hip thing is Citizen Diplomacy. No trust in your elected leader Bush, Brown or Balkenende to make things right or open dialogue with the actual people of a country? Check out initiatives like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JAZAIybiFWM&eurl=http://willward.wordpress.com/

My friend Doug who's previously lived in Saudi Arabia and the Netherlands is involved in new missions going to Iran from the US. I'll keep you guys posted on how that goes.

(by the way, if the vatican is a country does this also count as Citizen Diplomacy?)

And then there is Citizen Financial Aid: people in developing countries present to you their projects, you decide whom to support (all projects that can be done with a few hundred dollars), and once they have an income to provide for themselves and their families they pay you back the money they owe you. Take a look at: http://www.kiva.org/


Yay, world saved! Let's celebrate by listening to some music. Kiosk is a huge band in Iran, yet rarely gets airplay outside of the country.

"Ey Dad az Eshq"

Soheil Nafisi - a brilliant musician who uses the poetry of contemporary Iranian poets in his work.

"... a thousand happy larks in your eyes,
a thousand quiets canaries in my throat..."

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Poem of the week

In 1985 Paul Simon released the album Graceland, featuring black South-African musicians and Singers. This was during the Apartheid years. When the album became a hit a magical thing happened: for anyone listening to the songs the black South-Africans stopped being a colour, a race or a statistic. They became human beings with the same spectrum of emotions, hopes, desires and pains as the listener's.

The songs celebrate the cultural differences between us: the way the rythms are played and the melodies are constructed are typical to that part of Africa. The songs also united us more than ever. One could rationaly oppose Apartheid, but now the heart would also cry out "how can you let the people who made such beautiful music suffer so much?".

I grew up in Amsterdam with very little reading material about the struggle of my parents in Iran. Ofcourse they would tell me about their lives, but some aspects of their past I only understood after reading the books of Milan Kundera and Gabriel Garcia Márquez. It doesn't matter so much wether you fall in love or lose a friend under Latin American Junta rule, a Communist dictatorship or the reign of the Shah of Persia. As I absorbed these stories I started to care about the struggles of the people I read about. The fall of the Eartern European dictatorships are also a victory in my life, and give hope to the people of Iran.

The way to save this world is very easy. Listen to the songs of all the people in the world, read their books and poems and they, having shared their stories with you, will be your friends. In return offer them your jewels: the stories your parents and grandparents told you when you were small, the works of your great poets, the melodies that comforted you when your heart was broken.

The following poem was written 32 years ago by the Mexican writer Octavio Paz. It is true to this day.


Primero de Enero (January first)

The doors of the year open,
like the doors of language,
onto the unknown.
Last night you said:
we must draw signs,
sketch a landscape, hatch a plot
on the unfolded page
of paper and the day.
Tomorrow we must invent,
the reality of this world.

When I opened my eyes it was late.
For a second of a second
I felt like the Aztec
on the rock-strewn peak,
the cracks of horizons
for the uncertain return of time.

No, the year came back.
It filled the room,
and my glances could almost touch it.
Time, without our help,
had arranged
in the same order as yesterday,
the houses on the empty street,
the snow on the houses,
the silence on the snow.

You were beside me,
still sleeping.
The day had invented you,
but you hadn't yet accepted
your day's invention,
nor mine.
You were still in another day.

You were beside me,
and I saw you, like the snow,
asleep among the appearances.
Time, without our help,
invents houses, streets, trees,
sleeping women.

When you open your eyes
we'll walk, anew,
among the hours and their inventions,
and lingering among the appearances
we'll testify to time and its conjugations.
We'll open the doors of this day,
and go into the unknown.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Frisia Non Cantat

"Frisia non cantat" - The old Latin phrase original referred to the stubbornness of some peculiar nordic tribes. In later ages it was used to describe how non-musical the Dutch are, either in their culture or in their language.

My mother subscribes to this view. She thinks the Dutch language is bland and prickly to the ears. She doesn't believe a song in Dutch can be any good. It doesn't help that many of the Dutch agree with her.

If you are a friend of mine living in Amsterdam, chances are you were born somewhere else. If your English is good you were probably never really motivated to learn Dutch, let alone find appreciation for some of the good songs, music, books, films and poetry that's out there.

Here's some songs that I appreciate to get you started:

1. Herman van Veen / Anne

The only Dutch singer my mom listens to. That's high praise! Bam, the pianist in the Babak-o-Doestan band says none of the cool guys liked Herman van Veen back in the day. He was rather an artist you went to see with a girl to impress her. So here you go, impress a girl already:

2. Doe Maar / De Bom

The ultimate Dutch band, any guy or girl my age can sing along most lyrics of most songs. Written in the (anti-)climactic years of the cold war, it's about the uselessness of pursueing shallow goals (or indeed any goals) when the bomb will wipe us out anyway. Cheerful stuff.

3. Extince / Spraakwater

One of the first guys to start rapping in Dutch. I know all the cool kids are doing it these days, but this guy's a pioneer!

"Hitgevoelig als Abba /
flexibel als BarbaPapa!"

Heck yeah!

4. Opgezwolle / Eigen Wereld

No words to describe these guys, or the surreal clip. Just click on the video.

Friday, 11 July 2008

The Oldest Persian in Amsterdam

Today I met the oldest Persian in Amsterdam. He's 113 years old.

I went to the Botanical Gardens with a butterfly and suddenly we stood before the Perzische Boom (Persian Tree) or Iron Tree. Butterfly and I both thought "Iron" was a typo, but apparently the English were impressed by the hard wood and thus picked its name. Butterfly didn't believe the tree was as solid as described, climbed into the tree and flapped her wings to rock the branches.

Persian, originally from the north of Iran, was planted in 1895, the year Oscar Wilde saw his play "the Importance of Being Earnest" premiere in Londen, was arrested and thrown in jail on account of Sodomy and gross indecency, the year Babe Ruth and Rudolph Valentino were born. Persian has seen two world wars come and go.

I've probably seen Persian as a kid, playing in the Botanical Gardens, never aware of our common roots.


In other news, Iranians are pretty Funky! Or rather, they were, about 30 years ago. To prove this I invite you to listen to the following song, get off your chair and dance, dance, DANCE!

For more Funky Farsies, go to persianfunk


Thursday, 10 July 2008

What's going on in Iran?

Well... there's 3 Billion dollars worth of art stored away in a basement.

And ooh... a student demonstration. (link sends you to Tori and Kamran's blog.

Down already? Here's something to cheer you up, Persian Ska from Sweden:

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Death of a Show

I just watched the first 8 episodes of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip , a great show that sadly got cancelled after 22 episodes. This show had it all: a great premise, sharp dialogue, believable characters I cared about. It dealt with corporate bullying, rasicm, sexism, religious bigotry, media hypocrisy and many more issues in deeply intelligent and very subtle ways.

Did the "greater audience" not get it? Who am I to blame? It's easy to be upset about networks making horrible reality-shows, but why blame them if that's apparently what audiences flock towards.

How do we deal with this cultural idiocy? Censorship is a serious issue in many countries, but a bigger problem is the general lack of interest in the quality that's out there. My friend B. is concerned with the little amount of knowledge people our age have in Iran of films that we've seen and have added to our cultural frame of reference. On his last trip to Iran he'd encountered very few people who had seen films by Jim Jarmusch or other directors B. admired, and a plan was hatched to send them over to friends and distribute them.

Even if he does, how many of our friends watch these films in Europe where they're readily available?


In other news, I mailed some of my poems to the New Yorker, as Tori suggested:

"Thank you for submitting your work to The New Yorker poetry department. Owing to the large volume of submissions, we request that no more than six poems be submitted at one time. We prefer to receive no more than two submissions per writer per year, and generally cannot reply to more. Due to the number of queries we receive, it may take us up to three months to respond to your submission."

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Images, Sounds and Words from Iran


"Life goes on in Tehran" is the site of a friend of a friend. Every month the son of a famous Iranian cinematographer posts amazing pictures on his site, all taken with his mobile phone! At the moment he seems to have returned to LA, but take a look at the older files to see a side of Tehran that's rarely shown in the media. I am a big fan.



It's rare for my parents to like young writers and/or musicians from Iran. This singer/songwriter has their stamp of approval. I'm just blown away. A singer who combines complicated persian singing techniques with raw screams from the underbelly, funky ethno-rythms (the next song is in 7-beat) with electric guitar, classical poetry with his own lyrics. He's had it with Iran, and is now trying to start a life in Europe. Best of luck to you Mohsen Namjoo!

Your speakers should be very loud to properly listen to this song.


"Life is perhaps
a long street through which a woman holding
a basket passes every day

Life is perhaps
a rope with which a man hangs himself from a branch
life is perhaps a child returning home from school.

Life is perhaps lighting up a cigarette
in the narcotic repose between two love-makings
or the absent gaze of a passerby
who takes off his hat to another passerby
with a meaningless smile and a good morning ."

From "Another Birth" by Forough Farrokhzad, who passed away 41 years ago. But is still very alive.


Monday, 7 July 2008

It starts...

Here's where it starts: the blog that will change your life. Are you ready for it?