A Persian Amsterdammer Blogs.

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?