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: