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Logic Likes Dialogue

Logic Likes Dialogue

AUSTRALIA, 16th May 2010 (SBS Dateline) - There are precious few Iranians who dare to publicly criticise the dreaded Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regime in Tehran especially when these days their comments are bound to be reported around the world. However one Iranian, the living legend of Iranian traditional music Mohammadreza Reza Shajarian has never hesitated to speak his mind – he is far too popular to incur the wroth of the mullas. "Lay down your guns!  I am tired of this gruesome needless shedding of blood.  Whether the gun is in your hand or another’s – it is the language of fire and mayhem." (Read the transcript of the interview with Mohammadreza Shajarian, below - Watch video of his tour in Australia)


"You can't communicate in the language of fire and bullets. There is no logic in bullets. Logic likes in dialogue."  Mohammad Reza Shajarian, Iranian Singer

REPORTER: Yalda Hakim - When Iran's mass Opposition movement takes to the streets, they're marching to the music of a master musician. Shajarian, as he prefers to be called, is one of Iran's living legends, adored by millions at home and abroad.  Often referred to as Ostad or maestro in Persian, he and his 70 piece band are currently touring Australia. His music spans centuries of Persian tradition, but his interpretation of it is uniquely his and for Iranians, a deeply moving experience..

WOMAN:  It's hard to explain what it is. It's just all of them, when maestro, he just - opens his mouth, it just takes me back.
MOHAMMAD REZA SHAJARIAN (Translation):  Since I was five years old I have loved sounds, I have always lived with voices, I have admired beautiful sounds and followed them. Slowly I moved towards music and later lived with it.

I was fortunate enough to spend two days with him in Melbourne and showed him parts of the city.

REPORTER: Yalda Hakim -  It is the Victorian arcade, but it is a copy. It has several Italian restaurants, as many Italians live here.

Despite his fame, I find him to be a humble man. He's eager to pass on his musical knowledge to the younger generation of Iranians who are now under brutal attack from the regime in Tehran.

REPORTER: Yalda Hakim - You must be devastated, 30 years ago you would never have imagined Iran could be like this.

MOHAMMAD REZA SHAJARIAN (Translation):  No one thought that Iran would be in this situation, stuck in this swamp. Eventually they will find a way out – the majority feels this way – they want change and in the end the majority will get their way.

REPORTER: Yalda Hakim - The Iranian regime had used his songs to celebrate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election as president but the maestro objected strongly.

MOHAMMAD REZA SHAJARIAN (Translation):   After the president insulted the people saying that the protesting crowd were just ‘dust and trash’, I immediately told the BBC that I was part of that dust and trash. My voice represents the dust and the trash. I will not allow state radio or TV to use my voice. They must stop using it.

SONG (Translation):  It’s the language of fire and mayhem, it is the language of anger and bloodshed. It’s the language of rage and conflict.

Now, his most recent work Zabanattash or language of fire has become the battle cry of the Opposition as they stream their protest in Iran and worldwide on YouTube.

REPORTER: Yalda Hakim -  “The Language of Fire” is one of your recent songs, who do you think the song speaks to?

MOHAMMAD REZA SHAJARIAN (Translation):  You can not communicate in the language of fire and bullets – there is no logic in bullets – logic lies in dialogue. These were my words to those who were pointing their guns at people. I called on them to lay down their guns - there is no logic in guns, just talk to people.

Anyone who saw those images would be devastated. Many times I sat in front of the TV…and wept with sadness, thinking “Why are my people being treated this way?  They deserve dignity.”

Our government is making a big mistake - it is as if they don’t know their people. The people will fight for what they want and succeed.

REPORTER: Yalda Hakim - Shajarian's sufi lyrics resonate strongly with Iranians because ancient poets scorned what they believed was the clerics obsession with religion at the expense of true spirituality.  The old tradition now has a modern messenger. 

MOHAMMAD REZA SHAJARIAN (Translation):  In recent years I have written poems that express the state of the people because these young people are part of that society, they interact with eachotherand know I speak the language of their hearts. What they face in that society is in my poems – so a bond has developed.

REPORTER: Yalda Hakim - Shajarian has been described by Iran's leading daily newspaper as a traitor, but he says it's the Government which has betrayed its people.

MOHAMMAD REZA SHAJARIAN (Translation):  Since I have always been on the side of the people – I have stood against the government, perhaps that is why people sat I am free-thinking or that I am brave…But I’m not really brave.

REPORTER: Yalda Hakim - It's this mass support in Iran, millions of people according to his minder, which make him seemingly untouchable despite his criticism of the Government.  But the mullahs make it virtually impossible for him to perform live for his people.

MOHAMMAD REZA SHAJARIAN (Translation):  They don’t officially stop us but every time we attempt it we face all sorts of difficulties.  Many barriers are put in our way and many different obstacles.  We arrange the poetry, the music, the venue, we get permission for everything and finally we get a message from an imam to say the place isn’t suitable. All musicians in Iran face this problem.  But those who go along with the government are allowed to do whatever they want.

As I watch the rehearsals I was struck by the 69 year old's energy and eye for detail, his search for perfection never ends.

MOHAMMAD REZA SHAJARIAN (Translation):   For 20 years I searched the world for string, everywhere I went I would buy string, looking for the right kind – I had to find the string that made the most satisfying sound. Imagine searching so long for string, let alone worrying about wood and other essential items.

Unusually for Iran, three members of his orchestra are women including his daughter Mujgan. On a recent trip to Europe, the maestro allow Mujgan to sing...  This also angered Tehran because women are banned from singing solo.

REPORTER: Yalda Hakim - You think differently, you ask women to sing, aren’t you afraid?

MOHAMMAD REZA SHAJARIAN (Translation):  Why should I be afraid? Women are part of the world we live in. The female voice is one aspect of our music, if it is not there - it is like part of our music is missing. How can you say a man’s voice can’t arouse a woman but a woman’s voice arouses a man?  Where does that come from – there is no logic in it.

REPORTER: Yalda Hakim - And it's not just the Government's views on women that he objects to. We also discuss the contentious issue of Iran's nuclear program.

MOHAMMAD REZA SHAJARIAN (Translation):  They have not yet convinced the world that their program genuinely is not for nuclear weapons – they are guilty of this. If they want to complete the nuclear program, if that is their decision, they must convince the world that they won’t act illegally.

REPORTER: Yalda Hakim - Shajarian's main concern is that Iran is continually isolating itself. He's calling on the Government to forget its old ways and accept the changes that the nation and the world is demanding.

MOHAMMAD REZA SHAJARIAN (Translation):   You can no longer build a Great Wall of China to keep people out – that time in history has passed. News travels through the skies, people are now connected. We should try to have a similar vision although our languages may differ, our hearts should be one. We should live for humanity because we are all human. 

Source: SBD Dateline

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