Saturday, June 27, 2009

Culture Notes on #iranelection 3.7 + MJ

1. Hich Kas, who is perhaps Iran's best known rapper, showed up recently on The Daily Show--in Jason Jones' three-part account of his recent trip to Iran. We get to witness Hich Kas' remarkable skills, and he proceeds to tell Jones that he raps about street issues, social issues, moral issues. What about the guns, hos, bitches? says Jones. Jones then "teaches" Hich Kas about rap by performing a hilariously shallow rap. Hich Kas laughs but says that Jones' "meter was not good."

Jason Jones' Iran series, btw, was the best work JJ has done ever.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Jason Jones: Behind the Veil - The Kids Are Allah Right
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJason Jones in Iran

For more Hich Kas music, go here. And search for him on youtube: lots of vids.

2. Alexander made a comment on my previous post, with regard to Mohsen Nimjoo: thing to keep in mind about Namjoo is that unlike Bob Marley and Fela Kuti (who are pretty unanimously revered in their home countries, as far as I'm aware), he has not reached that level of popularity and is not uniformly loved. I was surprised to see Mousavi use a Namjoo song in his campaign advertising, mostly because a lot of the older generation (the ones who have heard of him, anyway) don't like Namjoo and feel that he butchers traditional Iranian music. I am sure that Mousavi wanted to reach out to the young, but he could have used a less divisive figure.

Thanks for that information, Alexander--I heavily depend on Iranian friends and informants, because I am no Iran expert. To clarify, the reason I prefer to compare Namjoo to Marley and Fela rather than to Bob Dylan is that the former all mix "Western" and "non-Western" forms of music in amazing ways. Namjoo, however, reall goes all over the place with his borrowing of Western genres. Check out "Jorah-Baz" from his Toranj album, for instance. It opens with the riff based on Muddy Waters' "I'm A Man," complete with blues harmonica and slide guitar. And then takes the song somewhere else.

Listen to it here:
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Here is the clip made for Mousavi's campaign, Namjoo's remix of Mohamed Reza Shajarian's "Hamrah Sho Aziz." Namjoo was one of many Iranian artists who came out in support of Mousavi's campaign for president.

3. Now for MJ. And there are some Iran connections. As many have noted, Michael Jackson was truly a global star. Some of my Iranian friends recall that MJ provided their soundtrack during the early years of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI). And here's some evidence, from Marhane Satrapi's acclaimed graphic novel, Persepolis. (Thanks to Hegar for providing this.)

4. MJ was popular in Iraq too. Among prisoners incarcerated by the US military, post-2003. Jonathan Pieslak, author of Sound Targets: American Soldiers and Music in the Iraq War, is featured in the latest New Yorker's Talk of the Town. He tells Lauren Collins that US "soldiers would use [heavy metal band Drowning Pool's song "Bodies"] both to get pumped up for battle and 'to induce irritation and frustration among detainees.' (The detainees, apparently, preferred ’N Sync and Michael Jackson.)"

And, if we can credit the film The Three Kings, Michael Jackson was also favored by Saddam's interrogators. Check out this unforgettable scene from the movie, where
Iraqi interrogator Captain Said (played by Said Taghmaoui) educates Sgt. Troy Barlow (Mark Wahlberg) about why Michael Jackson disfigured his face. (Thanks, Elliott.)

5. Pakistan, too. Check out this scene from Pakistani comedy show "Fifty Fifty." (Thanks, Iftikhar and Nila.)

6. And then there are the rumors about Michael Jackson being a Muslim, which run rampant in the Muslim world. For some reason, such rumors spread about certain Westerners. Two I think of off-hand are Neil Armstrong and Jacques Cousteau (untrue in both cases). When it comes to Michael, of course, the rumors are fueled in part by the fact that (a) he took up residency in Bahrain in 2005 and (b) that his brother Jermaine did convert to Islam in 1989.

Ali Eteraz does a good rundown of the rumors, which he puts to rest, inshallah, here.

Whatever god(s) you did or didn't worship, Michael, RIP.

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