“Azadi” means “Freedom” – new album compilation in solidarity with Iranian dissident movement
By Aisha Fukushima (for World Hip Hop Market)
June 12, 2012 marked the third anniversary of the post-election uprisings in Iran. With Iran having the highest level of per capital executions in the world and over 20,000 Iranians having been arrested for peaceful dissent since the elections, the fight for democracy and human rights continues.
As a show of their solidarity, musicians from around the globe have contributed to the first ever collection of it’s kind Azadi: Songs of Freedom for Iran mixed by United for Iran and DJ Child, founder of the multi-function roots production house Project Groundation. The star-studded compilation features over 30 different contributors from Iran, Libya, South Africa, France, Egypt, Ireland, the United States, Palestine, Iraq, Sweden and Japan.
Among them, Azadi (meaning ‘freedom’ in Farsi) has recruited into its ranks an impressive roster of international hip-hop heavyweights from the Near East such as Rush of the Egyptian hip-hop crew Arabian Knightz, MC Amin also from Egypt, Palestinian-American MC Excentrik, Iraqi-Canadian MC The Narcicyst, and Salome MC, Iran’s first female rapper.
“The king calls himself a Muslim and still spills / the blood of innocent people / How can this kind of cruelty be justified in Islam? / Iran’s fate is in God’s hands,” Salome MC intones in the bombastic opening track of the compilation “Drunk King, Drunk Elder.”
“History shows us the only way to fight injustice is to raise your voice, raise awareness, raise the will to fight and get back what is your right by birth,” says Salome MC who currently lives as an exile in Japan. She adds, “I am hoping this project will tell Iranians that none of us are alone in this fight.”
The eclectic mix of emcees featured on Azadi reflect a strengthening consciousness throughout international hip-hop scenes that not only inspires people, but works to expose the connections between local and global efforts for change – something that artists in West Asia and North Africa have been particular keyed in on since the outbreak of popular revolts in Tunisia in December 2010.
For Karim Adel Eissa aka Rush, who has been active on the forefront of rap music throughout the ongoing uprisings in Egypt, the importance of solidarity with Iran is simple: “We share the same destiny. And we share common enemies in the fight for freedom and human rights.”
From Cairo’s Tahrir Square to the recording booth, Rush and his rap crew, Arabian Knightz have made major waves both nationally and internationally as rappers for revolutionary change. Their singles “Rebel” and “Prisoner” (featuring Palestinian-UK singer Shadia Mansour) were released to coincide with the January 25 uprisings in Egypt last year. Between the two they have clocked over 100,000 cumulative views, and continue to gain in popularity because the revolutionary messaging is no less relevant now than it was in 2011.
Excentrik and the Narcicyst, whose collaborations can be traced back to the 2007 album, Arab Summit: Fear of an Arab Planet joined forces after a long hiatus with a masterful collaboration track called “A Piece… (Peace Dies).” Excentrik, an accomplished oud player and producer, spits over a haunting instrumental underbed:
All I wanted was a moment of peace/ But police took my freedom and I’m trying to eat/ They say peace is a piece of the pie/ But while our peace dies, they get their piece/ And they get their peace.”
The deep bass boom of Excentrik’s voice is complimented by the gritty, coffee-ground type vocal tones exhibited by The Narcicyst who begins his verse with a reference to Baghdad and completes it with a shout out to Gaza. Besides “A Peace… (Peace Dies),” the Narcicyst has shown his support for uprisings in Egypt with widely-received songs such as ‘#JAN25’ featuring Omar Offendum, Freeway, Amir Sulaiman and Ayah, as well as his gorgeous solo tribute to Egypt post-revolution – ‘Fly Over Egypt.’
In addition to rap, Azadi includes musical influences ranging from traditional to reggae, rock and acoustic jams. Renowned Iranian artists such as Mohsen Namjoo, Rana Farhan, Fared Shafinury, Eendo, Abjeez and Kiosk also make an appearances on the musical compilation.
“Because this common pain will never be healed while we are separated/ The difficulties of life/ Will never get eased for us/ Until we collectively (jointly) fight for them” sings Mohsen Namjoo, described by the New York Times as “the Bob Dylan of Iran,” in his song “Hamrah Sho Aziz.”
And the world pop group Abjeez (slang for ‘sister’ in Farsi) sings in their more upbeat, reggae-influenced track,“Lay down your weapons/open your hearts […] Come on, join us once and for all, let’s be honest, let’s be true/ Join the force of love and see, what’s in there waiting for you!/ Feel the compassion, unity calls at this hour/ The power of love is higher than the love of power!”
The Archbishop Desmond Tutu from South Africa makes an appearance on one of several insightful interludes of testimonial solidarity interspersed throughout the 24-track compilation. “To our Iranian sisters and brothers: You are not alone. We will not forget or stop caring. […] We are with you,” Tutu says in his distinctively deliberate delivery, extolling an important message at a time when the mainstream media seems more concerned with the Iranian nuclear question than the voices of the oppressed in Iran.
Like the Archbishop, many of the musicians that contributed to Azadi are not strangers to political repression themselves. Libyan Masoud Bwisri, for instance, played songs on his guitar for rebels at the forefront of armed conflict in Libya. Kurdish activist and lead singer of the group Sofar, Soraya Fallah was imprisoned four times in Iran, including one prison stint that caused her to have a miscarriage in solitary confinement after her captors had tortured her. Bahareh Hedayat, who was arrested in 2008 and again in 2010 recorded “Blood of Flowers” on a temporary furlough from her 10-year prison sentence for speaking out during the 2009 presidential elections.
American activist Sarah Shourd also contributed a track to the compilation. Shourd was held for more than a year as a political prisoner in Iran after her and two colleagues were arrested for allegedly crossing into Iranian territory in 2009. Her song, “It’s Your Turn” was written on the day the other imprisoned American hikers, Shane Bauer (Shourd’s husband) and Joshua Fattal were released in September 2011.
Over an acoustic arrangement of guitar and keyboards, Shourd sings, “Put down your guns down / And set your prisoners free / Hallelujah / It’s your turn / […] I’m not free until you’re free / You’re not free until I’m free / We’re not free until they’re free / Halleluiah, it’s your turn.”
The complete “Azadi: Songs of Freedom for Iran” is available as a free download on bandcamp (link below). If you are inspired to learn about how else you can contribute to the cause, visit http://www.united4iran.org/.
Ayla Nereo (U.S.)
Bahaisonthemic (South Africa)
Bahareh Hedayat (Iran)
Excentrik & Narcicyst (Palestine/Iraq)
Fared Shafinury (Iran/U.S.)
Johnny Azari (Iran/U.S.)
Lia Rose (U.S.)
Masoud Bwisri (Libya)
Rana Farhan (Iran/U.S.)
Revolution of the Mind (Iran/U.S.)
Salome Mc (Iran/Japan)
Sarah Shourd (U.S.)
Soraya Fallah and Omeed Rafizadeh (Kurdish-Iran)
Rush and MC Amin (Egypt)
About the author:
Aisha Fukushima is a performer, educator, writer and leader of global hip hop project, ‘RAPtivism‘ (rap activism). Aisha has lived and engaged in hip hop communities from France to Japan, Morocco, England, South Africa, Senegal, India and Denmark, working to raise awareness around global intersections between hip hop and social justice.
MUSIC | http://raptivism.bandcamp.com WEBSITE | http://raptivism.org