Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"shout for joy if you have the chance": Where are U2/Pink Floyd in the Cedars of Lebanon?

How many U2 themes can we find here?

On the themes of:

"let me in the sound,"


subverting violence and dismantling death via a representative group of the "sons of Abraham" coexisting musically and bringing joy to others Sufi-style, and with David Gilmouresque solos in Fez and Lebanon,--

we of course turn to U2.. way of an amazing book, "Heavy Metal Islam: Rock, Resistance, and the Struggle for the Soul of Islam," by Mark Levine (a musician who has recorded with Mick Hagger et al, and is a professor of Middle eastern history).

It all started with a concert among the cedars of Lebanon:

(It was) a big thrill (that) joining us was Salmon Ahmed, founder and lead guitarist of Junoon. Labeled by fans and music critics around the world as 'the U2 of Asia'-Bono is in fact a fan of the band-Junoon is unquestionably the biggest rock band of history east of Berlin (millions of albums sold, but, sadly for band members, mose of them pirated). Organizing and impromptu all-star jam session is always a risky proposition. Luckily, our potentially discordant group of musicians-Lebanese, Moroccan, Pakistani and American; Muslim,Christian and Jewish--clicked from the moment we took out our instruments and began to play. 'Isn't this what msic is supposed to be about?,' Salman asked rhetorically after the show, as audience members lingered around to meet the band.

Salman's happiness at playing a good set was overshadowed by the news that several members of his family were missing and presumed dead in a massive earthquake that had struck Pakistan earlier that day..'My uncle is digging for them right now, but it is probably too late,' Salman expressed with a calmness that caught me by surprise. 'What am I supposed to do? I'm a Sufi, so I have to believe that whatever happens does so for a reason, and all we can do is remember our loved ones and honor them by bringing joy to others. Let's play some music. '

We hit the stage...He explained to the crowd what had happened to his family earlier in the day. With that, he called out U2's 'With or Without You,' and started strumming the chords. I am not sure any of the rest of us had performed this song live before, but by the second verse, it had taken a life of it's own.

By the time the second chorus was over, much of the audience, and the musicians as well, were in tears. It remains one of the most intense and meaningful performances I've ever been a part of. Yet it was only a prelude to what was for me the most important moment of the night, The Kordz's Arab-metal version of Pink Floyd's 'Another Brick in the Wall.'

As I tried to play an Arab-sounding yet funky rhythym under guitarist Nadim Sioufi's Arabesque version of David Gilmour's famous guitar solo, it suddenly hit me that one of the most hopeful visions of the future of the Middle East I would ever come across was standing-well, headbanging--before my eyes. As I watched the reation of an audience full of Lebanese, and foreigners of various persuasions to the somg, the idea of rock n roll helping to move a country away from violence and authoritarianism and toward greater tolerance, peace and democracy, seemed not just plausible but natural.

It also became clear that the anger exploding from the lyrics to 'Brick' was never intended to indict merely the stifling conformity of post-World War II Britain. It was equally relevant to the post-Civil War Lebanese political system. In post-Cedar Revolution Beirut- a city that Pink Floyd founder Roger Waters holds close to is heart, and has named a song after ('Leaving Beirut')-the wall evoked by the song is the one that has long closed various Lebanese communities off from each other, denied Lebanon and independent future, and sealed the Arab/Muslim world off from the rest of the world. As Moe pointed out a few hours later as we stood outside an all-night hummus-and-chicken shack ordering food, when the crowd pumped their fists in unison with 'All in all, you're just another brick in the wall,' they were declaring their refusal to continue , as cogs in the machine of the occupations, violence, corruption and repression that for so long defined Lebanon."
-p. 146-147

No comments:

Post a Comment

Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!