'Ayatollah, leave those kids alone' – Pink Floyd get an Iranian twist
Thursday 29 July 2010
A terrified young woman in a red headscarf bolts through a door into a darkened room. Chased by an angry mullah, she pulls out her phone and desperately tries to call for help, but there is no signal.
The scene could be another piece of secret video smuggled out of Iran by the kind of young activists who took to the streets in their hundreds of thousands last summer in the country's largest protests since the Iranian Revolution. Instead it is the opening scene of a new cover of Pink Floyd's seminal protest song "Another Brick in the Wall" which is becoming an underground anthem of resistance for those opposed to the Tehran regime.
Blurred Vision, a rock band fronted by two brothers whose family fled Iran in the late 1980s and settled in Toronto, have reworked the 1979 classic. Sepp and Sohl – the pair prefer to keep their full name secret to protect family members still in Iran – recorded the video with virtually no budget, but were helped by Babak Payami, an Iranian filmmaker who now lives in Austria and Terry Brown, one of Canada's best-known rock producers. Spliced with footage of last year's protests, the video is a rallying cry for Iran's disaffected youth and culminates with an altered version of Pink Floyd's original chorus: "Hey Ayatollah, leave those kids alone!"
The track has already racked up more than 100,000 hits on You Tube and has been shortlisted in the music category of tonight's Soho Shorts film festival. In a central London café, the brothers explained how their song has captured the imaginations of young Iranians in a country where rock music is banned. "We've been getting messages from so many Iranians saying they are using the song as a way to voice their protests," said Sohl who, at 35, is the older of the two brothers.
Sepp, 28, added: "A message came through to us last week and when Sohl translated it he had tears running down his cheeks. It was from a fan in Iran and he just kept saying over and over again: 'Keep our voice alive. If you don't then no one will hear us.'"
The brothers are also keen to encourage activists inside Iran to use a piece of software called Haystack, an ingenious encryption device which circumvents the government's internet controls. "It was invented by this 24-year-old guy from California who was so outraged at what was happening in Iran he decided to build some software," explained Sepp. "It works so well that it would take supercomputers hundreds of years to hack in and stop it. He wasn't even Iranian, he just wanted to help.
"We were initially worried that people might get angry," admits Sepp. "Hell, I'd get angry if anyone tried to top Pink Floyd. But the lyrics seemed to fit Iran so perfectly."
The pair began by recording the song and sending it to Roger Waters, one of Pink Floyd's founders. "We didn't want to do it without his approval, but he emailed back right away and said: 'From here on in, that version of the song is yours.'"
The band now have high hopes that their single will inspire Iranian protesters as it once did in South Africa when anti-apartheid activists used Waters' anthem to demonstrate against racial segregation in schools.
Sohl hopes that the crackdown on last year's protests will help to change perceptions of Iran among westerners from being an Islamic republic bent on acquiring nuclear weapons to a country crying out for change like South Africa once was. "On the surface it may look like the protesters were crushed but they have now opened a gate to the inevitable," he says. "Opinion in the West is changing and I think, in time, people will speak out with Iranians. It's about bridging that gap between east and west. Hopefully this song will help a little with that."
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