Standing with banned musicians on Music Freedom Day

What would you do if the music you wanted to make were forbidden ? What if someone in power didn’t want it heard?

Would you be silent? Or would you play it louder ?

I first heard the voice of Mahsa Vahdat at the height of the people’s uprising in 2009. A friend sent me a video of her singing with Mighty Sam McClain. In it her voice was exquisite in its clarity. A year later, in September 2010, I had the opportunity to hear her perform live when Index invited Mahsa to come to from Tehran to sing at the launch of Smashed Hits 2.0 (buy here) –– an issue of the quarterly magazine devoted to the issue of censorship in music. My friend Richard, who plays the oud joined me for the concert and afterwards delighted me with the gift of one of her CDs, on sale that night. I decided to buy the other for my father who enjoyed good music more than anyone I knew. Mahsa and I met and I asked her to sign my CDs, knowing then that this was a special moment.

Mahsa’s voice brought my father profound peace and pleasure in the last days of his life, and I think about all the unsung voices that go unheard in my country — an extraordinary abuse by the Iranian regime. On Music Freedom Day (3 March), I asked Mahsa to share her feelings about being a singer in Iran.

“It is a deeply sad feeling for a woman when a ruling power takes something natural from her. Singing comes from your pure nature, so it’s like being banned from smiling or crying. It’s a fight with a truth, a God-given gift and it is sad to try to ban it. We’ve seen that  nobody can fight the truth.  Even if they ban it we see that women will not stop singing.
From another perspective, the female voice is part of our human heritage, to ban this voice is to damage our art and music. When a woman is banned from singing, naturally many composers will not compose for women, if they do, they give it to a man to sing because they want the work published. This has an effect on the spirit of their music.

This ban also has a more profound social effect, because as humans the voice of a woman is familiar to us and resonates from when we are in our mother’s body. Not hearing this voice later therefore, disturbs our emotional balance.

I think the main reason for banning the female voice boils down to fear of female power. They’re trying to eradicate the things that make a woman more powerful. It is very sad to think you could engage people in your country with your music but you’re banned. You could change them, you could motivate them, but when you can’t sing give a concert publically…the whole story is deeply sad.

I always consider that I’m living in my imaginary Iran and I’ve learned that my stage is not just the public stage, that every place can be my stage, in my home, in my friends’ homes, so banning me from singing in a public place has never stopped me nor diminished my motivation. I am ever hopeful about the future and I am certain that I will perform freely in my homeland.

I dedicate Silent Song [from the album Scent of Reunion] to this important day.”

Listen to Silent Song on Spotify

For more Information on Music Freedom Day
And FreeMuse – for freedom of musical expression