This is a very short story about music. In Iran.
I dont know that I’ve ever been so happy — or oddly surprised — to hear Stevie Wonder in my entire life.
I should explain.
There we were eating breakfast — a breakfast that resembled so many other uninspired hotel breakfasts in Iran — tea, flatbread, chunk of cheese, and a plastic foil wrapped flat of jam. All served up in a room, a vessel, a vast hotel restaurant banquet hall that had known better times. There were maybe ten of us eating in silence.
Then it happened.
Just listen and you can hear it, crackling.
“I just called…to say…I love you.”
Audrey picked her head up, “Do you hear that?”
“I just called to say how much I care.”
“That’s Stevie Wonder,” I joined almost in tune.
Something was happening.
Stevie Wonder. Hearing his voice struck us both as odd, but neither of us could immediately register why.
“I just called…to say…I lo-ove you.”
Then it dawned on us. That we were hearing Stevie Wonder wasn’t notable. But that it was music — Western music — and that we were hearing it in a public space in Iran. Now that was notable.
Playing music — and Western music for certain — in public is not allowed in Iran.
Imagine this for a moment. Let it sink in. If you are reading this in a place where playing and listening to music in public is allowed and you are wondering what to be thankful for today, I have some ideas.
“And I mean it from the bottom of my heart.”
Audrey and I sipped our last of the tea and turned around to exit the restaurant. We walked past the culprit — a wiry-haired disheveled man scooping his bread and butter. Next to him was an old mobile phone. It warbled. It cracked.
It played music.
It was loaded with Stevie Wonder and likely some “Best of the 80s” collection, for we’d moved onto the next track with Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney.
“Say, say, say…what you want, but don’t play games with my affection.”
For our time in Iran, for the people of Iran, it seemed a fitting track.
“Hey wait, is that it for Iran?”
Of course not. It’s just that by the time this article appears on our blog, we should be over the Iran-Turkey border making our way slowly by train across the country to Istanbul. After which, when we catch our breath and have an internet connection that actually works and is not censored, we are going to shower you with all sorts of good things visual and storied from our time in Iran.
We are grateful for your patience.