Ambient music is always getting flak from casual listeners for its seeming distance, coldness, and apoliticism, but quite often the musicians involved come from backgrounds of deep political awareness and engagement, and for many, their surroundings are inextricable from their work. Sohrab — a recent signee to the venerable UK label Touch — is one such ambient musician, and he’s found himself in a very real situation that deserves the attention of anyone who appreciates the impact of music on culture.
At the start of the ongoing wave of protests in the Middle East and North Africa, Sohrab was able to leave his home in Tehran and seek political asylum in Germany. Unfortunately, due to the massive numbers of refugees flooding out of the areas of upheaval, Sohrab’s request was denied like many others, and if his subsequent appeal fails, it’s likely that he’ll be forced to return to Iran and face arrest at Tehran Airport.
To raise funds for Sohrab’s lawyer, Touch (who put out his debut album A Hidden Place last year) is now offering a benefit download of a new nine-minute piece by Sohrab (mastered by BJNilsen) called “Shouting at Dictators (Faryad bar Dictator)” that uses recordings of the protests in Iran following the dubious results of their presidential elections in June 2009. Listen to a sample on this page to hear the beginnings of an incredibly affecting piece of sound; what The Wire said about A Hidden Place could apply here too: “context is everything and nothing.” The download costs £4 (~$6.50) with 100% of that money going to lawyer fees for Sohrab. Buy a copy for yourself and another for that friend who said ambient music is just gazing at your navel.