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KHAAREJ NO.3 (2019)

I heard my heartbeat:`

Tutum tum, Tutum Tum, Tum Tututum, Tutum Tum

I know this rhythm, warm, growing. The cadence of a poem remembering its own pentameter.

Natarseen nalarzeen, Maa hame baahamasteem

This is a popular chant in Iranian protests, taking its beat from the metric counts of Persian epic poetry.

U _ _ , U _ _ , _ U U _ , U _ _

The prosody leads the way this poem is read. The rhythm echoes thousands of people marching down the streets of Tehran. Bodies in sync, voices in tune – a crowd in climax. Rhythm mirrors heartbeats, then one beat united, a movement…protest…revolution.

Na ekhtelaas na barjaam, Moghaavemat yek kalaam

Poetic, paternal, and harmonic. One voice shaped by thousands of bodies. A beat without an instrument to play it on. Occasional foot heels striking the ground, hands clapping to introduce a transition in tempo

They say history repeats itself; cyclical, monotonous and repetitive. Like chanting. A call for action and an abstraction, rising in collective objection with increasing fervor. Are they cultural weapons?

مرگ برتو، مرگ برتو، مرگ برتو

The medium is... The medium is… Meaning is not just words, but the material qualities of the language and the execution of action (sharp as knives).

Streets become stages, activists turn into actors. These repeated rhyming couplets shouted in a call-and-response format make use of common prosodic strategies such as internal rhyme and assonance.

Iranee meemeerad, zellat nemeepazeerad.

We mimic each stressed syllable, internalize the prosody, and embody the segmentation of slogans. Our phonological awareness surpasses the ability to detect, segment, and manipulate the sounds in language. We are masters of rhythm, teachers of rhyme, poets of turmoil, and deliverers of the voice!

Maa bachehaye jangeem, bejang ta benajgeem

Translation, as a fundamental metaphor of our time, highlights the challenges posed through cultural, political, and linguistic fragmentation in a global setting.

clap, [rest], clap, [rest], clap, clap, clap

Translation, a means of transcending crossing borders can also be the act of bordering. It can create common understanding while at the same time identifying key differentiators. These chants remain Farsi, while letting the performers be the translators, the actors, and the remediators. Meaning is derived not from the meaning of the words, but from the physical and material elements of the words.

Marg [rest] bar[rest], dik taa tor!

The decades-long social revolution unfolding in slow bass percussion is one melody line.

Can you feel the beat? Can you hear the emotional impact of the phrase? Can you hear the urgency to create a repetitive pattern? Can you hear the old man shout in front of his shop window? Can you feel the power?

“Because our societies have the illusion that they change quickly, because the past slips away forgotten, because identity is intolerable, we still refuse to accept this most plausible hypothesis: if our societies seem unpredictable, if the future is difficult to discern, it is perhaps quite simply because nothing happens. Except for the artificially created pseudoevents and chance violence that accompany the emplacement of repetitive society.”1


KHAAREJ explores the paradoxes within the act of translation as a mechanism that opens up a space between different cultures, while creating a space for misrepresentation and a border that sets dual settings such as source and target, center and periphery, local and foreign. It celebrates the impossibility and failure of translation and considers the alternatives in translation. This work has been performed in 2019 at (Walters Art Museum) by an opera singer and a drummer in a free-form structure allowing the performer to interpret the musicality of the poem relaying on visual and phonetic as opposed to a literal read. Composed bilingually by Te, in English and Farsi, KHAAREJ is a libretto written for an opera, without translation where the language acts as activated and fluid form that can’t be properly read, thus empowering sounds over well-enunciated words, the performativity of language over clear communication. The content of the performance is informed by political Iranese chants from the past decade here enacted by non farsi speakers.In Farsi, KHAAREJ, can be translated as: outside, foreign, out of tune/out of key (in music), outer, exterior, abroad, quotient (mathematics), and beyond.


1. Jacques Attali, Noise: The Political Economy of Music, The University of Minnesota Press, p. 89-90


Sahar Te

(b. Tehran) is a multidisciplinary artist based in Toronto, Canada.


The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2020

All Issues