Why Music Matters
5:05 pm
Sat July 21, 2012

Fleeing Iran After A Fateful Gig

Originally published on Sat July 21, 2012 5:24 pm

Weekends on All Things Considered continues its "Why Music Matters" series with Aria Saadi, an actor and musician originally from Iran. Saadi now lives and works in Vancouver, Canada, where he escaped after running afoul of the Iranian government.

Saadi says he remembers well one of his first encounters with Iranian authorities. A self-taught keyboard player, he was performing at what most Americans would call a normal party.

"It was a birthday party, I believe," Saadi says. "There was lots of girls and boys. I would say about 50 people. We were playing and having fun and people were dancing."

But, Saadi says, nothing was normal about this Iranian birthday.

"If you want to have a party in my country, girls and boys should be in different rooms. Also, drinking in my country is illegal," he says. "[At] that party, there was alcohol and there was girls and boys mixed. It's really a bad situation to be in if the guards show up."

In fact, they did.

"All of a sudden, somebody came in and they were like, 'The guards are here! The guards are here!'" Saadi says. "When you hear this you want to save whatever you can and just go. Usually there is a stairway in the middle of the house, inside the house, that leads you to the roof. So I remember I took my keyboard and I took these stairs."

Saadi says he tried to jump from the roof, but it was too high — so he scrambled from rooftop to rooftop until he found an open door and made it to the street. After that night, he says, he set his sights on getting out of Iran.

"I was there for another two or three years. I just told my parents, 'I'm just fed up with this thing. I just want to go somewhere to be free," Saadi says. "I think there's nothing greater than kindness and peace, and I want to see that we can lay our hands in peace."

"Why Music Matters" is produced by Anna Boiko-Weyrauch with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, in collaboration with the Association of Independents in Radio and KEXP-FM in Seattle.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

GUY RAZ, HOST:

Sticking with immigration, here's a story of how an Iranian musician, who ran afoul of the authorities, managed to escape to Canada and how music made that possible. Aria Saadi's story is part of our occasional series called Why Music Matters.

ARIA SAADI: As a kid, I started teaching myself how to play keyboard. By the age of 16, I could go to weddings and birthday parties and underground parties and just play music.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SAADI: It was a birthday party, I believe. There was a lot of girls and boys - I would say about 50 people. We were playing and having fun and people were dancing.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SAADI: If you want to have a party in my country, girls and boys should be in different rooms. Also, drinking in my country is illegal. You can't drink alcohol.

(SOUNDBITE OF KNOCKING)

SAADI: At that party, there was alcohol, and there was girls and boys mixed.

(SOUNDBITE OF KNOCKING)

SAADI: It's a really bad situation to be in...

(SOUNDBITE OF KNOCKING AND DOOR OPENING)

SAADI: ...if the guards show up. All of a sudden, somebody came in, and they are like, the guards are here, the guards are here. And when you hear this, it's like you want to save whatever you can and just go. Usually, there is a stairway in the middle of the house, inside the house, that leads you to the roof. So I remember, I took my keyboard, and I took the stairs.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SAADI: I was so scared. I was like a rat running away from the lion. I tried to jump down the roof, but it was too high. So I had to go, like, roof to roof until somewhere I could just find another door.

(SOUNDBITE OF HEAVY BREATHING)

SAADI: My heart was pounding. I was like - I felt like I'm going to faint. I don't know if somebody's going to sell me out in the party. When I saw the stairway access, I started knocking on it until somebody came up.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SAADI: And they're like, what are you doing here? I'm like, they're after me. I just need to get access to the street so I can go home. They believed me because it happens time to time, you know.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SAADI: I was there for another two or three years. I just told my parents I'm just fed up with this thing. I just want to go somewhere to be free.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SAADI: Music is my life. Music is my hope. Music is my message.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SAADI: I think there's nothing greater than kindness and peace. And I want to see that day that we can lay our hands in peace.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SAADI: If you can, just close your eyes and imagine that you can make this happen.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RAZ: That's Aria Saadi with Why Music Matters. Our series is produced by Anna Boiko-Weyrauch. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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