An Unforgettable Night With “Bat for Lashes”

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Earlier this month, I went to see one of my favorite musicians, Natasha Khan (aka “Bat for Lashes”) perform live at the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia.  It was definitely one of the most unforgettable musical experiences I’ve ever had.

I wanted to attend the concert with some of my friends, but everyone I called that day were either busy or out of town, so I decided to go by myself.  While I would have liked it if someone came along with me, I think going alone made the experience that much better.  It gave me some personal time to privately connect with the music and escape with it.  It’s hard to describe or even categorize the music of “Bat for Lashes” because of how unique they are, but if I were to draw comparisons, I would say they’re like a cross between the “Cocteau Twins,” “Bjork,” and “Claire Voyant.”  It was amazing to see Natasha Khan’s energy on stage; you can tell how passioante she is about performing and singing.  She has an incredibly beautiful voice and unlike most mainstream singers, she doesn’t manipulate or alter her voice.  The way she sounds on the album recordings is exactly how she sounds live.

There are a lot of magical themes in Natasha’s music and it’s something I appreciate enormously.  I think a fantasy element is essential to us, and yet it seems that humanity runs away from it.  I’ve noticed, especially in the academic setting, that people tend to take on a more “logical” and “rational” approach to things, which is fine, but whenever a spiritual perspective is suggested, it seems there’s often a negative reaction to it, as if spirituality is something reserved only for places of worship.  I get a strong spiritual vibe from Natasha’s music, but I think there’s a unique fantasy element that is intertwined with it.

When we “grow up,” we detach ourselves from fairy tales because we learn that they’re not “real” — “real” in the sense that we cannot see a unicorn or actually fly out of our windows.  In the midst of this reasoning, I believe we miss out on the point of these stories, particularly the beauty and gift of the human imagination.  I believe everyone has an inner life that serves a significant purpose in the way we look at the world, interact with others, and manifest our own creativity.  Our ability to imagine things, to me, is not so much about seeing than it is about believing.  Sure, there’s escape and fantasy, but there’s something else there that connects with us deeply, something that evokes the importance of transcendence.   We’re surrounded by superficiality all the time and yet I believe a lot of us remain confused about what is “real” and what is “unreal.”  True Love versus the material world — both things are perceived as unreal to us, but in different contexts.  We think True Love cannot exist because it’s just too good to be true, but mostly because of the superficiality that surrounds us.  It doesn’t make True Love false, it simply reveals that True Love is something to be discovered amidst the illusions of the world.

Natasha Khan sings about things that many of us don’t believe in anymore.  She calls us to return to our childood, to revisit forgotten fairy tales, and to learn there is purpose in believing.  I let my imagination take flight after the concert was over as I walked towards my car in the parking lot.  I was reminded of the Angels that sit upon my shoulders and guard me.  I imagined them and reflected on how much we ignore the unseen reality.  I was reminded that we have friends in the unseen world; friends who never want us to see us frown or feel alone.

I also have to say that it meant a lot to see a fellow Pakistani on stage (Natasha Khan’s father is Pakistani) and seeing so many people who appreciate her music.  I read in an interview that she received a lot of racial slurs when she was younger and it’s really repulsive when I see the same remarks being made about her on some of the YouTube comments.  On the bright side, it’s nice to see people taking a stand for her and showing their support.  I’m sure that, for the most part, she’s breaking a lot of stereotypes.

Here’s a live performance piece by “Bat for Lashes” that I’ve been hooked to!  Definitely check out 2:57 and onward — everything from Natasha Khan’s energy, vocals, the incredible drumming, and the synth work works in beautiful harmony:

Late Comment on Hijaab

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I just came from a community cinema event in Philadelphia for an independent film called “Arusi Persian Wedding” directed by Marjan Tehrani. It’s a really beautiful film that follows an Iranian-American and his American wife who travel to Iran and have a traditional Persian wedding. I was not only in awe of how incredibly beautiful Iran is, but also at how I found myself relating to it. The Iranian-American expresses his pride for his Iranian roots, but also feels a distance because of his inability to fully understand the culture and language. It reminded me about how I sometimes struggle with finding my ethnic identity, no matter how much I’m proud of it.

After the screening, there was a guest panel that led an interesting discussion about the film and then took questions from the audience. My friend got a chance to chime in with a great question, while I decided to sit back and listen. I didn’t feel like I had much to contribute to the conversation since the event seemed to aim at breaking stereotypes about Iran, its people, and its culture. Although one of the panelists spoke very highly of her experience as a White woman in Iran, she admitted that “initially, I was frightened, as a feminist, when I learned I had to wear the veil…”

When I got home tonight, her words replayed in my mind over and over again. I really should have gotten up and said something, even though I just wanted to make a small comment. I think I’ll e-mail her after I write this, but what I wanted to point out is that it’s very important for us to not make an association between oppression and the hijaab, or veil. Her comment seemed to implicate that someone who wears the hijaab could not also be a feminist (I would have asked her to correct me if I was wrong). I’m sure this is not what she meant, but I believe it would have been important for one of the panelists to mention that forcing someone to dress a certain way is very different from someone choosing to dress a certain way. There are plenty of Muslim women in other parts of the world, especially in the West, who wear hijaab by choice; therefore it would be very inaccurate to say that Muslim women who wear hijaab cannot be feminists. I’m glad one of the Iranian panelists said that Iranian women still drive, work, and go to school, contrary to the stereotypes and misconceptions that they’re “so oppressed.”

The other thing I should have commented on was on their usage of the word “Islam” whenever discussing the “Islamic Revolution” in 1979 and the current “Islamic Laws.” The Qur’an clearly states that religion cannot be imposed on people. Doesn’t Allah teach us to use our logic and reasoning? What is so logical about forcing someone to believe a certain way? The true spiritual essence and beauty gets lost when someone is being forced to practice a religion. Spirituality and Faith is personal; it must be felt within. Reciting the Shahada (Islamic declaration of Faith) is simple, while believing in it is something deeper and entirely different altogether.

Later, someone asked a question about whether or not these were the dress codes for Muslim women in all Islamic countries, and one of two Iranian panelists said, “I’m not sure, but I would say ‘yes,’ they are universal.” A friend and I spoke about this later after the discussion and both agreed that we felt a strong anti-Islam vibe from her. I was glad that the other Iranian panelist jumped in and explained that these are not universal dress codes in Islamic countries since most Muslim countries don’t force women to wear hijaab or the burqah.

Anyway, my main point is that the hijaab should not be associated with oppression, and Muslim women who wear it shouldn’t be so quickly judged. Just because some feminists are not familiar with certain manners of dress doesn’t mean that it’s not compatible with feminism. I think it’s important for feminists to understand that feminist thought is very diverse rather than being limited to one group of people, one culture, and one skin color.

Peace

~Broken Mystic~

(Photo credit: davidChief via creative commons)

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