Hymns of No Resistance

Hymns of No Resistance features classic and cult pop songs revised to address issues of territorial dispute, language, and geopolitics within greater Eurasia. From an adaptation of Michael Sembello’s Flashdance track She’s a Maniac comes She’s Armenian, replacing the struggles of an aspiring dancer with those of a diaspora Armenian. Meanwhile, Young Kurds – a retelling of Rod Stewart’sYoung Turks – tells the story of Massoud and Shirin, a Kurdish couple trying to carve out their own identity.Stuck in Ossetia with You(originally Stuck in the Middle with You by Stealers Wheel) looks at the recent Russian-Georgian conflict, while Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off (from the Gershwin original) debates not the pronunciation of produce, but rather the contested names of cities resulting from historical conflicts.

Just as the revised lyrics replace the saccharine with the severe, Berivan Kaya and The Orient Orchestra, a Kurdish ensemble, bestow an elegant gravitas where the effervescence of pop typically reigns. The Kurds have been a historically forbidden people: sandwiched between Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria, their language, culture and very identity have been oppressed. Numbering between 20 and 30 million, they comprise one of the largest groups on Earth without a nation of their own, and much of Kurdish history has been told orally, via music. Accordingly, traditional instruments used for Hymns of No Resistance include the saz, a string instrument, the ney and zurna flutes, and percussion from the darbuka and def drums.

2009
Kaai Theater, 40 min performance, curated by Goran Petrovic, photographed by Esther Eggermont.

Download libretto

She’s Armenian adapted from She’s a maniac by Michael Sembello

Just a Christian girl living in Istanbul,

Leaving behind her entire life.

In the real time world no one sees her at all,

They all think she’s fakin’.


Takin’ the silver and leavin’ the rest,

Set to flee into the night.

She has danced into the danger zone,

Where minority’s never right.


She can picture the future,

When Armenians take the stage,

Like Agassi, Aznavour, and Cher.


She’s Armenian, Armenian on the run,

And she’s fleeing but the flight has just begun.

She’s Armenian, Armenian on the run,

And she’ll fight ‘til the Hayastantsi are one.


Because the minority is something 

Too many choose not to see.

It’s a hard won place of tragedy, 

Touch it, but can’t hold it.


You run all your life from that moment in time,

It could come or pass you by.

Against the push of the Turks

There is always a chance,

If the diaspora thrives.


No retreat from recognition, 

Without conceding defeat.

She’s still a ‘hay, whether Parska- or Libana-.


She’s Armenian, Armenian on the run,

And she’s fleeing but the flight has just begun.

She’s Armenian, Armenian on the run,

And she’s fleeing but Karabagh will be won.


instrumental break


She can picture the future,

When Armenians take the stage,

With Gurdjieff, Komitas, and Atom Egoyan.


She’s Armenian, Armenian on the run,

And she’s fleeing but the fight has just begun.

She’s Armenian, Armenian on the run,

And she’ll fight until recognition is won.
 

Let’s call the whole thing off adapted from the Gershwin original

Things have come to a pretty pass,

This Cold War romance has grown old.

For you like this and the other,

While I go for these and those.

Goodness knows what the end will be.

I don’t know which side I’m on,

It looks as if we two will never be one.

Something must be done:


You say either and I say either,
You say neither and I say neither.

Either, either, Neither, neither,
Let’s call the whole thing off.

You like Nagorno and I like Karabagh,
You like Konigsberg and I like Kaliningrad.

Nagorno, Karabagh, Konigsberg, Kaliningrad,          
Let’s call the whole thing off.


But oh, if we call the whole thing off then we must part.

And oh, if we ever part, then that might break my heart.

So if you like Abkhasia and I like Georgia,
I’ll summer in Abkhazia and sell the place in Georgia.

For we know we need each other so we,
Better call the whole off off,

Let’s call the whole thing off.


You say Golestan and I say Kurdistan,
You text Aqmola and I write Astana.

Aqmola, Astana, Golestan, Kurdistan
Let’s call the whole thing off.

You skype Kosovo and I skype Kosova, then there’s the question of old Metohija.

Kosovo, Kosova, then old Metohija,
Let’s call the whole thing off.


But oh if we call the whole thing of then we must part.

And oh, if we ever part, then that might break my heart.

So if your mom’s from Macedonia and mine the Former Republic,

I’ll go home to Macedonia, forget that pesky republic.

For we know we need each other so we,
Better call the calling off off,

Let’s call the whole thing off.
 

Stuck in Ossetia with you adapted from Stuck in the middle with you by Stealers Wheel

I don’t know why I’m in Tskhinvali tonight,

I got the feeling that something ain’t right,

I’m so scared in case I’m caught in a raid,

And I’m wondering what plans history’s made.

Russians to the North of me,

NATO to the West, here I am,

Stuck in Ossetia with you.


Yes I’m stuck in Ossetia with you,

And I’m wondering what it is I should do,

It’s so hard to keep this smile from my face,

Losing control, Georgia’s all over the place,

Clowns to the North of me, Jokers to the West,

Here I am, stuck in Ossetia with you.


Well you started out Alani,

but they treat you like Irani.

Now your friends, they’re in Kandahar,

Slap you on the back and say,

Peace … Peace … 


Trying to make some sense of it all,

But I can see that it makes no sense at all,

Is it cool to skip town, be a ‘fugee,

‘Cause I can’t take anymore Saakashvili.

Russians to North of me, NATO to the West,

Here I am, stuck in Ossetia with you.


Well you started out Alani, but they treat you like Irani.

Now your friends, they’re in Kandahar,

Slap you on the back and say,

Peace …  Peace …


I don’t know why I’m in Tskhinvali tonight,

I got the feeling that something ain’t right,

I’m so scared in case I’m caught in a raid,

And I’m wondering what plans history’s made.

Russians to the North of me,

NATO to the West, here I am,

Stuck in Ossetia with you.

Yes I’m stuck in Ossetia with you,

Stuck in Ossetia with you.

 

Young Kurds adapted from Young Turks by Rod Stewart

Massoud left his home with a dinar in his pocket and a head full of dreams.

He said somehow, some way, I’m gonna make Shirin my wife.

He surprised her at home, threw her in the back seat, she was just seventeen.

There were tears in her eyes when she waved her wailin’ mama goodbye.


He fastened her in tight as they drove on through the night, love would be requited.

He had one shot at a wife, who cares what traditions they’d betrayed.

Because life is so brief and time is a thief when you’re crossing the peaks.

Like Al-Hamad desert sands, it can slip right through your hands.


Young Kurds be free tonight. Time is on your side.

Don’t let them put you down, don’t let ‘em push you around,

Don’t ever let the New World limit you.


They had to skip town so they took to the mountains in a blissful manner.

Their love challenged old tradition but they couldn’t care less.

Happiness was found in each other’s arms as expected, yeah.

There was no bride-price but a bloody tribal feud ensued, ooh!


Young Kurds be free tonight. Time is on your side.

Don’t let them put you down, don’t let ‘em push you around,

Don’t let the Turkish borders limit you.


instrumental break


Young Kurds be free tonight. Time is on your side.

Massoud wrote a letter back home to Shirin’s parents tryin’ to explain.

He said he was real sorry that it had to turn out this way.

But there ain’t no point in talking when the marriage’s forbidden so he ‘nabbed his babay.
Shirin gave birth to a ten-pound baby boy, yeah!

Young Kurds be free tonight. Time is on your side.

Young Kurds be free tonight. Time is on your side.

Young Kurds be free tonight. Time is on your side.

Hymns of No Resistance: Stuck in Ossetia with you

Gold foil on canvas, hand-painted paper, mimeograph print, 31 x 43 cm, 2010

 


Hymns of No Resistance (Part I)

4 x 6.40 m canvas on Via Galilei, Bolzano. Parallel Events Manifesta 7, Lungomare. 2008.
Appropriating the lyrics of the classic Gershwin song, ‘Let’s call the whole thing off,’ Slavs and Tatars proposes a re-reading of the comic track, sung by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in Shall We Dance?. Here, the contention focuses not on  seemingly innocent words such as ‘tomato’ or ‘banana’, but rather on terminology that touches the very issues preoccupying Europeans today: immigration, identity, self-determination. In an area that has its share of experience dealing with such polemics, South Tyrol is an ideal setting for a public celebration of contention, as opposed to the often consensual approach advocated by those in power.