The road into the mountains was wet and green and smelled accordingly. At a roadside restaurant our production assistant and general spokesperson complained about the kashk-e-bademjan, one of our lunch dishes.
I liked that about my Iranian friends – their politeness lies in hospitality and courteousness, while they don’t mind giving criticism, or receiving it. Apparently there was something wrong with the bademjan, the aubergine. My mirza ghasemi, roasted aubergine mixed with copious amounts of garlic, was delicious as usual. The proprietress of the eatery acknowledged the complaint, and we said goodbye in friendship.
Mazandaran food would be a happy memory when I got further up north, towards the Azerbaijani border. Do you have any vegetables? No. We are Azeri. We eat meat. Baluchistan food crisis all over again.
After our seaside resort days in Neshta Rud we were on our way to a village in the mountains, where Tehrani musician Majjid Rahnama and yours truly were planning to play a concert. Reza Fahramand was going to film it all, hoping to bring the result to film festivals around the world. However, after lunch it was decided that our planned destination was too far away; the village of Jannat Roudbar was considered a great alternative. A good choice, it turned out, especially after a quick musical break on the side of the road unexpectedly took much longer: a car screeched to a halt and out tumbled a very drunk driver and his proud son. Majjid and I ended up accompanying the father on an endless, narrative folk song with an infectiously melodic little chorus. When this suprise meeting was over and my new friend had kissed me full on the lips in goodbye (to great hilarity of my filming companions), we rode on to Jannat Roudbar. We were shown into our comfortable rooms on the second (and top) floor of the house of a lovely couple. The man was concerned about the safety of my bike and insisted on covering it, so caringly we hid it (though of course everyone had seen us enter the place). Over oily, hot, delicious omelet and strong black tea in the lovely village tea house that night I was very happy with our new home-for-a-few-days.
We spent the next days hanging out, playing in the teahouse, having more tea and omelets, chatting, smoking water pipes. We considered a number of locations for the show. The cemetery, an interesting idea of Reza’s, didn’t work out for various reasons, the disapproval of the local mullah an important one among them. We eventually decided on the square high up on the hill in the village, a more open space than the lower square which was full of shops and trees and other things. A stage was constructed and people gathered. We performed five tunes, in which Majjid played seven different instruments. We didn’t talk before (didn’t even speak each other’s languages), didn’t prepare anything specific, we just sat down as two musicians and played. We played the way we are, relying on each other because we both know music, singing together without words.