So I ordered the CD of lullabies from countries that George Bush thinks are evil, which I had mentioned before. I’m planning to give it to my sister as a Christmas gift, but I was too impatient to wait that long to hear it and ripped off the shrinkwrap right away. The liner notes describe the producer’s problems in recording these songs, which make for fascinating reading. He somehow got into Iraq just before the invasion, but had to send an aid worker friend to North Korea for him. The other countries (Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Palestine, and Cuba) were easier to get into, but presented their own problems. For example, it’s forbidden for women to sing in public in Iran unless they’re just accompanying a male lead performer, or their audience is entirely women. The producer eventually managed to find singers willing to break these rules and sing for him, however, including a professional singer who hasn’t performed publicly in Iran in years despite a successful career based on tours in Europe.
The most touching, though, was a story about Afghanistan, where all music was banned under the Taliban, under whose rule women could be stoned to death for eating ice cream or wearing nail polish. He asks women he meets if mothers still sang to their children despite these risks, and is told that they did. And that made me cry.