Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Muslim Pop Song-A Heart Needs A Home

When I was studying comparative religion (does one ever stop such study?) I was introduced to the music of a Sufi Muslim, Richard Thompson. I used to think this ws one of the most inspiring songs. A few days ago, Mister Anchovy asked his visitors what they thought were some of the saddest songs. I started to remember that there was this old song, and it used to bring me to tears. I was very happy to find it on YouTube, and it still brings tears to me.

Below is an excerpt from an interview with Richard Thompson. The entire interview is very good. The interview was also published on The Huffington Post (a popular political blog)

Question: Yet, looking at you or your sometime bassist Danny Thompson (no relation), you don’t look like what many Westerners picture as Muslims. You look like guys you might have a beer with at the pub. Do you still describe yourself as a ‘liberal Muslim’?

Thompson: Sure. A lot of what is seen as Islam in the West comes from the loudest shouting voices, the neo-Islamic fundamentalists. The willingness to fight, that violent side, is a misinterpretation and a misapplication of the teachings of the Prophet. It ignores the heart of Islam: peace, generosity, compassion. Islam is about winning hearts and minds.

There is no compulsion in Islam at all. That’s a fact.

Question: Your songs aren’t exactly what people think of as ‘traditionally Muslim.’ “Don’t Tempt Me,” for example, is about a barfight. And you name weapons in it I’ve never heard of: “Lazy Susans,” “blockbusters” ...

Thompson: My songs are observations about life, of course, and not necessarily autobiographical. But overall, the important thing is to represent who you are. If something is fundamentally true, then whatever I am, I was always that. I recognize that in other teachings, too. This is who I am, this is who I’ve always been.

You have to embody that and be honest about who you are. I’m a rock and roll musician. Whatever else I am, I’m that too. And my religion makes me a better musician, better able to navigate these shark-infested waters a musician must navigate to survive.

...and about politics

Question: You put your Iraq song, “Dad’s Gonna Get Me,” up on the Huffington Post, so you know that they’re a politically-minded crowd. This interview will be published there, so do you have anything to say to them of a political nature before we conclude?

Thompson: Impeach now.

(laughs) Okay.

Thompson: If we start talking about politics this could go on for hours.

Question: Well, then I can’t resist at least one question. I’ve just written a magazine piece on the conflict between living a spiritually serene life and staying aware politically. What are your thoughts on that?

Thompson: I understand the problem. It’s very difficult to follow politics without feeling rage, resentment, and despair. But things are changing.

Question: You think? In what way?

Thompson: I see America headed toward something like a Socialist revolution. The big corporations, the banks, the other powerful interests who decide policy now – their policies are incredibly unpopular. Of course, they’re not going to give up without a fight. And as they drive the American middle class into poverty this huge, poor, dispossessed middle class is going to be really pissed off.

They’re going to demand a say. The American people have no say in their destiny. Everything is manipulated. That can only last for so long. The only opportunity for reform may come from a revolution, fifteen years or so down the road.

Question: If you look back at the 20th Century, it seems that every decade or so a political “theme song” came along to capture the spirit of the times. “Buddy Can You Spare a Dime.” “We Shall Overcome.” “Blowing in the Wind.” “Give Peace a Chance.” Then, thirty years ago or so, it stopped. Why?

Thompson: I think it’s coming. Incumbent politicians have managed to diffuse opposition, skillfully and effectively.

Question: I wonder, too, if the fragmentation of popular culture through cable TV and the Internet isn’t also a factor. It’s like there’s no zeitgeist anymore, no shared cultural space where everyone can meet and either fight it out or find common ground.

Thompson: That’s interesting. They’ve managed to defocus opposition somehow, we know that. But it’s just a matter of time before it changes. It’ll happen.

Question: Want to check your quotes for accuracy before this goes out?

Thompson: Nah. Publish and be damned.

Interview with "the voice", Linda Thompson and here...


pjazzypar said...

Very thought-provoking, insightful interview with Mr. Thompson. He mirrored the sentiments of most of the people I talk with in my classes and socially when he spoke America being "headed toward something like a Socialist revolution". His assessment of the middle class was also correct. The middle-class in this country has all but disappeared, as 2% of the population control 95% of the country's wealth (I am not making these figures up). To add insult to injury there are those in this country who are willing to sign up for at least four more years of this nonsense because they don't want to support Obama. Talk about cutting off your nose despite your face. Thanks for sharing this Candy. Oh and I see you changed your picture, very nice:-)

Candy Minx said...

Pjazzypar, wow, I wish I could be a fly on the wall in your classes. I miss hearing the energy and insight of such a group of folks. You must really have to stay tight in focus to run a class these days with so many levels of issues in the world. It means a lot to me to hear your perspective. I really can not guess what the next couple years are going to be lie, or the Presidential race outcome. Your thoughts add to my nervousness. (glad you like the new pic)