Babylon & Beyond

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IRAN: U2's green-tinted tributes to Iranian protesters

July 10, 2009 |  9:02 am

Anyone familiar with U2 knows that the band is not afraid to be political. Probably its best-known song, “Sunday, Bloody Sunday,” was written about a violent crackdown on a peaceful protest in Northern Ireland.

The sentiment behind the song could also be applied to the protesters in Iran, which is precisely what U2 did during two huge concerts in Milan and Barcelona:

The performance is quite a visual spectacle (after all, it is a rock concert), and the symbolism is less than subtle: the entire stage is flooded in green light, the signature color of the protests, and Persian text scrolls across the screen.

The text reads “Listen! Listen! Listen!” which one blogger attributed to "The Song of the Reed Flute," by famous Persian poet Jalaladdin Rumi

Persian poetry and Rumi in particular are some of the strongest sources of Iranian national pride.

The history of a violent crackdown behind the original song coupled with Rumi adds some intellectual weight to the visual spectacle of a rock concert.

It looks like the selection of the work itself was not coincidental. A reading of the poem suggests allusions to the violent crackdown in Iran as well as the disputed elections:

“Listen to the reeds as they sway apart,
hear them speak of lost friends.”

“This reed bends to spent lovers and friends,
its song and its word break the veil…”

This isn’t the first rock 'n' roll tribute to the protesters in Iran. Jon Bon Jovi collaborated with Iranian artist Andranik Madadian to cover  "Stand By Me." Both artists sing in Farsi and English.

-- Jahd Khalil in Beirut