I vaguely recall a popular social game that children used to play in Iran, Amoo Zanjeer baaf (literally “uncle chain-knitter”). The game has lyrics that kids would sing:

عمو زنجیرباف، زنجیرم بافتی؟
– بله
پشته کوه انداختی؟
– بله

I don’t exactly remember how the game was played; and I wouldn’t be writing this piece had it not been for a beautiful song by the same name, Amoo Zanjeer Baaf, written, composed and performed by a young Iranian musician, Mohammad Reza Asrar, that I recently came across.

Amoo Zaneer Baaf in Asrar’s song is not a friend to the children. Quite the contrary, he’s an unjust and cruel character, an evil spider who chains up innocent people. In effect the song is a reflection of the oppressed and dark situation in Iran. But it’s not all doom and gloom — it offers a ray of hope and notes that some day his demise will come and people will rejoice in freedom.

Asrar had originally written the song around 2006, but due to challenges in recording and releasing it in Iran, he eventually released it on YouTube in 2009. During the uprising in Iran following the presidential mis-election, the song became quite popular.

Asrar doesn’t consider himself political and believes that art and politics are separate. But he also says that artists are like sensors in a society. If something is wrong, they tend to sense and express the pain and trouble.

You can hear the song below which he performs with solo acoustic guitar.

The English translation of the lyrics that Asrar has provided on his Facebook is as follows:

Hey, Mr. Chain Builder,
The merciless spider,
Anyone who against your injustice complains,
Don’t have them framed in your chains.

At midnight three women
start walking the street
They crawl all over,
of the dead bodies without heat.

Their black chadors,
and the fire in their lips.
Their dancing shadows,
make anyone tremble with this eclipse.

They bring news to you,
They’re good slaves for you.
They sleep on your bed,
drink blood from your lips, red.

Who says the world turns on your demand,
those covered in black to dance with your hand,
With the tired checkers in mess,
The game ends with the black dices.

You’ll be left behind from us,
You’re not one of us
Your fate, its end will meet.
Without a doubt, you’ll go down in defeat.

Mr. chain maker, the chain is done.
The prey is now on your table, you charlatan
You saw no evil from us yet we felt your evil might
Did you not say you dreamt God last night?

I say, ‘God is sleeping dead fast.’
One day, without questions asked,
I will ask the bricklayer,
to build me a god and answer my prayer;
a low thug with dark heart and eyes,
sent to your ship to capsize

Mr. Chain Builder…gone!
His secret doings become undone.
He’ll get the hell out along with his lies,
silently, quietly, without goodbyes.

He’ll disappear before our eyes,
our hearts, again, will rejoice in his demise.
And that promised day shall come,
his memory but a shadow in our freedom.

Hey Mr. Chain Builder, you merciless spider
Don’t frame everyone to your chains,
who against your injustice, complains

Asrar lives in Vancouver, Canada and has released a number of other songs such as Khabe Khoda (“God is asleep”), Hame Ye Rang (“All the same color”) and more recently Mitarsam (“I’m afraid”). You can check out his page on Facebook. Voice of America (VOA) interviewed him in early 2010 that is also available on his page. I wish him well and hope to see more interesting works by him in the future.