“A musician is a bit like a farmer; you do things for the future. Everything you do will bear fruit, but the main thing is to keep doing it, which is a great pleasure in itself.”
Iranian musician feels at home in Helsinki
Marouf Majidi was born in Iran, but he combines various traditions and crosses cultural borders as a composer, musician and singer. He describes Helsinki as a delicate and attractive small metropolis.
The life of Marouf Majidi, aged 38, is filled with music. Graduated last year with a Master’s degree in world music from Sibelius Academy, Majidi composes, he plays the Kurdish Tanbur, the Persian Tar and the guitar, and he sings. He has just finished recording his first solo album, which will be released in the spring. The album consists of his own music and features Finnish jazz musicians. He gives private music lessons and teaches children at an asylum-seeker reception centre.
“A musician is a bit like a farmer; you do things for the future. Everything you do will bear fruit, but the main thing is to keep doing it, which is a great pleasure in itself,” Majidi explains.
Majidi moved to Finland 11 years ago. He learned the language in a year by attending a language course and by watching a popular Finnish TV series. One of his first jobs in Finland was to translate texts from albums of Middle Eastern music for the Tampere University folklore studies.
“I’m primarily a musician – a free artist – and I don’t define myself as being Iranian or Finnish. Art is universal,” Majidi says.
He has also lived and studied music in Turkey, Africa and the Netherlands.
“Maybe I will go away from Finland one day, but I will be sure to come back, because Helsinki feels like home to me. I have lived in many different parts of Helsinki, but I feel most at home in Kallio and the inner city.”
Having lived in communal cultures, the biggest surprise to him in Helsinki was that people do not get involved with what is happening around them.
“That’s a positive aspect in a way; people respect the privacy of others.”
However, Majidi lives according to his own values in the inner city, too.
“I know that it’s not customary in Helsinki to ring other people’s doorbells and ask to borrow, say, a screw driver, but I do that, because I want to be myself.”
More similarities than differences
Majidi has produced a musical performance with a group of diverse artists in which they combine the musical lament traditions of the Middle East, Ingria and Karelia. He is planning a second tour for the performance, the title of which translates as “joy from deep sorrow”.
“The old music tradition of Eastern Finland has connections to the Middle Eastern tradition. There are circle dances, poetic songs, monotones and musical laments in the Middle East, too,” Majidi says.
He also sees similarities in the negative aspects of society.
“People in Iran and Turkey use drugs, here they drink beer. And there is nothing new about migration and refugees as such; the Earth is round, and migration and refugees have always existed and will always exist.”
Majidi finds it annoying that the media show only one truth about the world.
“The Finns have only a tiny window to the world. True cultural understanding emerges only through interaction. Tourism doesn’t automatically increase understanding of other cultures.”
Majidi is pleased with Helsinki’s increasingly international character.
“You can see the true face of Helsinki at the Eliel Square. You can’t, and you shouldn’t, avoid change.”
Text and photo: Päivi Arvonen