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Cork Lives
Ruairi Glasheen. Picture Clara Mill
Ruairi Glasheen. Picture Clara Mill

Drumming into Iran’s traditions

WHEN the plane that Cobh man Ruairi Glasheen had boarded touched down in Tehran, Iran’s capital city, last January, he wasn’t sure what to expect.

Whilst anti-government protests were rare, the Middle East’s second largest city, along with more than two dozen other neighbouring towns and cities, had for a week experienced the largest mass demonstrations against its ruling government in almost a decade.

Exorbitant increases in the cost of basic foods such as eggs, high rates of unemployment amongst its young people, and a leaked government document which proposed a string of new taxes in the upcoming budget, created the perfect storm which led to tens of thousands of people protesting against Iran’s leadership.

It was a courageous act of defiance in a country which, in a deliberate attempt to prevent the spread of anti-government ideologies, bans almost all forms of social media (except, oddly enough, Instagram) and where protesters have been known to be dealt with swiftly and ruthlessly in the past.

However, Rory was surprised and relieved to find that day to day life in Tehran was relatively unaffected:

“I remember waking up the morning I was due to catch my fight and thinking ‘Oh my God, what am I going to be flying into’, but I felt very safe — you could see that there had obviously been some unrest but in terms of people on the street it was very much business as usual.”

Cork man Ruairi, who is based in London, initially studied Percussion at the Royal College of Music and has always been passionate about drumming, with a particular interest in the various drumming traditions of other countries.

“I think the reason I was so drawn to Iran is because it’s one of the most ancient musical traditions in the world. Also, because of a variety of factors their music is not as easily accessible in comparison to other musical cultures so my intention in going there was to document what I experienced through my eyes as an Irish musician and also the eyes of the incredible Iranian musicians — both male and female — that I was working with.”

Ruairi Glasheen. Picture Robert Piwko
Ruairi Glasheen. Picture Robert Piwko

The result was Ruairi’s upcoming documentary The Hidden Drummer Of Iran which is currently in post-production. In the film, he can be seen sharing his Bodhran playing skills with his new Iranian friends.

“I brought lots of different percussion instruments, including a Bodhran which is an instrument I am particularly passionate about. I was really delighted to be able to share my culture with them as they were sharing their culture with me.”

Whilst at first glance there are of course many differences between Ireland and an Islamic-ruled country such as Iran, Ruairi quickly found that the universal language of music helped him find common ground.

“There are things we do in the West that people would not do in Iran, in terms of dress and what’s accessible such as social media, but, in many respects, they are just like us.

“The majority of people in Iran speak Farsi and I don’t really speak Farsi as it’s a very complicated language so the music really was the language and the foundation on which we were able to build these incredible relationships and meet incredible people.”

Ruairi and his film crew spent two weeks in total travelling around Iran, including spending time in Mesreh, a huge desert region in central Iran which he describes as a “really beautiful, incredible place”, and filmed over 20 hours of footage. They met many different types of drummers and Ruairi was blown away by the welcome he received from everyone he met.

“The hospitality in Iran is unbelievable — everybody is so welcoming, everybody was helping me with my bags, asking if we know where we were going, did we need anything.”

Ruairi Glasheen. Picture Clara Mill
Ruairi Glasheen. Picture Clara Mill

When not making documentaries and flying to far off exotic locations, Ruairi facilitates music workshops in a variety of settings including working with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients as well as leading corporate wellness programmes.

The Cobh native with a particularly Cork surname is excited to be at the final stages of his current creative project.

“We are at a pivotal stage in the documentary now as we’re talking to promotion companies and different network who might be interested in working with us to finish the film.

“At this point, we have decided that we are going to crowdfund for the final stages of making the film.”

With such an intriguing subject matter, something tells me these particular drummers won’t be hidden for too much longer!

For more see www.hiddendrummers.com and www.ruairiglasheen.net