art of resistance, Iraq

Nina Simone and war(s) in Iraq.

Nina Simone was much more than a singer and her voice was much more than a voice – she was an activist, and her message went beyond music. She was a rebel with cause and her story remains inspirational. When she was 12,  during her first performance, her parents, who had taken seats in the front row, were forced to move to the back of the hall to make way for white people. Simone said she refused to play until her parents were moved back to the front.

Nina Simone©Getty Images

“I had spent many years pursuing excellence, because that is what classical music is all about… Now it was dedicated to freedom, and that was far more important.”

Nina Simone

She is one of those musicians I can always listen to. I’ve been listening to her music last couple of days too, mixed with news from Iraq. And – it’s always fascinating how different struggles of the world can seem so alike – because they’re struggles, beacuse there is pain, because there’s always big fish and small fish. And so it was with Nina Simone and Iraq – so here’s a combination of Simone’s songs and fresh Iraq photos, by Moises Saman, Magnum’s photographer.

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Hound dogs on my trail
School children sitting in jail
Black cat cross my path
I think every day’s gonna be my last

Lord have mercy on this land of mine
We all gonna get it in due time
I don’t belong here
I don’t belong there
I’ve even stopped believing in prayer

Simone, Mississippi Godam

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All I want is equality
for my sister my brother my people and me

Yes you lied to me all these years
You told me to wash and clean my ears
And talk real fine just like a lady
And you’d stop calling me Sister Sadie

Oh but this whole country is full of lies
You’re all gonna die and die like flies

Simone, Mississippi Goddam

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But that’s just the trouble
“do it slow”
Desegregation
“do it slow”
Mass participation
“do it slow”
Reunification
“do it slow”
Do things gradually
“do it slow”
But bring more tragedy
“do it slow”
Why don’t you see it
Why don’t you feel it
I don’t know
I don’t know

Simone, Mississippi Goddam

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There is a beautiful land
Where all your dreams come true;
It’s all tied up in a rainbow,
All shiny and new;
But it’s not easy to find
No matter what you do.

Simone, Beautiful land

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I said nobody knows you
When you’re down and out
In your pocket, you ain’t got one penny
And your friends, you didn’t have any

Simone, Nobody knows you when you’re down and out

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Sit there and count the raindrops
Falling on you
It’s time you knew
All you can ever count on
Are the raindrops
That fall on little girl blue

Simone, Little girl blue

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You looked for work and money
And you walked a rugged mile
You looked for work and money
And you walked a rugged mile
Your children are so hungry
That they don’t know how to smile

Your baby’s eyes look crazy
They’re a-tuggin’ at your sleeve
Your baby’s eyes look crazy
They’re a-tuggin’ at your sleeve
You walk the floor and wonder why
With every breath you breathe

Simone, The ballad of Hollis Brown

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Breaking rocks out here on the chain gang
Breaking rocks and serving my time
Breaking rocks out here on the chain gang
Because they done convicted me of crime
Hold it steady right there while I hit it
Well reckon that ought to get it
Been
Working and working
But I still got so terribly far to go

Simone, Chain Gang

NYC149890all photos ©Moises Saman/Magnum

For more on Saman’s photos from Iraq and his work in general, go to his Magnum profile.

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