'Gharbzadegi’ Robert Wyatt (Old Rottenhat, Rough Trade, 1985) plus live performance, 2002

It's so easy to decide on a name
It's a name caller's game
It's so easy to look down from above
Helicopter vision
Get the picture when you're outside the frame
Retrospective my eye
Call it art and you can say what you like
It's a name caller's game
Your perspective describes where I stand
Out of line, out of mind
Calling myopia 'focus', of course,
Makes it easier still
Gharbzadegi means nothing to me
Westernitis to you
...We get so out of touch
Words take the place of meaning

So sweet this drum-beat, splintered and fragile like birds’ bones and the instruments taking the part – the piano repeating a few notes over and again to provide the foundations, (apparently, arguably) echoing Coltrane

with an English accent, poetic-abstract lyrics conveying a radical critique (damning ‘Westernitis’ – Gharbzadegi in Farsi … or Western Imperialism) sung so carefully and consciously as if it were a lullaby; could any listener ask for more? 

Listening to this you can see the deep influence Robert Wyatt had on Radiohead; I could pick any of their earlier/less-commercial tracks to provide proof of the fact, the influence of the Soft Machine alumnus seeps from their music (the way they use momentum, or not – and lyrically as well, the off-hand allusions to politics and the overriding emphasis on the creation of mood).

Wyatt’s song ‘Gharbzadegi’ is labelled ‘rock’/’progressive rock’ on websites of record, but this is jazzy, of course it is; in the way draws attention to the materiality of the instruments and the parts -  focussing on sound as quality in and of itself. 

The way the music disrupts our expectations of the parts the instruments should play (the piano provides the foundations, as if it were a bassline, but then the flourishes and exuberance); in the way the parts rise and fall, the gentleness of it all; the submerged momentum.  

As for the concept: Gharbzadegi 

Gharbzadegi (Persian: غربزدگی‎‎) is a pejorative Persian term variously translated as "Westoxification," "West-struck-ness"[1] "Westitis", "Euromania", or "Occidentosis".It is used to refer to the loss of Iranian cultural identity through the adoption and imitation of Western models and Western criteria in education, the arts, and culture; through the transformation of Iran into a passive market for Western goods and a pawn in Western geopolitics.

The phrase was first coined by Ahmad Fardid, a professor of philosophy at the University of Tehran, in the 1940s. it gained common usage following the clandestine publication in 1962 of the book Occidentosis: A Plague from the West by Jalal Al-e-Ahmad. Fardid's definition of the term as referring to the hegemony of ancient Greek philosophy, differed from its later usage as popularised by Al-e Ahmad.

Al-e Ahmed describes Iranian behavior in the twentieth century as being "Weststruck." The word was play on the dual meaning of "stricken" in Persian, which meant to be afflicted with a disease or to be stung by an insect, or to be infatuated and bedazzled. "I say that gharbzadegi is like cholera [or] frostbite. But no. It's at least as bad as sawflies in the wheatfields. Have you ever seen how they infest wheat? From within. There's a healthy skin in places, but it's only a skin, just like the shell of a cicada on a tree."

Al-e Ahmad argued that Iran must gain control over machines and become a producer rather than a consumer, even though once having overcome Weststruckness it will face a new malady - also western - that of 'machinestruckness'. "The soul of this devil 'the machine' [must be] bottled up and brought out at our disposal ... [The Iranian people] must not be at the service of machines, trapped by them, since the machine is a means not an end."

Live performance taken from the 2002 Robert Wyatt documentary Free Will and Testament

Words take the place of meaning …

Coda: