Published August 11, 2010
A Toronto-based rock band is garnering worldwide attention after remaking Pink Floyd's "The Wall," into a new anthem -- "Hey, Ayatollah, leave those kids alone!" -- as a sign of solidarity with Iranians fighting against Tehran's regime.
Blurred Vision, formed in 2007 by brothers Sepp, 28, and Sohl, 35, who fled Iran with their family in 1986, was inspired to cover the classic tune after watching protests in Iran unfold over the controversial reelection of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
"We did a show in Toronto in September and while we were performing we decided let's play 'Another Brick in the Wall' just for the hell of it and as the chorus line came up I just decided to sing 'hey Ayatollah' instead of 'hey teacher' and when I sang that line the crowd went insane," Sepp told FoxNews.com.
The brothers, who do not make their last name public out of concern for family members who remain in Iran, recorded the song with their bandmates in October, followed by a music video in February, both of which have attracted major attention in Canada and abroad.
"It's remarkable to hear kids from South America, from Europe, from the UK, from North America just getting behind us because they see that this really is a humanitarian issue," Sepp said.
The music video, which includes images of violent clashes during last year's protests in Iran, has garnered more than 250,000 views on YouTube. The song has also begun getting radio play in Canada. But Sepp says it's the attention it's receiving in Iran that moves the band the most.
"We get a lot of e-mails, especially from the younger guys, and I remember we were in London for a film festival where we were there to receive an award for best video and Sohl was translating an e-mail into English. And as he was translating he started crying. The e-mail said, 'It is you guys out there that can keep this going for us, that can keep our voice alive. We're here sort of isolated from the rest of the world, we've been shut down and shut off from the rest of the world and all we can say is just keep our voice alive, keep going to allow us to reach this point of freedom,'" Sepp said.
Karim Sadjadpour, an associate at the Carnegie Endowment's Middle East program, says it's understandable that Blurred Vision's song would be well-received in Iran based on how much the people there love Pink Floyd.
"Pink Floyd is hugely popular in Iran, they have a large following among Iran's younger generations," Sadjadpour told FoxNews.com. "Their often subversive lyrics can be more deeply appreciated by people living under autocratic systems, like Iran's."
Blurred Vision says it doesn't know how many Iranians have been able to hear its music, but hopes they are able to get around Internet censorship in their country and find ways to hear and circulate its message.
"Essentially in Iran we hope what they're doing is basically ripping it off the computer and spreading it around to themselves and spreading it through YouTube," Sepp said. "We have no sort of goal to have them download the track. For them we hope it's free."
But not all the feedback on Blurred Vision is positive.
Negative comments posted about the band range from allegations that its work is purely political propaganda to accusations that the band is backed by the CIA and the Pentagon and making a fortune off the U.S. government.
"The Ayatollah also recently said that we need to cut music altogether and the youth need to stay away from music, which perhaps had something to do with the attention and buzz that this song has created," Sepp said. "It's ridiculous."
The band denies any affiliation with the U.S. government and Amnesty International confirmed to FoxNews.com that the band donates most of its download proceeds to the human rights organization. But the band says negative comments don't seem to be phasing Blurred Vision fans either way.
"It's wonderful to see that people all over the world respond to them and dislike these comments and one of the great things about YouTube and all these comment boards and forums is that if you get a certain amount of negative feedback on your comment, the comment is removed. So one of the things we see on YouTube is so many of these comments that are negative get removed because of low ratings. So really we don't need to say or do anything."
There was one anticipated critic the band did reach out to however: Pink Floyd founder Roger Waters.
"We were nervous because we're thinking we're coming out with our first release as a Pink Floyd cover and along the lines of musicians and music fans the Floyd can't be touched," Sepp said. "… so we laid the track down and right away we knew that we had to get it over to Roger because he was such a hero to us."
A couple of weeks later, Sepp says, Waters gave the band the "green light."
"We got the e-mail back from the Roger Waters camp and it said you have Roger Water's blessing and not only that but this track is now in your hands it's now yours as its title "Hey Ayatollah, leave those kids alone," Sepp says. "For me and Sohl it was one of the most unbelievable moments in our musical lives."
Waters says it was a special moment for him, as well.
"I think it's great that these guys are using the song to protest against the repressive and brutal regime in Iran," Waters said on his Facebook page. "I am proud to be a small part of this resistance."
"I think The Blurred Vision video is very accomplished and makes its point powerfully," he added.
Now, the band says it plans to make an equally powerful point with its upcoming original song "Democracy."
The point of the song is "very self explanatory," Sepp said. "Our first song has connected with people, hopefully they're going to react the same way too when we come out with our original."
And while Blurred Vision is unlikely to reap any major financial benefits from its songs or music videos, the band says it hopes its music can encourage people to work together to bring about change.
"We truly believe that one emboldened mind with knowledge is worth more than a million hands empowered by wealth," Sepp said. "It's an ethos of the band that awareness can change the world and music is our tool and platform to do that; and in my opinion it's truly working because the dialogue has begun."