Hiatus’ “Father”: A Powerful Reminder of How Important Dads Are to Kids
A few years ago, when a novelist mate and I were discussing new and good music to write to, he offered up what I presumed to be a group – Hiatus.
“Electronic music,” he’d said. “Subtle. Deft. You’ll probably think you’ve heard it before, but it’s got something. Something deeper than surface level. It flows like water. And it’s a lovely soundtrack to write to; it added layers to my characters.”
My mate put me on to their second album, Parklands (2013), and it was indeed as he described. Mesmeric synths, piano, strings, dubby base lines and assorted accomplished female vocalists were Hiatus’ modus operandi, but there was a sense of vulnerability to it all, duelling with something resembling hope. It was full even though it sounded sort-of empty; the sort of music that crept under your defences.
I soon realised Hiatus was actually one man – Iranian-born Brit Cyrus Shahrad. Besides being a musician he’s also a journalist, and spent time as a Sunday Times correspondent in the city of his birth – Tehran.
Shahrad’s family fled Iran when he was a baby as the country’s 1979 revoultion loomed large, settling in the UK. Indeed, you can hear the Iranian influences, and, perhaps the vulnerability of the emigrant, on several Parklands tracks, most notably “A Silver Exit” and “Iran Air”.
Parklands got a good bit of rotation for a few weeks after my mate’s introduction, and then gave way to something else. But like any good music, it keeps coming back; it’s a cyclical blessing. It’s chilled enough to act as a cleansing agent for those unfortunate enough to be dogged by the dog; layered enough for those who want little things to present themselves even after the 20th listen..
Hiatus’ most powerful moment, arguably, came in 2017 with the track “Father”, a moving rumination on life and death that combines a hearty female vocal, sad piano and a terrificly languid groove: “Never coming home, father / Leave this world behind / But I try to tell you, I try to see you one last time / Take your hand in mine…”
A collaboration with New York-based Lebanese director and cinematographer Karim Kassem, the video to “Father” captures all of this contained emotion perfectly. Set in the Lebanese mountains and featuring local non-actors, magical realist imagery depicts a grieving 14-year-old boy – played by a young Syrian refugee – spending one last day with his deceased father.
Kassem and Shahrad have poignant common ground. “We both have great love for our fathers and this massive fear of losing them. We were able to connect on so many levels, the Farsi, the Arabic, the culture clash and both of us having strong ties to our home countries whilst now living in the west,” he said in a 2017 interview.
The overriding message for me is a powerful reminder of just how important dads are to their kids – which is something that can be easily forgotten through the day-to-day grind. Dads loom large to their kids; they’re symbols of strength, of kindness, of fun. They’re many things that many a dad cannot see in himself.
My eldest gets into a state of panic at the mere hint of something bad happening to me – a sentiment exposed in a torrent of tears after witnessing Mufasa’s death in the 2019 remake of The Lion King.
“Father” could be interpreted differently from the west to the east but the overriding themes are universal: We become dads and we get that we need to provide, and we also need to be educators, example-setters; we need to entertain and be firm; we need to be strong in ourselves.
But we also need to learn to see through our kids’ little eyes; at the strong, unyielding and unmarked love that’s there; and that no matter how much we may have tired of our own skin, we are their world.