About the author
This a contribution by Alexandra Turcea, an undergraduate student at Amsterdam University College specializing in Journalism and general Media Studies. “It’s my lifelong dream to read and write about other people’s stories, and to meet new people in my discoveries. I hope to keep publishing stories that people will love to read about, and this is a life story worthy to be told.”
Murky skies loom above the city of Amsterdam where a group of four nondescript men set down their large bags in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Dam Square. Among the group, a man with a grey fedora prepares to take out four buckets and a set of drumsticks, kicking them playfully as if to set out a tune. He looks up at the sky, judging the weather condition, but beneath his shrewd expression shadowed by the fedora is an artist that has dedicated his life for street art and street entertainment.
Skill Dealers Crew
Majid Ghadiri, 46, is a street performer who goes by Magic because of his smooth and agile ability in break-dancing, gaining the nickname in his early teens. With the set of drumsticks, Magic starts a steady beat, announcing that a show is about to start, with his other four members from Skill Dealers Crew. The group has been performing on the streets of Amsterdam since the early 2000s, yet Magic has been crafting his art for more than that.
The show has started, and soon enough laughter and cheering are heard from the crowd that was formed around the street performers. Magic passes the drumsticks to his colleague, and dances in tune with the beat, winning the crowd’s admiration, and thinking that not only 26 years ago he couldn’t have imagined where he is now. Magic is savoring every moment of his life, whether he’s dancing in the unpredictable Dutch weather, welcoming the rain, or in an Iranian prison when he was 18, “Even in my darkest hour, I kept dancing because I knew that this was what I had to do. I was dancing in my cell, and if I was to go out [to die], I wanted to go out like this.”
From Tehran to Amsterdam
Coming from a modest family that knew nothing about break-dancing, Magic was born in Tehran, Iran, witnessing the 1979 revolution and aiding as a military typist for over two years towards the end of the Iran-Iraq War. Towards the end of his service, Magic wanted to escape the strict regime that opposed break-dancing, after enduring multiple lashings and beatings from the religious police.
I was living my dream, it was meant for the moment. I realized that I was trying to do the right thing in the wrong place [Iran].
Magic arrived here in 1990, with nothing more than a few belongings. With nothing to lose, Magic started dancing again on the streets and in clubs, only for his talent to be discovered by Africa Bambaataa’s manager in 1996. From then on, a series of live events and gigs followed that got him on the same stage with rapper Nate Dogg, hip-hop artist Grandmaster Melle Mel, or German soul singer Denyo 77, all in the span of five years. “I was living my dream, it was meant for the moment. I realized that I was trying to do the right thing in the wrong place [Iran],” he says.
It was during this time that Magic realized that he was part of the hip-hop movement in late ’90s Amsterdam. He collaborated with Culture Coalition and Grünfeld to choreograph Rapido, an adaptation of King Lear, powered by the slogan ‘Shakespeare Goes HipHop’. The production brought hip-hop to the theater stages. Following that, he choreographed and performed in over ten plays, one of his most successful ones being Dance to Freedom in 2002. “Looking back on it, I never had a plan on what I wanted to do with my life. I had a goal, when I wanted to set myself on something, I did it,” says Magic.
At Dam Square, Magic looks upwards at the sky again. A street artist’s worst enemy is the weather, which can throw his plans out the window. For now, the skies hold, the day remains dry, and Magic keeps dancing. Towards the end of his performance Magic thanks the crowd for their presence, and takes a bow, while they erupt in more applause and cheering.
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