Teo Peter - An American Hero
In Ceausescu's Romania there was resistance, dissidence, and even rebellion – in the form of a musical culture that is not much discussed. This culture subversively prepared us (Romanians) for freedom - for dignity, for freedom of thought. In this little known culture there was nothing clandestine; everything was in plain sight, in full hearing, in full shouting! In Ceausescu's Romania there was rock ... and jazz …and yes, folk, before it was all regimented (assimilated) and controlled under the label of “youth music”. In Romania there were musicians like Teo Peter, “decadent”, corrosive, alternative - agents of the Western spirit - worshippers of the Statue of Liberty - blasphemers of the Communist Party and the State's Church. With every western LP, with every make-shift guitar amplifier, with every frenzied outpour of youthful emotions in the aisles during the otherwise staid and sedated programs in the communist "Houses of Culture", these “decadents” would knock down one more brick from the Big Frozen Wall.
Nowadays, when all sorts of cash-hungry so-called musicians mimic this rebellion and its corresponding commitment in the hope of boosting their sales, we take care not to forget that THEN, when censorship was real, lines like "the girl in my dreams" or "the wave breaking against the shore", or "ten porcupines in love" were transmitting coded hopes and ideals. Lines which by not saying anything conveyed everything. Cipher manifests of disobedience. “The message is in the music”, edited Free Europe's voice beyond the Wall. And the message really was in the music: in Teo Peter’s music, and in the music of Iuliu Merca and Dan Mândrila. Music that had a swing, a jump, music filled with restlessness, in stark contrast to the great chorus of totalitarian rigidity. Music of a definite American style, branded as “decadent”. Music that was slender, doltish, batty, lacking seriousness and full of challenges at the same time. Music that would move our hips and our consciousnesses. Music that was getting us ready for the great liberation. Teo Peter kept an American flag on his wall. He would rehearse his rhythmical formulas and his walking basses with his eyes fixed on those stars and stripes symbolizing more than a simple union of states, more than a single nation, more than a single culture - an ideal shared by all mankind.
In Spielberg's movie, Terminal, the ex-soviet citizen played by Tom Hanks endured all the humiliations and frustrations of a man without a state, a person lost in the no man’s land of an airport – all because of a jazz recital given by the idol of his father’s youth. His father had charged him with the sacred mission of obtaining a signature from this idol. For two generations jazz, to that family living in a republic lost in the fur of the "Great Bear", meant more than a social dance, more than a Western whim, more than a way of being „in the mood”. Jazz meant America: a declaration of independence; a shout of hope in the ocean of desperation. Effectively more American than all the bureaucrats gifted with American citizenship who put his life on hold and rendered his existence relative, Hank’s character (whom jazz and Hollywood saved from becoming a homo sovieticus) teaches these airport officials again the message of their Founding Fathers. With humility, consistency and love for people, he restores America to the Americans, and then carries it with himself back to his native Inexistan.
But real life beats cinema. The Great Screenwriter confronted us with the much more troubling, much more cruel and fatally spectacular story of Teo Peter who was killed in December 2004 in Bucharest, Romania when the taxi in which he was riding was hit by a vehicle driven by a US Marine who refused to take a blood-alcohol test. In this true story, Teo Peter is the American soldier, the veteran carrying a bass guitar for a weapon, who brought America more victories than all the marines who now take their positions leaning against the Embassy fences. The real universal soldier, Liberty's champion, the real hero of the American spirit, the real avower of Independence in the land of obedience – Teo Peter fell on the battle field, over and over again, crushed by wheels, fences and walls of indifference.
In a time when regular people remind politicians that ideals are worth more than strategies, in a time when values are reaffirmed in spite of trade barriers, Teo Peter died for America. For the America of the Romanians, of the Kyrgyzes and of the Somalis. For the Promised Land that we conquer within us. He who merits a memorial got only injustice.
But Teo's film isn't over – it lives on in his music.
Originalul în română aici
teo peter american hero USA US Army