Beyond The Beats With Reza Athar
In our segment ‘Beyond The Beats’, popular artists are given the chance to step outside of the dance music sphere, and let them give you an insight into their favorite pieces of music from other genres that they hold dear. Music that has special meaning to them, music that has helped shape them to be the artists they are today. Ten songs with ten special, personal stories that explain the love for the chosen music. So sit back and take a minute to get to know the person behind the DJ a little better.
“I really love the art of getting away with things when I play records, whether it’s new music, old music, music that’s socially accepted or socially not accepted”
Today we’re featuring one of Amsterdam’s most prominent rising stars, Reza Athar. His Iranian roots, cross-disciplinary musical philosophy together with a near shaman-like approach to lifting up a crowd has now gathered him a following in the Dutch capital and beyond. He made an appearance at during one of the last weekend of Trouw and blew De Verdieping away with the sort of set . He was also one of the highlights during Friday night at Pitch Festival this month where he played a packed Westerliefde, filled with fans and others interested in hearing more of the dark slices of idiosyncratic new wave and sounds that are simply too hard to categorize. Think powerful Italo-like snare bashes and acid basslines with Ian Curtis’ vocals on top, and you kind of get the picture of what to expect when standing in front of Reza.
Through ten tracks, the Teheran-born artist etches a picture with stories from Iran on how his love for music started, grew and finally turned him into the DJ he is today.
See also: Mix #139 By Reza Athar
Ebi & Dariush – Noon O Panir O Sabzi
I was born in Teheran, the capital city of Iran. Before the Islamic revolution, Iran had a rich music scene with a blend of bands and singers in different genres. After the revolution pop music was strict forbidden. Most of the pre-revolution bands, singers and pop-stars moved to Los Angeles and (re-)built their career over there. So a new Persian music scene was created outside Iran. Despite the prohibition of pop music, a lot of people in Iran find their way to cassettes of the Persian artists who were making their music abroad. Ebi was one of the most popular singers of the pre-revolutionary era and he re-built his career after the revolution. Ebi’s music was played often at our house in Teheran. He was a boy from the hood. He grew up in the same neighborhood in Teheran where we were living, the place me and my family were born, so we were really proud of him. His music has so much funk and he sings straight from the heart. You can always feel his emotion in every song. This piece is really one of my favorite songs of my childhood. The lyrics are heartbreaking as well, but I didn’t really realize it at that moment.
Moein – Parichehr
Moein was one of the Persian singers who had his breakthrough after leaving Iran and starting his career in America after the revolution. His cassettes were really popular in the underground music market in Iran in the early 90’s. It’s really weird to explain how the pop music industry worked back in the days and still does when it comes to singers from Iran abroad.
There was a scene in LA and people recorded their songs over there. The cassettes of their albums had to pass the Iranian border illegally. So it was kind of an adventure for the artists to get their music to their audience. But it was an even more risky adventure for the listeners. They had to find ways to get it by risking their lives somehow. Through the years since I left Iran, things have changed actually. People gained more freedom and now Iran has its own pop scene. Where musicians and artists actually can earn money by exercising their art. There are of course limits to their freedom on lyrics and music in general, but still it’s a nice step in the right direction.
Moein was my father’s favorite. So I was hearing his cassettes quite often at home, at my father’s work and all the celebrations we had like birthdays. The melody of this music really speaks for Iranian music and I love his voice.
Tangerine Dream – Stratosfear
I lived in Teheran till my 10th year. Western pop music was absolutely forbidden in Iran as I mentioned earlier. You could get illegal cassettes of Michael Jackson and other pop artists in the underground cassette circuit. But if police caught you, you were in deep trouble and could end up in jail. But that didn’t stop people from doing it. The only way you could hear Western music on television and radio was through the theme songs of science programs and sport programs on Televsion. A lot of Krautrock music were used as themes for these programs. I remember hearing Vangelis, Jan Hammer and Tangerine Dream and I was completely blown away.
Especially when I became older and discovered Tangerine Dream, Neu!, Popol Vuh, Rheingold & Kraftwerk’s catalogues, I imagined Krautrock to be such an amazing era! A time where people in Berlin were sick of the bitter history of their grandparents and started to make music with total freedom and a punk attitude. Stratosfear by Tangerine Dream was one of the science program theme’s which grabbed me as a 7 year old and never left my heart since then. I was actually very lucky to see Edgar last year before he passed away. It was one of the most mesmerizing experiences I had during a concert.
Depeche Mode – Enjoy The Silence
The people of Iran are curious and open minded to new things. So despite the strict Islamic rules they find their ways to listen to music they love. My uncle had a friend in America for example who recorded MTV music videos on VHS for him and sent it to him through post. I remember coming together with family and seeing all these MTV clips on VHS. I was really fascinated about all these clips. Everything from Guns N’ Roses to Michael Jackson passed. But the music that really grabbed me and my brother was Depeche Mode. We were in love with the synth lines and their video clips. Twenty years after the tapes I can admit that Depeche Mode is one of my most influential bands ever.
Fleetwood Mac – You Make Loving Fun
After we escape from Iran, I didn’t listen to a lot to music from the age of 10 to 17. From my 17th my musical journey through different genres started. I was interested in all kind of music and had to find out my way somehow. I listen to all kind of stuff. Old music, new music, rock, hip-hop. But I somehow had passion for music that was made before I was born. Fleetwood Mac is right next to Talking Heads as one of the bands which I really loved, and of course still do. Their music always felt pure and honest to me and brought along déjà vus. I’m a real sucker for all of their songs, really. They also made a lot of commercial cheesy stuff, but even those songs make sense to me. I was having a hard time choosing which track I choose from them for this article. I have so many Fleetwood Mac favorites. Everything from “Everywhere”, “Big Love”, “Little Lies”? But I choose the song that I really love the most and that’s “You Make Lovin Fun”. If I get the opportunity, and the floor is ready for it, I play this out loud without thinking twice.
“This track describes pretty much the vibe I like to create at the end of the night with my dj-sets. Getting people ready to make love to each other”
Rheingold – Dreiklangsdimensionen
I think I heard this for the very first time in a Ewan Pearson mix on Beats in Space Radio. I was blown away immediately after hearing it. German language is not internationally known for being the most sexy language of the world, but in this song it is for a couple of minutes actually. Everything in this song is so damn sexy. Every time I play it people start move a bit more sexier than they already did and get closer to each other. German kraut-funk at its finest. This track describes pretty much the vibe I like to create at the end of the night with my dj-sets. Getting people ready to make love to each other.
Blancmange – Living On The Ceiling
One of the most underrated new wave bands of their time. Of course the people who should know them know who they are. But looking at their catalogue they should have been at the same level of other great new wave bands. I really love this piece by them. It’s really middle eastern, which automatically brings me back to my roots. It’s good to see that their albums are getting re-issues these days and young producers start to discover them and make re-edits of their songs.
New Musik – Hunting
I lost my heart somewhere in the 80’s, but my heart is doing great here, so I don’t need to take it back. Even though I was born at the end of this century, I really love the music that has been made in this era. Sure, not everything from these ten years has been strong. It has been seen as a lost decade by a lot of people, with cheesy pop songs that were polluting the airwaves and all. I really love the art of getting away with things when I play records, whether it’s new music, old music, music that’s socially accepted or socially not accepted. Walking on that thin line and shifting the boundaries is what keeps DJing fresh for me. The LP of New Musik has been essential in finding out the way I wanted to communicate as a DJ. To me, it’s one of the best albums ever made.
LCD Soundsystem – Tribulations
It was through people like Erol Alkan and bands like Soulwax, Black Strobe and LCD Soundsystem that I find my way to clubs and nightlife. Their music was edgy enough to be respected in the punk/funk/ pop scene, which I wanted to be part of at that time. Plus it was cool enough for people to dance to in clubs as well. The band consists of great musicians independently from each other. From Gavin Russom who has had an analogue electro career on his own to Pat Mahoney who is the other half of Museum Of Love and James Murphy of course.
I have always admired James Murphy. A self made man who always did what he wanted to do. He wanted a band, he started a band and made it one of the influential bands of his generation. He wanted a cool label, so he starts DFA, one of the best and most cutting edge dance labels around. He wants to DJ, and he’s a DJ, now teaching the kids how it’s done. He wants to produce an album for a band, and he produces the album of the year. His rock ‘n roll attitude is like a breeze through the dance music scene, which at times can be a very ‘fake’ industry where people act instead of being honest.
i-Boat Captain – Slower (The Backwoods Mix)
I have endless respect and a special spot in my heart for “Is It Balearic…?”, the music label of Richard & Ampo (known as Coyote). They have been a major influence on my musical path and have showed me, through their label, the path I now walk on. Their outlet stands for music for body and soul and have always had a timeless feel, just how I want my sets to be. Just as much I like to make people dance their butts off to my set, I would also take them to a mind trip. Their catalogue has a beach feeling and were representing the Balearic state of mind far before it was cool to play Balearic records. The label has introduced me to so many great artists. Through all these years and releases this remix of the Japanese The Backwoods has been my favorite. It’s the best way to do you yoga exercises. It’s a dub heaven and always takes me to a higher state. It only takes me seconds after hearing this song, before I start to close my eyes and start nodding my head to it.