Raving Iran: The Story Behind Iran's Ilegal Party Scene
Berlin-based Iranian DJ and producer Ali Khalaj (aka Namito) speaks with the two promoters Anoosh and Arash who are also the subject of the documentary film Raving Iran. Anoosh and Arash threw small, illegal raves around Tehran for several years, knowingly risking jail sentence for "insulting Islamic sanctities" or "spreading propaganda against the system" or committing "illegal audio-visual activities." The documentary film, created by German filmmaker Susanne Regina Meures will hit theaters this fall.This article originally appeared on Electronic Beats
Three Iranian DJs discuss the dangers and difficulties surrounding the country's unlikely illegal rave culture.
In June, three young men—two musicians and one filmmaker—started a three-year jail sentence in Iran for distributing underground music that hadn’t been licensed by Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. The police task force in charge of enforcing Islamic lifestyle ethics, which is known as the “morality police,” found them guilty of “insulting Islamic sanctities,” “spreading propaganda against the system” and committing “illegal audio-visual activities.” It’s the same fate that two Iranian DJs, Anoosh and Arash (aka Blade & Beard), could have faced for throwing small, illegal raves around Tehran for years before they left for Switzerland. Their adventures as Middle Eastern promoters, DJs and producers are now the subject of Raving Iran, a documentary created by German filmmaker Susanne Regina Meures that opens in theaters this fall.
The idea of underground dance parties taking place in a country like Iran probably seems unlikely, antithetical or impossible to westerners, so we connected the pair of promoters with Berlin-based Iranian DJ and producer Ali Khalaj (aka Namito) to get an insider’s perspective on the subculture. Like [Anoosh and Arash], Khalaj left his home country when his parents sent him to live with an uncle in West Berlin in 1985 to escape the Iran-Iraq War. After reunification, Khalaj got sucked into the burgeoning techno culture and slowly built a worldwide following. Like other Iranian ex-pat producers, Khalaj is an iconic figure in Tehran’s underground scene—even though he’s never played there. We connected him with Anoosh and Arash via Skype for an in-depth conversation about the documentary and everything that’s happened since.
Namito: I recently watched Raving Iran and really liked it. It was almost impossible to find modern music in Iran before I left in 1985, and the trouble that you could get for sourcing new music was frankly not worth it. How do young people in Iran find music these days?
Anoosh: As you might assume, the easiest way is the internet. Although there’s a lot of filtering in Iran, somehow Beatport, Resident Advisor and some other sources for electronic music are not censored by the authorities—thank God. There are also sources to get music for free, but as we are artists ourselves, we wanted to respect others’ copyright. Still, these sources gave us the opportunity to follow other artists and find new music. For example, when your own track “Train To Tehran” was released, you weren’t in Iran but your music still reached us. We also used to check who our friends were following to get a better idea of the underground music not promoted in Iran...