Take notice: Anahita Shamsaei

We caught up with Iranian underground DJ who is taking London’s alternative scene by storm

Anahita Shamsaei is an Iranian underground DJ who is taking London’s alternative scene by storm. She will be joining us for her Homostash debut at Berlin Berlin on December 30th...

Coming to London and taking your skills outside of Iran, how did you feel when you first explored London’s electronic scene and what was on offer, from the extended opening hours of clubs to the freedom and relentless energy within the crowd at venues like Egg LDN and Dalston Superstore? 

I always played for my friends in Iran and I never had any experience playing for big crowds. When I first played at Dalston Superstore I experienced a whole other thing. I was happy seeing everyone dancing and telling me how they were enjoying the set. I’ve always wanted to play at Egg, especially the top floor.. I am really looking forward to 30th, where I will be playing as part of the amazing line up for the Homostash Berlin Berlin party.

Earlier this year, the film ‘Raving Iran’ was screened in London and gave many of us an insight into the secrecy of Iran’s electronic scene, which is generally frowned upon by the police who view music events as ‘satanist’ raves. We saw how the subjects of the film, Blade&Beard, tried to follow their passion in Iran but met many obstacles. What’s your own experience with the problems and oppression the music scene faces in Iran? 

Firstly I must say that I haven’t watched ‘Raving Iran’ ,  but for sure it is always nice to see movies that are made about the underground scene... However, it is always important they depict an accurate picture. There is always a question with these type of movies,  as to whether the movie was made only for a western audience? Or is it actually the true picture? Please don't get me wrong, I am not saying that Iran is a free country for any type of genre of music, specifically Electronic or Techno scene isn't just because of the political system, its because to enjoy this type of music it has to grow up within you. So of course now that the electronic music scene is getting bigger, people are now more open to hear and understand this genre of music. Iran is not Germany, we never grew up with this type of music but some of us enjoyed it and continued to listen and work and advertise it through. So I don't fully agree that the only reason that we face the problems are because of the government, the social system has an equal part to play. I remember when I used to play in places where I didn’t know everyone and people would ask me, have you even changed the music? These are all same beats. Of course, at that time I used to get really angry but now I know. Its because we never had any knowledge of this genre of music.

Mixmag released a list of Iranian electronic producers and mixers previously this year, celebrating heavyweights from Dubfire and Darius Syrossian to emerging artists including Navid Izadi and Sharam. Which Iranian artist has remained a strong influencer over the years to your attitude and approach to dance music?  

I personally like Dubfire and Darius Syrossian very much and it's always nice to hear about other emerging artists.  One of the most important Iranian artists that have strongly influenced me throughout the years is my childhood friend Aram Ashouri, who is a DJ and a music producer in Iran. We both learnt how to DJ in our rooms. We motivated each other because sometimes we used to look at each other and ask “ what the hell are we doing ? in this room? haha, no one can hear us”. But it's not about being in a room or studio, it's about passion and motivation. The third track in my new set for EGG LDN is produced by him. Our work is slowly making its way out of just our rooms.

Homostash is a typically liberating and freedom of expression fuelled party, how did you come into contact with the team? 

I love how Homostash is a liberating and freedom of expression fuelled party and I also love that it is a safe and warm space for everyone to join and party with us. One night I went to East Block with some friends of mine and Bart ( Founder of Homostash ) was DJing and he was playing really good. I started to dance in front of him and slowly talk to him haha, then we started to talk and it was a very nice conversation about our life and studies. One month later he asked me if I want to play at Dalston superstore for one of Homostash’s parties, and I immediately accepted. I have to say without Bart’s help and support things would be more difficult.

Looking onwards, do you think the electronic music scene in Iran will become a more open-minded, less restricted environment in the next five years?  

The music scene in Iran has been more open recently, especially towards electronic music. Very interestingly Shiller had a concert in Tehran capital of Iran which many people went to and enjoyed. So I think there has been some good progress towards understanding this genre of music.

What advice would you have for an aspiring producer or DJ based in Iran who doesn’t know where to start or might feel discouraged from following their true passion? 

Accept your work and praise it. Whatever you make is art and I think  it's really important how you look towards your own work. Be confident and never question it, just continue.