the persian avant-garde


One afternoon a few years ago, Ata Ebtekar was poking through a Tehran CD shop. He’d returned to Iran, his home country, in hopes of introducing audiences there to experimental electronic music shot through with Persian elements. He had also been trying – unsuccessfully – to find other musicians doing similar work. So he was shocked to hear sounds much like his own playing through the store’s speakers. He froze in his tracks for a minute, then asked the clerk what he was listening to. Fashions rise and fall, trends evaporate, but snobby record shop employees are a worldwide constant. They transcend barriers of language, culture and geography to make potential buyers feel clueless. (I, for one, have been outright ignored or publicly humiliated by such employees on four continents.) The Tehrani salesman told Ebtekar that, as a matter of fact, he was playing a CDR of unpublished material from the classical composer Alizera Mashayekhi. Ebtekar was thrilled – and still remembers the exact phrasing the clerk used to put him down. “I told him: ‘I’m an electronic musician too, this is very close, aesthetic-wise, to what I’m doing.’ He was very cold, and he used the metaphor ‘well, I have a very nice bicycle at home, would you like to ride?’ And that’s his reply.”

more from Jace Clayton in The National here.