In a profession still dominated by men, Nesa Azadikhah shines as a contemporary women in the field of disk jockeying.
She started learning music before school when her parents sent her to take “Tonbak” classes; a goblet shaped Persian instrument. She later started learning other instruments such as the guitar and by the age of 16 found her way into DJing.
This predominant Iranian female DJ has not only raised the bar in her criteria by performing in local and International festivals as well as performing live music for numerous art galleries, she is also the founder of Deep House Tehran, having accounts in SoundCloud and Instagram. It’s not only a platform for Iranian artists, but for people all over the world to have the opportunity to showcase their work. Alongside disk jockeying Nesa is also a composer and has worked on original film scores, one belonging to a documentary production from Arte, which focuses on 10 Iranian Photographers and their perspective on modern Iran.
What is your favourite Iranian Instrument and why?
My instrument of choice is the Tonbak and Daf. Back when I was 5 to 6 years old I would often play the rhythm with the beat of my hand on anywhere you could imagine. For example, on walls and school tables. Later on I became so motivated that I started to play other instruments such as the Daf and Dayereh.
Music from which part of the country speaks more to your personality?
If I choose to talk about the nature of my work and musical influence of my country on my work, I would probably have to say that my work very much is influenced by my personal space, maybe social atmosphere and the place I live in. On the other hand, I can’t say that Iran’s music has had absolutely no affect at all, because I’m a big fan of music from the south of Iran which has led me to use and work with a few tracks from that area. In addition, while working on some tracks for a web documentary about young Iranian photographers where I was only to look at photos from the artists and grasp the overall mood of their work and translate it into music, I incorporated a few of the southern instruments in my work.
How do you usually incorporate Persian music into electronic music?
Iranian music for me is the traditional Iranian music and using traditional instruments. But today I see different tracks released by different Iranian artists in pop, electronic, house and rap all around the world. Personally I occasionally incorporate traditional Iranian instruments such as Tonbak and Daf alongside some other instruments in my work.
Your music tends to be more on the upbeat and happy side. Is your personality on the same waves as your music or are DJs more like a lot of comedians as in their sense of humour is paradoxical to their general behaviour in everyday life?
In my case, it is different. It’s not necessarily about sadness or happiness! However I am a very moody person. Order and timing are extremely important when it comes to my work. I like to wake up early in the morning, but I also love staying up late at night. I don’t like reading books, but I do enjoy books with a voice over. Movies and series are a big part of my life. I love socializing, I’m very funny if I’m in the mood. I’m also blessed with extremely nice friends. Other than music I also sometimes work on photo collages and I also paint. Additionally I do research 3 to 4 hours a day surfing the latest news in the music world. I go to the gym and workout only to lose weight. I like to be happy and successful and I work really hard to achieve this. My goal is very important to me and it makes no sense to think I may not achieve it.
It’s ironic to ask since you work with music and sound, but how has your voice/music been heard internationally?
One of my works that was acknowledged well was consistent of 3 tracks that I released and was called “Random City Tehran”. It’s a project I made for an art gallery in Dubai and was a 20 minutes live sound project that I gathered from the ambience of different places from Taxis to streets in Tajrish to house parties and even coffee shops. I collaged these sounds and made some new sounds out of them while adding different instruments and played 3 chosen tracks at the event which were received well in different websites and some articles were wrote about it. This paved my path to work with Arte. All in all, most of my professional opportunities came to me through SoundCloud and Bandcamp.
What tools do you usually use in your work?
I remember the day when I started to become familiar with the details of DJ-ing and different simple softwares, one by the name of “Fruit Loop”. Without having any knowledge of any one of the softwares, I started to play around and familiarize myself with them. After a while I started to do some research to find more professional softwares and ways to work with them. So I worked with many professional softwares for example, Logic, Reason and Ableton Live. But Ableton is the software that I use for all my projects.
Growing up did you have a particular role model? how did this person/people influence you?
I do have role models! In my opinion, It’s not the best idea for an artists to always get inspired by fellow artists specially from the same genre. To me It’s more inspiring to learn about the universe of different artists in different artistic fields. For example, my best friends Ramin and Rokni Haerizadeh are multidisciplinary artists and they have such a unique universe that it has highly affected their living space. Whenever I enter their world, I get really tempted to create music. The difference between me and them is that I get inspired by my surroundings, but their surroundings gets inspired by them!
On the other hand having a twin sister is always a blessing. My twin sister Niyaz is also a video animation artist who has inspired me all the way and by appreciating and since we’re not biased towards each other and also care deeply for one another, we are able to give each other honest feedback, encouraging the other’s exceptional work and pointing out the flaws when necessary.
This has helped me to believe in myself and pushed me to aim for higher and higher goals.
What do you want to have achieved in the next 10 years?
There are so many answers to this question. Because, everyday I am busy planning something new and maybe every hour a new idea comes to my mind, whether it’s about something personal that has to do with myself or whether it has to do with Deep House Tehran. What I want to achieve in the next 10 years would be to continue increasing my knowledge. I ultimately want to improve and be most active as a Sound Artist and Music Producer and sort of shift out of software to work completely in the form of Analog. With the platform that I have, with our goal of promoting Iranian artist in the area of Electronic music, my ultimate goal is to make it entirely international and move with such a robust plan that I can familiarize people all around the world with our Iranian artists and have them see that we also have many talented artist working in this area of music and show them that we are on the same level when it comes to technique. I am extremely excited and optimistic about the future and I’m certain many good things will happen.
What type of music do you enjoy listening to other than electronic music? Who’s your favourite artist in that genre?
Ok, so I listen to all genres of music. Although, when and what I listen to all has a timing of its own. I usually start my day by listening to Jazz and Classic music. It’s also good to mention that I also listen to these genres while stuck in Tehran’s heavy traffic, since that in my opinion is extremely calming. In addition, I also listen to Alternative, Indie, Rock. I love the 70’s and 80’s and I’m a big fan of Blues. During the day I always spend 3 to 4 hours updating myself in the area of House, Techno, Disco and etc. So that when new tracks are released I can review them and select the ones I like, and use them for my work.
Not all DJs are considered to be artist or behave like an artist, this might put you in a position of a minority. On top of that being a female DJ in Iran is another minority experience. What do you have to say to those who don’t see the artistic side of being a DJ? What are you challenges?
I would tell them the same thing a fashion designer might answer to those who consider his/ her art as a tailoring job! They don’t just tailor clothing pieces and I don’t just play music. We both have a vision and we create art!
In my opinion every field has its own challenges and enjoyable aspects. Many people may think that being a DJ is a very simple job, and may think that at the end it’s really about mixing 2 tracks and that’s it. But its really not that easy. When you start working professionally it’s very different, especially in Iran because we don’t have clubs or a night life. This in itself makes handling the dance floor harder. Also, working as a female DJ in a patriarchal society has its own challenges. In the beginning when I started working as a female DJ, being behind the DJ mixer was very foreign to the eyes of many people and I witnessed both negative and positive reactions. Obviously, given the circumstances men have the priority to take the position compared to women when it comes to Dj-ing. This has been a past and current pressure as a female music producer and DJ and can be somewhat hard to handle at times. Despite that, what has always helped me through this type of turbulence has been the way I look at it and how I allow it to affect my goals and my music. The way I look at my work and goals as a woman, is that even if I were a male working in this field I would still have the same exact goals and ideas and it would not be any different and I would work as hard and take as many steps needed to reach my goals.