Iranian Master’s student finds serenity in electronic and experimental music, regardless of what his home has to say
“They think Iran is just a desert with no culture, no music. They think it’s just politics, but it’s not,” said DSM.
As DSM – a 25-year old Master’s student in Building Engineering – explored Concordia’s SGW campus this past winter, shortly after arriving in Montreal from his home country of Iran, he stumbled across a copy of The Concordian on a stand in the school. After flipping through to the paper’s music section, he decided to reach out to its editor in an attempt to share his story.
“I thought, let’s try, send an email and see what happens,” said DSM. “I was also afraid because I thought you might not answer, or that you wouldn’t care to speak to me.”
Now we’re here.
See, education in Iran is often regarded as the ideal route, with other activities seen as extracurricular, and only that. “When I was in Iran I told myself that I was nothing,” said DSM. “I didn’t have good marks, and they think people who make music are just losers.”
For creators of electronic music, that principle reigns true, with an even deeper sentiment of taboo. “Many people believe that [western music] brings you to hell, and others think it encourages you to do bad things,” he said. “So we have legal music and illegal music.”
DSM, an avid techno-listener and experimental producer, began creating music in his house in Iran. He was inspired by a video clip he saw of superstar DJ/producer Tiesto commanding a crowd at a major festival, demonstrating music’s deep ability to bring all kinds of people together.
“It was so amazing for me to see that,” said DSM.
He first began dabbling in music by creating mash-ups, or “mixes,” for him and his friends on their long bus ride home from school. Though he later shifted towards producing his own songs, using the software Ableton Live. It’s now been four years since DSM has been seriously working on his craft, and the hard work is paying off.
DSM has been featured in Visions of Darkness, a compilation album of contemporary music by Iranian musicians, and is set to release multiple tracks through Montreal-based record label and creative agency, Husa Sounds. He also released an EP last December, titled Abstracted.
While his passion has continued to blossom, DSM chooses to keep his musical identity a subtle part of his life. His parents are aware of it and are supportive of his musical endeavours so long as he stays in school and completes his Master’s.
“I usually play music at parties and gatherings, but also sometimes in my father’s car with my family,” he said. “We would listen to popular music in Iran, or old music that my father or mother love. I tried playing some mellow, deep house for them, not the hard stuff, and they liked it too. Sometimes I’d try to sneak in my own songs and if they didn’t say ‘next song’ I would tell them it was mine.”
For DSM, music is more than just a hobby or even a passion – it’s a form of therapy.
“I just wanted to release my feelings – it’s my way to calm down,” he said. “If I have too many things on my mind, music is the way to release my stress, to forget any bad things in my life. It’s like my Advil. If the music is so good you can get high on that, you don’t need weed or alcohol.”
Back in Iran, DSM was not able to peacefully enjoy electronic music as a result of the government’s strict rules and regulations surrounding public musical performances.
Musical performers are required to obtain a government license in order to perform publicly, whether it be at an art gallery or musical event. This leaves room for subjective decisions, which thereby controls the music scene in the country. However, a police officer’s bad day could very well turn into deeper troubles for a performing artist, despite whether or not they hold a license.
As a result of this musical censorship, many Iranians travel to remote locations throughout the nation, often deserts, where they can enjoy electronic music at any volume, dancing and partying through the night up to the morning. This added risk actually has its benefits, according to DSM. “If you want to have fun there you have to stress about the police. Even alcohol is illegal,” said DSM. “But if it’s harder, sometimes it really feels better.”
With one and a half years remaining for his Master’s, DSM hopes to maintain his 4.0 CGPA – though he continues to raise the bar when it comes to his music as well.
“I really hope that big DJs will play my songs at clubs or shows,” said DSM. “I hope that people are dancing and feeling my music. I really want people to feel it, that’s my goal.“