Le Bain

Disco Tehran, NY Uplifting

We chat with NY party collective Disco Tehran, before they take over Le Bain's dance floor, on Thursday, December 6th.

LE BAIN: Disco Tehran aims to connect NYC with the “era of 1970s cosmopolitan venues in Tehran”. You were probably too young to experiment Tehran’s nightlife in the 1970s but please tell us about that golden age, before the Iranian Revolution of 1979.
ARYA: We never got to physically experience those days but the images of that era are imprinted in our collective psyche. The 1970s was a moment in space-time where the tumultuous state of the world led to beautiful productions in art and music. In Iran, it led to daring experiments in the arts. We can still feel it the music and culture that remain. The essence of those days, along with the image palette, was passed by to us from our parents and the world around us.

MANI: Our human experience is as much informed by what we have experienced as what we have missed out on. Unlike for our parents’ generation, our nightlife mostly happened indoors. While they frequented vinyl stores to shop the latest local and global releases and dwelled venues and cabarets for live shows, our generation mostly attended underground parties and played shows behind closed doors. However, the narratives of our parents showed us that another kind of public nightlife was possible. 

Mani and Arya are Disco Tehran (photo by Nooshin Rostami)

"Nobody should feel disconnected and alone."

How did you become nostalgic of that era? 
A: After the 1979 revolution, a lot of our public parties went private. Here in NYC we made a semi-private party open to the public. Disco Tehran is an episodic dreamscape. It is an audiovisual work of imagination and magic. Although we reference the past, this is not purely about nostalgia, it is about dreams and a tunnel in space-time. Disco Tehran is a kind of time machine that runs on the fuel of good vibrations that we call “funky warm”. We borrow from the palette of 1970s to create new ideas, new sounds, and new images for our future.

M: Nostalgia can only be useful as a starting spark. Nostalgia can be dangerous, in that it tends to romanticize history, and paint with broad strokes a picture that might have been, or could have been. Personally speaking, I think a historical outlook can be much more beneficial for us to guide our research, programming and aesthetics. Embedded within a historical outlook is analysis, nostalgia lacks this component entirely. 

Is there the same nostalgia in today’s Iranian youth?
M: One can clearly see the bridges they have built from the heyday of Tehran’s bustling international music scene to a new, thriving and contemporary musical landscape. 

"Our party is a rager and a delicate environment."

How do you connect that Tehran spirit to the NY nightlife of 2018? 
M: Inherent to the immigrant experience is the spirit of boundless possibility. We yearned to create a vibrant multicultural experience with a nod to what our parents had experiences in Tehran back in the 70’s with the means at our disposal, and in the neighborhoods where we lived in New York City. In many ways, New York is rife with potential to dream up such spaces: a melting pot where “anything goes”. The imaginary and displaced “Tehran” in New York is a platform for music and people from Iran, the larger region and beyond to blend in together and create something vibrant and unexpected.

What does it bring to the NY nightlife game?
A: Our party is at the same time a rager and a delicate environment of warmth and kindness. That uplifting feeling of a communal experience is a major part of the Iranian and Middle Eastern culture, which was lacking in our experience outside of our personal circles in NY. Nobody should feel disconnected and alone. We open the doors of our home and invite you inside.

Each ‘Disco Tehran’ party explores the grooves of that time and rare music from the Middle East but also Europe, Africa and Latin America. Tell us about how you and your team of DJs dig for music.
A: We're an ever growing collective of artists and audiences from different backgrounds. We meet each other in 24/7 delis and diners, and on the streets and sidewalks of New York. Our connection is in tune with our city and our place in life. We go with the flow, there are times that the beautiful gestures of the universe present what we play next. For example, the Eastern European vibrations of our 8th episode were coming from the inspirations we got on a road trip in Romania.

M: In a way, Disco Tehran is both a collective and a research project. Each of our artists bring their own treasure trove of tunes and records and taste to the dance floor, and each member does their own research. I’m currently in Tehran record hunting. There is a world of amazing vinyls to be re-discovered and we hope to gradually grow our archive and expand our musical research.

Even if you just recently started, you already have done a few parties, not only featuring DJs, but also live shows, dinner parties and you run a zine! Tell us about one magic moment that really inspired and motivated you to do more!
M: Everything started from Arya’s living room. He would cook for his guests, we’d play music for each other and sometimes one of us would bring their instrument and play a couple of tunes. What we shared in that tiny Chinatown living room, felt just right. It felt unpretentious, warm, dreamy, safe and most importantly, scalable. That’s what we wanted to share with everyone when we went public for our first party. The promise of Spring, and the energy it brings felt like the right opportunity. The response has been overwhelming since. 

Arya: I love cooking Persian food and inviting people. I love to see my friends, Iranian and non-Iranian, enjoy recipes I learned from my mother and grandmother. The near perfect pot of Ghormeh Sabzi also keeps on giving way after we think we can’t serve more people. Our parties keep on going with more love and support each time from our audiences, this is the reason we do what we do. Disco Tehran makes us feel alive, in love, and connected with people and life.

What can you tell us about the nightlife in Tehran right now and are you optimistic for its future?
M: I am most definitely optimistic. There is not a single night when you think to yourself “I wish there was a show I could go out and see”. There is always something happening somewhere. Sure, you can’t go out, get an alcoholic drink and see a show. But you can do those things separately: the former in private and the latter in public. Such is how the boundaries between private and public are different from that of a typical western city. And it is so interesting in many ways. I think if we set aside the Euro-Centric view of the Tehran and embed ourselves within its the lively scenes, find our ways around its oddities and learn to love them, it has so much to offer in terms of nightlife, music programming and public life. I’ve spent the past month in Tehran seeing shows by international artists performing anything from electroacoustic music to Baroque-Persian fusion and regional Iranian folk concerts, gathering at friends’ houses and playing records for each other. And I must say, I have learned so much and it has been a truly eye opening and humbling experience.

On Thursday, December 6th,
Le Bain presents Disco Tehran
feat. Bergsonist, Dynoman, DJ Kyle Kyle & Mirza
10pm | The Standard, High Line

Header photo: Anbessa Orchestra


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