Mehdi Rajabian: The Iranian musician risking all of it for brand new album after being jailed for his music

Mehdi Rajabian: The Iranian musician risking all of it for brand new album after being jailed for his music

For greater than 9 months, musician and composer Mehdi Rajabian saved himself hidden away in an underground room in Sari, northern Iran, working to create his newest album undercover.Whereas many artists will inform you they pour blood, sweat and tears into their artwork, that is rather more than only a throwaway phrase for Rajabian.
He has already served greater than two years in jail for making music the Iranian authorities didn’t agree with, together with a interval of solitary confinement and a starvation strike, however is undeterred – regardless of the very actual risk of extra jail time. No energy, he says, can cease the “freedom and considered music”.

Rajabian collaborated on-line with singers and musicians from around the globe to make the document. Pic: Barg Music

So regardless of his limitations and the hazard he faces in a rustic the place artwork is closely censored, the 31-year-old recorded his second album, Coup Of Gods, in a secret basement, patiently coping with the challenges of conserving hidden, plus low-speed web, to attach with different musicians from all around the world.The album consists of tracks that includes an orchestra from Brazil, and singers and musicians from in all places from the US to Italy to Russia. It has been mastered by document producer and songwriter Harvey Mason Jr, who has labored on tracks by stars together with Beyonce, Britney Spears, John Legend and Justin Timberlake, and have become chief govt of the Recording Academy (which runs the Grammy Awards) earlier in 2021.
Rajabian approached Mason and the Grammys boss tells Sky Information he was at first “blown away by his story” however in the end the music needed to be ok. “For me all of it got here right down to what got here out of the audio system,” he says. “The music was lovely, compelling and so nicely finished. In my thoughts, it’s true artwork.”
Rajabian, corresponding with Sky Information over electronic mail, says he’s happy with the album and thinks it has “come out actually sturdy”, regardless of “all of the problems” he has needed to overcome.
“In Iran, girls cannot sing and it is prohibited,” he says. “Even I bought arrested a couple of months again for ending an album having feminine voices. Jail and prohibition have prompted Iranian artists to be afraid to be in my album.”Rajabian is all too conscious of the horrors he might face ought to he be jailed once more. In 2013, he spent three months in solitary confinement for propaganda towards the state. Solitary confinement “kills the human soul,” he says. “You’re not a standard human being afterwards.”

Producer and songwriter Harvey Mason Jr, who’s releasing the album by way of his label, says he believes it’s “true artwork”. Pic: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

From 2015, following what Amnesty Worldwide described as a “blatantly unfair” trial, he served two years in jail till he was launched after a 40-day starvation strike. “Solitary kills the soul and the starvation strike kills the physique”, he says, describing it as “like consuming your personal flesh” due to the injury inflicted. “I misplaced 15kg of weight and 40% of my imaginative and prescient.”The musician was arrested once more in 2020, for his first album and for working with feminine dancers and singers, and once more, he says, due to his new album earlier this yr. He’s at the moment within the midst of a three-year suspended sentence, which may very well be activated at any time.Rajabian spent his time behind bars at Iran’s infamous Evin Jail. “It may be stated that it is without doubt one of the most horrible prisons on the earth,” he says. “I spent a number of months in a Somali pirate cell as a punishment. Jail is a tough place to dwell, however what issues is how a lot you imagine in your personal thought and philosophy of labor; the extra you imagine, the better it’s so that you can overcome difficulties.”After his arrest, his workplace was closed and his recordings and exhausting drives seized. He spent his “entire life” whereas making the album in his underground room, alone. However he’s decided.”A number of months again, I used to be arrested by the Iranian regime,” he says. “Handcuffed in a court docket, they requested to grab the venture, and [ordered me to] cease making music. However I acknowledged to the decide that even when this implies I am going again to jail, I am going to get my work finished. I don’t take into consideration the implications of manufacturing a murals and I’m prepared for any penalties. They’ll imprison me once more. I [will] additionally write music in jail, as I wrote earlier than. Music won’t cease below any circumstances.”The starvation strike left Rajabian with extremely swollen joints, which means he can not play an instrument himself. So he composed and organized the album working alongside collaborators together with US singers Lizzy O’Very and Aubrey Johnson and musicians akin to violinists Yury Revich and Emmanuele Baldini, cellist Rafael Cesario, duduk participant Soroosh Nematollahi and sarangi participant Vanraj Shastri. His underground room has now been cleared, to take away all hint of his work, and the album is able to go.
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A teaser for Iranian composer Mehdi Rajabian’s new document, Coup Of Gods.

The primary observe, Whip On A Lifeless Physique, is his most private. “This piece is the narrator of a human physique that not has a bodily presence,” he says. “The sensation is for the time after I was on a starvation strike, between earth and sky, between life and demise, between the dwelling and the useless… on the twenty ninth day of the starvation strike, I opened my eyes that morning and I didn’t know whether or not I used to be alive or useless, on earth or in heaven. I used to be in a trance. It was a wierd feeling.”Making music, or the kind of music Rajabian needs to make, is clearly a harmful enterprise in Iran. Many would ask why he continues. “Forbidding music for me means stitching my lips,” he says. “I can’t be silent. Within the time of oppression, silence means betrayal. Prohibition of artwork means prohibition of reality and suppression of consciousness. So I’ve to imagine within the freedom of music, even when I’m going to jail once more for it.”The discharge comes simply weeks after the Taliban’s takeover of bordering Afghanistan, the place issues have been raised for musicians and artists and the way their work could also be censored. Rajabian says he is aware of too nicely the mentality of the nation’s new rulers.”There is just one query for me: how can we as artists specific our ache to the world with the language of artwork, when these sort of painful photographs are despatched to the world from Iran and Afghanistan? As artists, our work has change into tough, as a result of emotions, disappointment, shock and ache are not efficient.”The world is not amazed by any sound or picture; humanity has seen every thing that exists. That’s the reason humanity is transferring in direction of enjoyable and leisure with artwork. Philosophical, protest and poetic artwork not has a spot. Humanity shuns philosophical and painful artwork as a result of humanity needs to get away from these pains. And that makes it tough for us.”Rajabian says that regardless of every thing, hope retains him alive, “regardless that I do know now we have a tough future forward of us”.He continues: “After each darkness there’s a gentle. Lastly, I’m optimistic concerning the future.”Coup Of Gods by Mehdi Rajabian will likely be launched on streaming platforms by Mason’s label Hundredup on 17 September

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