Nadia Tehran: A life time in the making
Words by Jameela Elfaki
Nadia has re-awoken. Back with a triple threat album that has been a lifetime in the making. “Dozakh: All Lovers Hell”. Out on YEAR0001 released today (16th May) and we couldn’t be more proud. Dozakh is not only a record but a metaphysical place, a place that she has experienced and knows so well, a place that stretches beyond the music.
For those of you unfamiliar with Nadia and her work, Nadia Tehran is a Swedish-Iranian musician, artist and creative. Nadia’s music explores the boundaries of her identity, political identity and sense of belonging. When we last spoke to Nadia for the cover story of our Identity issue, She was in the process of recording this special album.
Listening to this masterpiece - Dozakh has a distinct sound that resonates and flows through you. We are invited to see a side of Nadia that is softer and more vulnerable, paired with that raw energy and explosive attitude that we heard and saw in Nadia’s first EP. Her sound is atmospheric, elemental in places, I hear air, earth and water, fire interlaced throughout. In this album she explores an eclectic range of emotions; sadness, anger, love, fear and joy with a hint of mischief and rebellion. She takes you on a tumultuous journey of highs and lows. Dozakh drips with authenticity and personal sentiment - which is to be expected from an album that is a lifetime in the making. It also wouldn’t be fit without featuring an ululation (Trill) and of course a song called ‘Nazi Killer’. ‘Tell nobody’ and ‘Dreamers’ and ‘In tune with the Moon’ are some of my personal favourite tracks - but there are many favourites from this album.
We caught up with Nadia to talk to about this new chapter in her life, what it’s like to finally release this incredible new album and insight into her multi-dimensional artistic vision..
When we spoke to you last you were in the process of recording your new album! And Last year I had the pleasure of previewing some of your incredible songs and I was blown away by the difference in sound and emotions to your last EP. I could hear how deeply personal this was to you, in sound and vision. What are the core themes for Dozakh? What is the meaning of Dozakh?
The word ‘dozakh’ means hell. Metaphorically this is also a place of torment one believes they are in when separated from their lover. Dozakh is where this album takes place, a life in some kind of burning space, longing for something that’s missing. Like a void, a distance, a separation. This separation can be a distance to my lover, to my home country, my identity, or to a life that could’ve been but never will. This place can also be an escape from reality, rooted in another escape that brought me here in the first place.
You said in our last interview: “It is very different from everything I’ve previously done. I am trying to be more vulnerable. I do have this side, I do get my heart broken. I think that it is important to show this as well”. Tell us about some of the emotions you have captured and shared in this new album, why it is so personal and important to you? I love that it’s such a range of moods, it’s so you, fluid, wild, strong but also vulnerable at the same time.
The record has been a secret space where I could turn to when I needed an escape from all the expectations of who I am or should be. Growing up in Sweden I have always had the feeling of being rootless and out of place. As a teenager I became a performer, as a way to create the ‘higher me’. On stage I became powerful. I could be strong and reckless and overcome all my weaknesses. Because where I come from, if you show weakness you’re dead. But regardless of that image, I am weak and I get sad and depressed. So behind closed doors I was writing broken hearted pop songs about unrequited love, and my dreams were about the grand escape. They were songs that nobody was supposed to hear, they were just for me. I didn’t know it then, but that’s how the album was born.
Something else we touched on last time was identity, and you are both Swedish and Iranian and as I understand it you wanted your work to reflect that you are both at the same time, could you expand on this? Is this something you consciously wanted to do?
I don’t really know, it’s not like I wanted the record to include certain things to reflect my heritage. I’ve just been speaking my mind and experimenting with soundscapes that inspire me. I’m inspired by a lot of different things, from different cultures, not only Iranian and Swedish culture. Whatever I do, my work will reflect me in one way or another, so I’m not consciously putting in references to certain cultures, I'm just experimenting with my different expressions.
What is your favourite track on the new album and why? What is the significance of part 1 and Part 2? How did you decide on which tracks to include?
I don’t think I could point out a favourite, it changes from day to day. The album has a wide range of genres and moods, so depending on how I feel that day there’s always a track to match my state of mind. I think that’s what happens when you spend a decade on making an album. You go through different stages and styles, so the record reflects everything I’ve been through these years, both mentally and emotionally, but also style wise.
I think it’s up to the listener to decide what the meanings behind the flow and divide of the album is, but I would say it’s some kind of rebirth. The flow and order of the songs is a part of the story telling, but I’m just telling the story, the analysis is up to the listener.
It’s important that your artistic vision is represented to be as you as possible, talk us through your choices for your album artwork and visual arts that follow.
I have done all the creative direction for the album myself because I feel like the visual extension of the music is an equally important part of my expression. I enjoy working visually as much as making the music, to me it’s the same thing. I like to do things myself and collaborate with people close to me; my friends and family. I think the best collaborations grow organically.
The cover art is a recreation of a motif commonly depicted in persian art from the 18th century, a.k.a. The Qajar dynasty. This was a time when a torn Persia reunited and made a constitutional revolution. It was a revolution of democracy, free press, the rule of law, freedom for political parties and separation of religion and politics. This is also an era when European influences started to root in Persia, and the art reflect a female narrative that later got eradicated. In these images the women are strong and beautiful with long black hair and marked eyes, an image I felt very drawn to.
You have also just presented an exhibition in connection with the album, titled Dozakh: Inherited void. What was the vision behind the exhibition?
I see Dozakh as a metaphysical place, a place that I have experienced and know so well. A way for me to keep exploring the record after it was finished was to put it in a context. I wanted to create Dozakh as a physical space; a space where other people could connect to the narrative. So as an extension of the record, I created the exhibition “Dozakh: Inherited Void”. The artists I invited are some of my closest friends; Sahar Jamili from Copenhagen, Jasmin Daryani from Stockholm and Furmaan Ahmed from London. Our stories and art correlate, but at the same time they are totally different. What remains the core of our work is the search for belonging and the questioning of our identities, living separated and/or unitedly in a gap between borders. The idea is to make “Dozakh: Inherited void” a platform where these stories can be told through different forms of art. The creation of this physical space is important to ensure that our narrative, myths and ideas are kept alive on our own terms. This is an act of defiance towards the prevailing power structures of class, race and gender. The first exhibition took place at Gallery Steinsland Berliner in Stockholm in April 2019, and there will be more to come.
We are excited to see what the next chapter holds for Nadia! If you are in London on the 13th of June Nadia is doing her first London show at Electrowerkz!
Listen to Dozakh here
See more of Nadia’s work here