This week Six Pillars samples an album by Aria Rostami (USA/Iran),’Sibbe’, released on Audiobulb September 2015. ‘Sibbe’ addresses themes of diasporas, Iranian and otherwise, and how mass immigration creates new, vibrant and mixed cultures.
The show broadcasts on air this week across London on 104.4FM and on digital radio, and streams online elsewhere. Six Pillars is on Wednesdays 9–9:30pm, and repeats Fridays 3.30pm GMT. Podcasts are on http://www.mixcloud.com/6pillars
For the album Rostami used processed field recordings sent to him from Tehran, Kerman and Taipei to insert glimpses of Asia, one of the largest and often over simplified groupings of “The Other.”
Rostami points a finger at the USA due to its domination of world news but inability to absorb news from other places. In UK we used to say “the US learns geography by going to war“. The internet and smart phones however have made the American people more independent of their own media and allows for creativity to flow unhindered from country to country. On Sibbe, SIbbe II, and Sibbe III Rostami uses processed field recordings sent to him from Tehran, Kerman and Taipei to insert glimpses of Asia, one of the largest and often over simplified groupings of “the other.” Rostami also played his own instrumentation including piano, Turkish tar, the melodica, glockenspiel, vocals, synthesizer, violin and laptop. He says “The representations of outside cultures are only glimpsed at and often left fighting against masses of information and sound.”
One can sense what it has been like for Rostami growing up in the USA as an Iranian from his sleeve notes: “Sibbe” (pronounced Sibby) focuses on information, the technology that proliferates that information and cultural identity. Both of my parents were born in Iran but my brother and I were born in the United States. I’ve only been to Iran once when I was 12… this was pre 9/11 so the Middle East wasn’t as large of a cultural topic as it is now. I was just old enough then to understand what Iran was and how it connected to me but not really mature enough to understand what identity is in a larger worldly sense. I especially wasn’t ready to become a “professional” on the Middle East, Islam, or religious fanaticism, international relations and Iran in a biased post 9/11 world.
Granted, I definitely knew more about these topics than my peers did, which actually became part of a problem. It took quite some time for me to understand that my knowledge of Iran, Islam and the Middle East was informed by a very specific diaspora. My family, their friends and other Persians I knew all come from a specific slice of the greater Iranian culture. In other words, I only heard one story and I heard it frequently. I had always thought I knew the full picture. Even the news I’d hear from Iran came through major Iranian cities… for example the media tends to focus on Tehran. It’s not uncommon for people to ask me about Iran or the Middle East and my thoughts on specific things happening in the news because I am seen as an authority on the topic. In reality, I am removed from the true source and experience and in some ways even my sources are removed.
“Sibbe” is about that inaccuracy and also the wanting to understand. Some of the source material was sent to me from Iran by my dad and my girlfriend who were visiting at separate times and all the source material for the track “Sibbe III” was sent from Teipei by my friend Nicole who lives out there now. The source material was recorded secretly using cellphones. I wanted to use things like cellphones in this project because it is a way information is spread and collected whether that’s reading the news, talking to people in other countries, or NSA spying and data-mining (which is also why I appreciated the recordings were done in secret.)
I’ve also been listening to a lot of re-releases of older music from all around the world which have become more and more popular in the last decade. It’s always been easy for Western, English speaking countries to proliferate their media and influence to other countries but we’re finally at a time and place where the Internet and the greater interest in information has opened up the doors for this music to come back to us.
I look at “Sibbe” as an American album through and through although a lot of it is influenced by music outside of the United States. I also made a point to nonsensically mishmash cultural tones and ideas to show ignorance, appreciation and a push for something new.”