Artist: Despicable Zee – Zahra Haji Fath Ali Tehrani
Title: Atigheh – عتیقه
Keywords: diaspora drums electronic experimental farsi Oxford WITCHFORK
We were lucky enough to be present at a live performance by Zahra Haji Fath Ali Tehrani late last year, and we would like to say that far from being ‘Despicable’ we found ‘Zee’ to be ‘Inspiring’ ‘Powerful’ ‘Gutsy’ and ‘Mesmerising’. What is ‘Despicable’ is that this artist is not headlining festivals! Well, as we listen we will pretend that Despicable Zee is performing at the most wonderful and dreamy gathering of folx in a floral paradise as the sun sets.
She starts with a mesmerising aaah-aaahhhh mmmmm-mmmmmmm vocal chant that has our ears and eyes glued to the action happening on the stage. “We Won’t Stop” is exactly the sentiment that we want to hear, that and the sweeping sizzle of cymbals and the sounds of backwards beats, radio whistling, and layers of samples building and weaving together to create a net that we are trapped in.
‘Counting Cars’ starts with a fierce beat and the loped sound of two pool balls knocking together. Despicable Zee raps over this pattern and our heads nod in agreement with the words that pour out of her mouth. The last rays of the sun bleed onto the stage and the sky is a deep pinkish-red as we feel the depth of this song about aloneness and belonging and home and displacement.
There is a circular beat, like a ball being bounced off the walls in a round squash room, Despicable Zee is behind the drum kit and the strength of her thought transmits into the frenzy that becomes ‘Sidhe’. She is not singing but we can hear her voice none-the-less, as strong as a train hurtling along the tracks.
The air is suddenly littered with textures of waves and voices as ‘Clay Grouk’ begins, we are drifting off into a soothing place and then the beats start like a gunfire, bringing us back into the present. It is dark now but the stage is lit up with a pink glow and we can smell roses sighing their scent into the night. “You force a silence in me” she says, and we immediately pick up the vocal line and sing along, encouraging her to speak more, we are spellbound.
The title track ‘Atigheh’ has started to wrap it’s tendrils around us and we are utterly charmed by the languid yet uplifting vibe. Then suddenly the vocals begin to soar around us, bouncing off hills and through the valleys. We are inside a paradise that we never want to leave. The drum drives through our bodies, hammering at us like repoussé, freezing us in place, arms outstretched, hearts completely open to whatever Despicable Zee wants to say, feel, or share with us.
Zahra Haji Fath Ali Tehrani is an unstoppable force. Surrender to her here: