Navid Mehr brings the music to the desert to live a life of adventure and challenge.
The progressive musicality of Navid Mehr is on right display with real smashing works out on ICONYC, Sudbeat, Movement Recordings and Proton to name a few, plus cutting edge remixes for fellow musicians include reinterpretations with Kastic Torrau, Dousk, Navar, Danny Lloyd and some. One only needs to get their ears on his original – “Random Acts of Kindness” featured by Hernan Cattaneo on his compilation through Balance Music and you know, he is the unassuming gypsy quietly dispensing off heart stirring goodies that jump at you and make you do a beeline for the floor.
When I ask the extremely talented Navid about his origins, he has this to say –
“I was born in Tehran, Iran and I lived here for about 17 years, my whole family and I moved to Toronto Canada around 1998 and lived in Toronto till 2015 and I am based in Tehran back again. I consider myself very lucky to be able to experience both living in the Middle East and then North America. I think it gave me a unique perspective on how I see our world.
Iran is a country with about 8000 years of history and culture and a truly magnificent landscape. Unfortunately Iran is probably the most misunderstood country in the world. Western media’s portrayal of Iran is mostly very negative, which is not really how things are here to be honest. The best way to find out about the place is by talking to a person that is not from here and visited Iran, or even better if you like traveling and experiencing new cultures, the country has about 21 UNESCO sites and that is just scratching the surface. Living in Toronto shaped my character in to the person I am today, openness, acceptance while celebrating diversity is been always part of the Canadian culture and I am truly honored to call myself Canadian.”
When I ask him about his music story, he quips –
“My interest in dance music started around year 2000, that is when commercial music took a nose dive, you have to realize that before 2000 bands like Guns & Roses and Nirvana to name a few were considered commercial music and after the millennium, there was a void in music, that is exactly the time when Mtv stopped playing music videos and started with the reality shows, I was lucky enough to be at the age that electronic music was at its best which some people call it the golden years of electronic music. It was still very underground and fresh and at the same time had this communal vibe to it, which attracted me the most. My mate use to own turntables, and he taught me how to spin on vinyl and I have been hooked since then”.
Now to the other exciting part –
I am currently on a 50 km trip inside a desert called Marangob about three and a half hours away from Tehran and stuck again in the middle of a major rainstorm. I didn’t think it rains in deserts, let alone a major one. Whoever thinks climate change is not real; let me tell you that it is.
I am in my friend’s car, looking at my tent and baffled at how it is still holding up and not broken in half. The wind is laterally flattening the structure. Since I have to wait this one out I thought it would be a good time to share this moment with you guys that gives a little bit of a glimpse on how a typical day in my life can easily be.
I am foremost a traveler and in the moment.
On our last trip we got hit by a major rain storm and I have to say what a humbling experience it was, a real ego check. No matter what gear you are using or how experienced you are in backcountry, there is a moment that you realize there is nothing you can do and you just have to wait it out. It latterly felt like I was standing on a deck of a sinking ship. Lightning is hitting all around, with horizontal rain hitting my face 😂. Thankfully no one was hurt with minimal damage to our gear, we just got really really wet!
We get to our base camp in the night about 10 p.m. We had a problem finding the campsite we usually park at. When it gets dark, it is really hard trying to navigate the desert, the only source of light, is the car projectors and flashlights. My mate Pedi is really good at navigating the desert so after scouting a couple of sand dunes we finally find our spot. I ate a light dinner and without setting up my tent, thinking it’s a great idea to spend the night beside the campfire and look at stars while I try to sleep but sometimes things don’t go as planned. It has been windy, cloudy and no stars. I didn’t get a good night’s rest though.
It’s 7 a.m and the breakfast table is already set and I get on with the day. One of the amazing things about camping is a sense of community. It feels like you are living in a tribe, everybody needs to work in order for everyone to enjoy their time, so I had to help out with setting up the kitchen and also washing the dishes was part of my chores for today.
Usually washing dishes is not something you want to write about when writing a music blog but this is not an ordinary situation. Let me explain why. There is a well close to our campsite which all the herders and nomads bring their livestock to drink water from. That’s where we have to take the dirty dishes and wash them. When we get to the well very suddenly the weather starts to change, it’s windy with rain and lightning hitting down hard some distance away, which is amazing to look at from afar. I think I will remember this moment till the rest of my life, a lightning hits maybe 20 meters from us. The sound is horrific and really loud to a point that there’s a ring in my ear. It sounded like something is ripping. The first thing that comes to my mind is that I am holding an aluminum cooking pan in the middle of a desert and almost get electrocuted by a lightning.
This could be the most ridiculous way that someone could die.
Back at our campsite we realize very quickly that all the shades that we set up have been dismantled by the storm, so we set them back up and I think the sun only peeked at 4 p.m. We all think that the storm is over and how we can enjoy this beautiful scenery and go for a long hike.
I usually set about downloading all the promos to my phone and when I go for my hikes I listen to them and the sets I got for that week, sometimes I even listen to my own productions and take notes on what needs to be changed.
It is truly an amazing experience to get lost in nature and listen to good music.
At this point he mentions that his earliest influences came from dance music greats such as –
“My earliest favorite is Pink Floyd and my biggest influence when it comes to electronic music comes from Nick Warren, Sasha, Digweed and specially Hernan Cattaneo”.
Something magical happens and it’s a very meditative process for me. I always have my camera in my backpack and I try to capture these moments.
When I inquire as to when his love affair with photography began Navid is quick to recall –
“It all started with my mother, and her old school analog Canon camera which is amazingly cool, and I remember I got in to a lot of trouble messing around with it and burning her films trying to figure out how it all worked.
I purchased my first semiprofessional camera right before when I went backpacking around Europe and I remember I got my first long exposure picture at the beach in Portugal and I have been hooked since then. These experiences are very inspiring; it feels like you are on a high. That is how I charge my battery and I try to inhale this energy and exhale it in to my productions when I am back in the little mini studio I have setup in Tehran”.
After the hike back at our post the nights in a desert, are cold and dry, with not much wind, this evening though is an exact opposite. It is warm, humid and getting windy again. The storm starts again and a massive black cloud heading towards us. The sand dunes are maybe twenty meters higher than where we set up our tents and the black clouds exactly on top of the sand dunes, amazing to look at but at the same times a scary situation to be in. Although we get a 5 minutes head start to prepare for the second storm to reach our campground. It lasts for about an hour while I am hiding in the car knowing I have to get out soon checking the tent and if everyone is ok.
Sunday May 7th 2017
Back in Tehran the following day its now 9 a.m. Morning tea is a must. I check my emails and social media, and that’s when the real work starts. In order for me to balance my life of living like a nomad, a music producer and a part time photographer is the time I am in the city it is usually long hours of music production and editing photos, sometimes I don’t go out side of my apartment for days.
Last year was a year that I took on a lot of remixes, and this year I am trying to focus mostly on original music. I am currently waiting on a reply for an EP on one of my favorite labels, and after all these years it is still very exciting and the feeling never gets old. I don’t have much of a social life in the city I really don’t have time for that stuff.
There are no bars, or clubs and alcohol is forbidden by law, having said that there are loads of house parties all over Tehran and from what I know, no one bothers or complains in this regard as long as it’s your own house, you are free to do what you want.
Tehran is a complex city with a lot of layers, Iran’s art community is thriving and its just getting bigger and better, I truly believe that you can not put limitation on creativity even when they do, the artists will find ways to go around those limitations and that is clearly visible in the work of the people that are in the creative filed in Iran. We need to distinguish the people of a country from its government that’s the only way you can understand a country like Iran or perhaps all the countries around the world.
The future is bright for the self-confessed nomad and his music is slowly but surely working its way around the dance music circuit, and when I goad him to tell us of his upcoming work he is cryptic –
“I have a couple of releases and shows lined up, but I would rather keep them a secret for now”.
More of Navid Mehr’s fantastic photos:
Explore the Underground sound of Iran: