nadia tehran is the swedish-iranian musician calling for a world without borders

Her debut EP is a powerful statement on race and immigration.

by Frankie Dunn
11 February 2017, 4:10am

Nadia Tehran was brought up in a small lakeside town in Sweden called Jönköping, but she never felt at home there. Despite having childhood dreams of becoming an astronaut, she settled on music, influenced by the Persian music like Googoosh, Ebi and Darioush that she was raised on, as well as the likes of Prince and Michael Jackson. With the same management as Yung Lean, she put out her debut EP Life Is Cheap, Death Is Free at the end of last year featuring production from her friend Yung Gud. 

Informed by her background, lead single Refugee is about the stereotype of the 'dangerous immigrant' who comes from a scary far away place. Having felt like a stranger both in Sweden and Iran, she decided to go back to her motherland with her father to illegally shoot the stunning visual as a glimpse into her heritage. The follow up, Superstars, is about what happens next, when the struggle is over, you've made it to another country and you have to attempt to blend in.

Like a next generation M.I.A, Nadia is bold, unafraid and inspired by the people she meets as she explores new cultures and societies - enjoying her changing environment. She had planned to move to New York this spring but due to the current political situation, and the fact that she is a dual citizen of Sweden and Iran, finds herself unable to. As she explains via a documentary in collaboration with Smirnoff, music is her way of bringing cultures together; she believes in openness, it's a part of who she is and without a doubt the best way to be.

Hi Nadia. In what ways do you feel you are shaped by your different cultural identities?
When I was younger I used to feel like it was a clash, like two incompatible worlds colliding. I didn't know how to identify and was constantly battling between being too Swedish in an Iranian family and not Swedish enough in a small minded western society. I used to argue a lot with both my parents and my teachers, questioning every authority who wanted me to be in a certain way, and I hated it. That feeling of always being a stranger, a misfit, really shaped my views on things. In many ways I still carry the scars of those battles with me, and that feeling of not belonging never left me. Although, it made me stronger and it shaped who I am today. As I'm growing up I can choose my own path, and I don't need to listen to people telling me how I should live my life. It's easier for me now to take the things that I love from each culture and combine them however I want. I really feel that this access to these different cultures enriches my life. I can't believe I spent half my youth hating my roots. That's what racism does to you.

How did you link up with YEAR0001?
We've all been hanging out around the Stockholm club scene and I've known Oskar and Emilio for a couple of years. I spent the past two years dealing myself out of a contract with my old label, and as soon as I was out we started working together. The whole YEAR0001 family have been really supportive of me and my music, really pushing me to go forward with what I want to do.

What producers are you working with?
On the EP Life is Cheap, Death is Free I worked with a lot of different producers, including Yung Gud, Duvchi, Franz Novotny and Tim Söderström. Some of them will probably reappear on the album. Patrick Alvarsson is a good friend of mine who I have been writing music with since way back. He's the main producer on the album right now, but I like to mix it up and work with different people, get different perspectives. Since my sound still is so explorative I'm very open to work with new producers. So if you're making beats, hit me ok?

Which other artists in the Stockholm scene are impressing you right now?
Obviously the YEAR0001 fam is killing the game. Yung Lean, Gud, Viagra Boys, and I'm honestly not saying this just because they're my friends, I really feel that way.

Can you tell us more about the concept of the video for Refugee?
I wanted to make a video about stereotypes, a comment to the prejudices that I've experienced my whole life. The idea was to ironise the image of the 'dangerous immigrant' who came from this scary place far away, to take your job and marry your wife. I also wanted the video to reflect my feeling of being as much of a stranger there as I am here. It was a combat against both worlds, the Iranian regime who wants girls like me to shut up and sit down, and the western world's paranoia making suspects out of people based on race.

My father and I went to Iran and filmed the video together. We basically walked around in Tehran and Mashhad and did quick takes before anyone would notice what we were doing. I had so much fun. It got quite heated a couple of times, when we had to run from authorities, but the more they tried to stop me, the more I realised how much I needed to make this film.

What did you take from the experience?
The best part of making the video was hanging out with my dad and my cousins. Doing this project together led us to talk about things we never talked about before, I feel like I got to know them on a new level. Mine and my dad's relationship grew so much from that trip.

The world isn't looking great right now. What are your hopes for 2017?
I'm really hoping that 2017 will be the year of ORGANISATION. We need to start focusing our energy towards the things that we want, and stop wasting our time fighting against what we don't want. I believe that we can make a change if we engage and organise, or donate money to organisations that fight for what we believe in. It is important, we need to wake up and realise that we are the people and we make the rules.

What is your greatest ambition?
I want a world without nations and I want the power to be free.

yung lean
Nadia Tehran