Balance Music celebrates its release of second part from the Berlin based Iranian DJ, producer, mix engineer and Ubersee Music label boss, Namito’s, cutting-edge, autobiographical album series.
‘Leaving Everything Behind’ the prequel to his number one selling album ‘Letting Go‘, tells the story of his earliest memories growing up in Iran, right from revolution to war, to the day he was evacuated to Berlin on his own, at the age of 13.
This playful, bittersweet tale, from the rapidly rising Berliner, is yet another masterful display of Namito’s unique ability to tell stories through music, literature and art.
His long ascendance to relevancy was finally confirmed, when ‘Letting Go’, hit the number one spot on Beatport, towards the end of 2018. The album picked up the story of when the young Iranian arrived in Berlin as a refugee, fleeing war and revolution in his home country, to later witness the tumultuous end of the Soviet Union unfold, right before his eyes.
Namito found electronic music when fleeing his adopted family, to join the Osho cult, where he lived in a commune and learned to DJ at its on-site disco, and then soon found himself producing techno.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, his skills in the booth were rewarded with a residency at legendary techno institution ‘Tresor’. He later scored a string of other high profile residencies and went on to tour the world, releasing a number of full-length albums, collaborating with some of the world’s best producers, whilst also notching up releases on electronic music’s most elite imprints like ‘Kompakt’, ‘Systematic Recordings’ and ‘Kling Klong’.
The lead single from the album, ‘Letting Go’ a collaboration with Ruede Hagelstein, was widely regarded as one of last year’s best tracks, with Joris Voorn, Guy J, Adriatique, and Bebetta, all featuring it in their charts.
Namito continues to go from strength-to-strength, with his latest deep, tribal production, paying tribute to Persian tradition, ‘Stone Flower’, hitting number 1 on Beatport, just two days following its release and staying in the top 10 for over 18 weeks.
More recently, his collaboration with Manaa, ‘Covert Affection‘ the first single taken from his of new album ‘Leaving Everything Behind’, tells the story of dealing with the taboo of the unexplained and forbidden feelings in his culture, that he’d developed for a girl in his class.
In the sometimes fraught and existential moments that can permeate the life of an artist, it’s helpful to hear from people like Namito, an incredibly light-spirited person, who has turned his struggle into art. When you cross into unfamiliar territory, it is a time of mourning, loss and fear, Namito reminds us that there is room for optimism in the throes of chaos and despair.
1. Caroussel Of Recollection
2. Bullet in the Heart feat. Manaa
3. Kerosene Lamp feat. Hubert Watt
4. Forbidden Games
6. Doostan Park
7. Mirage and the Moonshine
8. Decisions made feat. Manaa
9. Covert Affection feat. Manaa
10. Leaving Everything Behind
1. Caroussel Of Recollection
My first recollections of my childhood are connected to our apartment in the northern part of Tehran called “Saferanye”. The building was kind of weird as who ever built it had the idea to include colourful broken glass bottles in the facade. I remember how intriguing it appeared to me. The flat was in the third floor, pretty dark and my mother ran a small private hairdresser shop in there. The images of my mom colouring the hairs of older ladies in pink, blue and green – as it was the en vogue then – are still stuck in my head. Another outstanding memory was when I saw snow flakes outside of the window for the first time. Yes, it snows in Tehran and back then it snowed so much sometimes that schools and authorities were forced to close. As school kids it we used to pray for heavy snow fall so that we could go to the park and have a snowball fight or play football instead of sitting in the class room. My life didn’t know any worries but then things started to change…
“WHAT IF YOUR MOTHER RAN A SMALL, PRIVATE HAIRDRESSER INSIDE THE APARTMENT WHERE YOU RECOLLECTED YOUR FIRST MEMORIES? AND DID YOU KNOW IT SNOWS IN TEHRAN?”
2. Bullet in The Heart
I do not remember if it snowed in the winter of 1979. The uprising against the Shah of Iran was such a massive event that it faded almost all other memories away. But not all of them. One of those days the vibe was even more worrying. My parents were more restless than usual and the reason was that one of my uncles had not returned home since the night before. Hossein, a successful and non-political architect had visited a relative and then left before curfew to go home to his parents so they are not alone in those critical times but never actually got there.
My parents left me, being the youngest with my two sisters Marjan and Mojgan (I was seven years old, Marjan 5 and Mojgan 10 years older than me) and went on a search mission of all police stations and hospitals of the big city, which was a risky task itself. The atmosphere in our home was full of concern and fear. In the background one could hear the sound of the revolution, people chanting here, helicopters there and a few scattered gun shots. At least in my ears they sounded like that.
After a long while that felt like an eternity my parents came back in company with Khalil, the last person who had seen my uncle. The moment I saw the impression on my moms face I knew that the sense of mischief all the time was right. She looked at my oldest sister Mojgan and shook her head, tears coming down her face. I will never forget Mojgan’s high pitch scream the moment she realised we would never again see our beloved uncle. Everybody started to cry except me. I was seven years old and could not process the information fully. My sisters wanted to know what had happened and my mom explained that his car has got in the middle of a shooting and he got hit by a random bullet in the heart. Apparently he died right away. I didn’t cry for my uncle, not when I heard the horrible news of his death, not during the ceremonies held for him and also not during the funeral. There simply were no tears and for years I carried a deep feeling of guilt for that. The tears came suddenly out 8-9 years later, when I was alone in my room in Berlin.
In one of the Ceremonies held in memory of my uncle there was one guy that I never had seen before who in detail explained how a bullet enters the body and how it tears apart the organs and tissues. I was shocked how impious someone could be to talk about such a subject in times like that. After the funeral in the huge central cemetery of Tehran my parents decided to fill the gap that the death of Hossein had left in the huge house of my grandparents and we moved from our apartment in the north of the city to my grandparents house in the Doostan Street.
“WHAT IF A CAR GETS CAUGHT INBETWEEN A SHOOTING BETWEEN REVOLUTIONARIES AND THE ARMY, A BULLET ENTERS THE BACK DOOR OF THE BORDEAUX RED BMW OF YOUR UNCLE, GETS DIVERTED TO THE PASSENGER SEAT AND STOPS IN THE HEART OF YOUR UNCLE?”
3. Kerosene Lamp
The situation in the country deteriorated day by day, food shortage and electricity failures were often the case. One of the most vivid images of that era is how we ate the same dish for two weeks in the light of a kerosene lamp. The dish was made of dill rice and conserved Tuna with lime juice. Believe it or not but it tasted every single time amazing. The electric grid failures and the shine of the Kerosene lamps shall become silent companions of my childhood and later of part of my youth. Right after the revolution Saddam Hussein, backed by the rest of the world, attacked Iran and every time their bombers attacked Tehran the city went black.
Back then without GPS they could not find their targets and dropped their bombs randomly over the city. The first time you witness bombardments you will never forget. In our case that lights went off and we all ran downstairs to the basement that was supposed to offer more protection. Sitting in the dark with candles in a metropole that suddenly seemed paralysed. The silence was unreal. Then suddenly one could hear a very remote muffled impact, the next one was already louder and clearer. With each explosion the sound got scarier to the point that we could feel a vibration. And then the sound started to go further and further away.
The first night we didn’t dare to look out of the cellar window. After a few times we didn’t even bother to go downstairs anymore. It was like lottery, if the hit the house it was even better not to be in the cellar. The only thing we did was to put X shaped duct tapes on all windows. The reason was that the Iraqi fighters had the nasty habit to break the sonic barrier after they had dropped their deadly packets. Without the tapes on the window the shock wave made the glass implode into house and many people died by the razor-sharp shards.
“WHAT IF IT BECOMES BUSINESS AS USUAL TO SIT IN THE DARK EVERY NIGHT BECAUSE THE LIGHTS GO OFF DUE TO POWER SHORTAGE? DO YOU GET USED TO THE SMELL OF KEROSENE LAMP?”
4. Forbidden Games
War became part of our life as much the aftermath of the revolution. The revolutionary guards implemented the new laws with an iron fist. At the beginning women still had a choice whether they want to wear the hijab or not but once the Islamic Republic of Iran was announced there was no more choice anymore. There were several groups now that patrolled the streets searching for counter revolutionary elements. The list of things not allowed was long: violations of the hijab law, alcohol, drugs, pornography (including Western fashion magazines), political activities, gambling and more. To our astonishment the list of forbidden games included the national pride game Backgammon, popular card games that didn’t include money and even Chess. The reason for chess was the figures of the King and Queen in the game. It was so serious that everybody hid their game boards and cards in case of random house raids. I even remember that we once sat down and teared all images of women out of the fashions magazines of my German aunt Alenka. A few years after the revolution the laws changed and you could freely purchase Backgammon and Chess boards in the markets of the country.
“WHAT IF THE ROYAL FAMILY OF A COUNTRY GETS OVERTHROWN AND THE NEW FOLKS IN POWER DECIDE THAT GAMBLING AND GAME INCLUDING A KING AND QUEEN IS FORBIDDEN? WOULD YOU STOP PLAYING?”
Our new home was a typical two store Tehran house with big rooms, beautiful white marble walls that had tiny golden stripes when it rained, a patio full of green plants, a massive garden full of fruit trees and rose garden. It was a haven of sanity in the middle of the madness that was surrounding us. My Grandparents lived in the upper floor and left the bigger ground floor to us. There was a gigantic living room with big Persian rugs, a massive dinning table and furniture to host around 20 people. The terrace was so big that I later learned skate boarding there. I loved it when before my uncles death the entire family gathered, cooked different dishes and then we all sat on the terrace, ate and had Persian tea, played Backgammon and the grown ups told jokes. These memories are among the most beautiful I have in my whole life as they show cased a life without worry and with a lot of happiness. I spent many, many hours exploring the garden, whenever our guard dog Nicki wasn’t around. I could totally escape reality and play with imaginary mates. In the summer I climbed up the cherry tree and literally pick the best cherries and eat them. I have never had better cherries in my life. The walnut tree was bigger challenge that I mastered later when I was older. Besides that we had pomegranates, grapes, khakis and figs.
Still, it was the patio in particular that fascinated me most. It was in the centre of the house, right at the dining room, had a see-through plastic roof and was humid. I remember frogs making their typical noises. In my fantasy I expected exotic snakes behind the leaves and small monkeys on the branches of the two bigger trees. The house was a paradise for a child in my age.
“WHAT IF THE HOUSE YOU MOVE IN TO IN A DRY, HOT CITY HAD A GARDEN FULL OF DIFFERENT FRUIT TREES? AND GREEN PATIO FULL OF HUMIDITY IN THE MIDDLE OF THE HOUSE? WOULD YOUR IMAGINATION GO WILD?”
6. Doostan Park
The Doostan Street and four other little streets all ended in a small valley with unexploited land. All the neighbours, old or young knew each other by their names and my grand father was some sort of a respect person. The respect went so far that one day he asked me why I was not playing football on the street with the other kids and I told him they never pick me for their team. He took my hand and walked over to the boulevard where the boys were kicking and told them that from now on I had to be part of the game. Even though I was much younger than most of them promised him to do so and kept their word. I bet they hated it to be told what to do but I was very proud to have such an influential man behind me.
One weekend the entire neighbourhood of all four streets that ended in the valley decided to turn the wasteland into a green park called Doostan Park. They had privately collected money and organised all the necessary machines, tools and food and beverages for the voluntaries. Everybody, no matter what age or gender got involved and by the end of the weekend we had a beautiful Park full of new planted trees and a tarmac football field so the kids didn’t have to play on the street. The tarmac field had to shrink dramatically very soon as it attracted motorbike gangs and thugs that took over the space poisoning the atmosphere. We ended up playing on the street again, going to the side when cars drove by. But the trees grew year by year and the park is now an insider’s tip for young couples that need a bit of privacy in the middle of the conservative society.
One remarkable and thrilling experience was the knocking down of a wall that the owners of the half built mosque had installed in the middle of the park. They generally didn’t like the fact that people had a good time besides praying. Again all neighbours gathered in the protection of the darkness of the night and teared down the wall with their bare hands. It was a high risk as the moral police could have arrested people but not the entire hood. Until I left Iran they didn’t finish the mosque.
“WHAT IF ALL THE NEIGHBOURS IN YOUR HOOD IN TEHRAN CAME TOGETHER TO TURN A PIECE OF WASTELAND INTO A PROSPEROUS PARK THAT DECADES LATER BECOMES AN INSIDER TIP FOR YOUNG COUPLES?”
7. Mirage In The Moonshine
Our park became the centre of my activities and I spent every single minute possible out there with my new friends. After a few weeks I knew and appreciated a bunch of wild kids, mostly boys. It was there, when I first heard that Iraq had attacked Iran. The air seemed electrified and all the boys were almost excited. Back then in Iran there was only one TV channel and after the revolution the only morally safe content they had in their archives were second world war movies, in which usually there were no women. (I remember that they aired Hollywood movies and “covered” the breast of the actress frame by frame with a pen. In the beginning we had to laugh but later they didn’t put so much effort into the censorship and just cut out the entire scene which made movies rather a quiz than a story with huge gaps in the story line).
Now that our homeland was under attack the kids decided that the least we could do to protect our wounded was to set up traps for the Iraqi paratroops. On one side of the park there were old trees and we started to dig deep holes, sharpened old, dry tree branches and embed them in the earth. After that we covered the traps with old leaves. As it was autumn we had unlimited access to those. After a few weeks we realised that we had misjudged the situation. The Iraqis just dropped bombs over Tehran. Our city was too far away from the border to send paratroopers. Our conclusions were not only wrong, they became a danger for the other children playing in the woods so we started dismantling our already collapsing defence line.
It must have been a few years into the war when I one night heard the sirens that warned the population one minute before the bombers reached the city that suddenly all lights went black and as I didn’t have enough time anymore to find a shelter I just laid done on the floor looking at the sky. And there it was suddenly, a Mirage in the moonshine. The famous French fighter was one of the most advanced war planes at that time and had a unique shape that was absolutely distinctive and which I knew from the quartet games about planes. Maybe it is strange to say this but even though it was the enemy’s war plane dropping bombs over our heads, in that moment in the moonshine and between the scattered clouds it looked absolutely beautiful.
“WHAT IF YOU PLAYED IN THE PARK AND SUDDENLY YOUR HEAR THE NOTORIOUS SIRENS WARNING OF AN IMMINENT ATTACK AND YOU LOOK UP AND SEE A MIRAGE BOMBER FLYING IN THE MOONSHINE WITH THE AIM TO DROP IT’S DEADLY LOAD ON YOUR CITY?”
8. Decisions Made
Fast forward to 1985. The war was already going on for five years and part of our reality. The summer holidays were the perfect break from my declining grades at school. Most of the family had left Iran already spread all over Europe. I missed them very badly, especially my two cousins Kambiz & Kamran. Somehow It felt weird that our family was the only ones that stayed back, but then we didn’t have the money to move away and it was impossible to get visas. The international community had imposed heavy sanctions on the country after the Iran hostage crisis, where angry revolutionary forces had taken the US embassy staff hostage for 444 days, accusing them of espionage. I didn’t even have a passport and the idea of moving to the West seemed as far away as flying to the moon. My uncle Hassan visited us that summer. I loved it when he visited us, he was some sort of a super hero for me. He had always suit cases full of gifts for us, from modern NIKE shoes to Hubba Bubba chewing gums and he was totally different with us kids. He would lock us up in a room and then we would attack him from all sides and get some heavy beating and WE LOVED IT. It was so much fun and we didn’t want it to end.
I was on the walnut tree one day when my uncle climbed up the tree and started helping me picking the walnuts. Out of the sudden he asked me: “Would you like to live in Germany?” My answer was a fast and simple “No!”. He got upset and left again without saying anything. I was confused, why would he ask such a stupid question knowing it was near to impossible for all of us to leave? I didn’t overthink the whole thing and went on with my daily business. A bit later my mom called me to her room. She had the facial impression that didn’t accept any contradiction. “I have to talk to you: you are moving to Germany next week”, she said. According to my mom my lips turned white and I tried to convince her that it was a bad idea. She told me that I had no option and also that I had to keep quite about it to avoid trouble leaving the country. My parents had made arrangements with my uncle, who offered to take care of me in West-Germany and spend a lot of money for getting the passport and even more for one of the rare available tickets leaving the country. They had their decisions made without consulting the person that had to live with the consequences. Not knowing about all the little secrets I had.
“WHAT IF YOU HAD NO IDEA THAT YOU HAD TO LEAVE YOUR COUNTRY WITHOUT YOUR FAMILY AND THAT DECISION WAS MADE WITHOUT CONSULTING YOU? HOW WOULD YOU REACT?”
09. Covert Affection
I was in a shock state after the short conversation with my mother, not able to digest that they were sending me away alone. As a thirteen years old boy you don’t understand that the only reason for parents to take such a dramatic step is out of pure love and selflessness. You feel rejected. I didn’t care about war, it’s annoying side effects and really didn’t want to leave all my friends behind. Beside thats there was one thing not a single soul knew: my covert affection for a girl that visited the painting class I also visited. I feel extremely crappy but I don’t remember her name anymore and even the memory of her image is kind of blurry. But I remember that she had extremely white skin for an Iranian girl, pitch black silky hair and was a bit curvy, always putting red lipsticks on her full lips. At the beginning I was too young to see her beauty but after one, two years things changed. I started to feel a sensation in my belly every time I saw her and had to control myself not to stare at her the whole time during the lessons. Especially because my sisters sat at the same table. In Iran sexuality is a taboo, till today. Nobody really prepares you for the changes that happen suddenly hitting you hard when the time has come. Even my closest friend had no clue of my clandestine feelings. And now I knew I would leave in one week, not knowing if I ever would return. It is not easy to describe what I went through at that time. For adults this might be peanuts but for me it felt like the end of the world. And now after all these years, when I recall the events that followed, it was the end of my world as I knew it.
“WHAT IF YOU LIVED IN A COUNTRY WHERE SEXUALITY IS A BIG TABOO AND NOBODY PREPARES YOU FOR THE CHALLENGES THAT COME UP WITH IT? WHAT IF YOU HAD TO HIDE YOUR FEELINGS FOR SOMEONE AND KEEP THEM ONLY FOR YOURSELF?”
10. Leaving Everything Behind
The entire last week before I had to leave I was numb. I was trying to think of something to avoid being sent away but I deep inside I knew my mom would not change her mind. The days passed by way too fast and the vibe in the house was kind of melancholic but nobody talked about the subject. I tried to spend as much time as possible with my close friends Korosh, Arash and Hootan… It was very difficult not to tell them the truth as my mother had instructed me. At one point I could not keep my secret anymore and told them what was happening. I knew none of them would do anything stupid and needed to get the heady weight off my chest for a little while. Even though they didn’t like the idea of their friend leaving everything behind they tried to point out the positive effects for me: free choice of music, beautiful German girls, a modern society and no more war. We decided to enjoy the last days as much as possible and not think about the rest. It was a great idea but it didn’t work, the imminent departure was a dark cloud following us everywhere.
And then there it was, time to say goodbye. Words can’t express the heaviness of that moment. We hugged each other and tried to avoid tears. My closest friend Hootan asked me for a favour: To have a final turn in the Doostan Boulevard where we played football a last time before in the morning before heading to the Airport and I promised.
The whole night I was so sad I could not sleep and early in the morning the whole family came together to wish me a safe travel and to ensure me that everything is going to be fine. My sister Marjan cried a lot, my Grandmother that I loved to bits gave me one of her heartwarming hugs that always calmed me down. She smelled like paradise and I didn’t want to leave the safety of her arms. My father was kind of silent and my mom rather super strong and firm. It was time to leave. I asked her if it was possible to have a final turn around the boulevard and she looked at me and agreed. As we drove by I suddenly saw my dear friend Hootan sitting at 6 a.m. on the side of the road and we waved goodbye a last time. It was thirty years later when I spoke to Hootan again and haven’t seen him since then ever again.
At the Airport I could not hold back my tears anymore, my father tried to keep his tears back but he also could not help himself anymore and started to tell my mom, that it is not too late, we still could just go back home and stop this nonsense. She told him in a very rough tone not to undermine my morals and in a polite way basically to shut up. She was the boss and he didn’t talk anymore. We waited a bit for a friend of a friend of a friend that was supposed to company me to Germany. He showed up and I was rather disconcerted when I saw him. He looked like a bad mafia guy from old black & white movies, had a very thin moustache and wore a white, creased suit. My parents thanked him a million times for the support and it went back and forth with the typical Persian phrases. Now it was time to leave for good that my mom also started crying and promised me that everything will be fine and that she would come very soon to see me. My heart ached like never before. The dude singled that it is time to catch the plane and we left. I had a tunnel view and it felt like sleepwalking. We went through the customs, where they back then also checked your luggage precisely also when you left the country. After Passport Control we boarded the gigantic Iran Air 747 and I just wanted the plane to take off. But it didn’t. For three hours, with doors open in the mid August heat, no drinks and food served we waited for a government official to finally honour us with his presence. By the time he arrived I was so thirsty and hungry I had forgotten all my sorrow and just wanted the plane to take off so we can get some cool air from the air conditioning, drinks and food.
“WHAT IF YOU WERE A TEENAGER AND LEFT YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS NOT KNOWING IF YOU EVER WOULD SEE THEM AGAIN?”