Roshi ft. Pars Radio is a joint project between Welsh-born, but now London-based singer-songwriter Roshi Nasehi, and electronic musician and percussionist Gagarin.

Roshi is of Iranian origins and her dreamy songs, a mixture of Persian folk songs and her own compositions, combine her delicate vocals with Gagarin’s electronics and keyboards to haunting effect. Gagarin is the moniker for Graham Dowdall, who has worked with Nico, John Cale and more recently Pere Ubu.

The pair have released both an album, ‘The Sky and the Caspian Sea’ (2009), and EP, ‘Mehragan’, together. They will be playing at the Penny Black Music Bands Night at the Half Moon in Herne Hill on March 24th.

We spoke to Roshi Nasehi about the influence of her upbringing on her music and Roshi ft. Pars Radio’s second album, which will out later this year.


PB: You are based in London, but were brought up in Wales and are of Iranian heritage. You music combines elements of Iranian folk with classical music, jazz, electronica and ambience. As someone who was brought up in two cultures, were your early influences predominantly Western or Eastern?

RN: On balance I probably had more exposure to Western music. I think the earliest music I can remember was the World Service theme tune, but Iranian music was always there too. Wales has a big singing culture and I remember singing daily as a small child in school. Songs encompassed Welsh folk songs, 80’s pop, and songs from musicals. I also remember hearing my parent’s old tapes of Iranian poetry, folk and pop music and later on my dad resuming playing traditional Iranian music on the violin, which is something from his childhood in Iran.

PB: You seem to have mixed feelings about Iran. Your interpretations of Iranian folk songs, while giving them a contemporary edge, are quite reverential, but your own songs, 'Night Swimming' and 'No Camels' reflect upon illegal female swimming trips in Iran under cover of darkness and very conflicting feelings during a flight home. Would it be correct to interpret your feelings about Iran as being like that?

PB: I'm not sure I view it that way. I'm obviously aware of the freedoms available to me as a singer-writer living and working in this country. I think also like many people whose parents were born abroad I went through a phase of more or less completely rejecting Iranian culture. I think it is especially complex for people whose country of origin is viewed in a predominantly negative way, and when there is ignorance etc to deal with (although even my friend whose parents come from Malta went through this process of rejecting and later embracing her cultural origins).

There was a point, when I'd left home, and, having realised that I didn't need to speak in Farsi or eat Iranian food if I didn't want to or to think about being Iranian in any way, found myself wanting to hold on to certain things that had been around me growing up. The fact that I would have to create these things for myself (e.g. making my own Iranian food, or my own Iranian New Year display) made me realize that I had inherited something which mattered to me.

When talking specifically about music, I remember a time in my teens when I claimed to hate hearing my dad play traditional Iranian violin music, but deep down I really liked it and with more confidence and maturity accepted that different didn't necessarily mean unbeautiful, eventually allowing the sounds around me to influence early compositions and gradually performing Iranian folk and pop songs in my own way.

PB: How do you and Graham write your songs together?

RN: In the past I would come to him with pieces that were already quite written, but in my mind had definite room for some of his atmospheric electronics. These days it's much more collaborative. I may show up with really very little and we will explore and develop the material together.

PB: You and Graham are currently working on a 67 minute live score to an old Mary Pickford silent film, 'Amailly of Clothes Line', which you will be playing at the Purcell Rooms in London on March 9th. What was the appeal to you of that film and why did you want to write a score for it?

RN: I was actually commissioned by Birds Eye View to write music for that film as part of the Southbank WOW festival and wider International Women's day events. I knew a little Mary Pickford already but not this film, which is a comedy. I'm very happy to have been offered it as I wasn't aware of it, and would never have thought of composing a score to it myself. It's a gem of a film.

I've obviously watched it many times now, but keep finding new things in it. The film is from 1918 ,and I think there's a real sense of transience in watching something as old as that. There's also a universality to the film. A sense that certain themes are still relevant now.

PB: It has been about a year since your last release, the 'Mehregan' EP. Will you be releasing that score or any other music this year?

RN: Graham and I are in the middle of recording another album and it's quite possible that some of ‘Amarilly’ may be included.

PB: Finally you are going to be playing the Penny Black Music Bands' Night on March 24th with Pete Fij and Terry Bickers, Last Harbour and the Owl Service, who will be playing their last ever show. What can we expect from you for that?

RN: I would like to use it as an opportunity to preview some of our new album which will come out later this year. I'm a fan of The Owl Service, and had the great pleasure of contributing to their ‘Pattern Beneath the Plough’ project. Their last ever show is going to a bittersweet not to be missed affair.

PB: Thank you.












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