Keeping up with the Iranians
پا به پای ایرانی‌ها

Shortly after the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the new leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, banned music in Iran, equating it to opium. Consequently, many artists relocated to Los Angeles to find new ways of making a living and pursuing their artistry in exile without the previously provided governmental support. This often happened through recordings or concerts of the musical genre dāmbuli dimbol since it was what people would dance to at mehmooni (a social gathering by invitation to someone’s home, e.g., dinner, dance party, celebration, etc.). It is a fugitive culture of dance, music, and joy, which has long been discredited by intellectuals, Marxists, Islamists, and Westerners as apolitical and poisoned art. However, through illegal sound distribution, it found its way back to Iran and resurfaced in the domestic sphere as mainstream culture. Repression has made this music the signifier of secret collectivity and freedom—a catalyst for realizing dreams.

The performance and exhibition Keeping Up with the Iranians emerge from this music history by reconstructing a mehmooni starring world-famous singers Setareh and Poupak, number one charting pianist Fereshteh, and renowned choreographer Dancing Dina, visiting all the way from Los Angeles, California. To the rhythm of dāmbuli dimbol songs, they invite the audience to an unforgettable evening of dance, music, cake, and joy. The leftovers of the performance are then what becomes this exhibition; video documentation of the performances recorded by the audience itself, stale cake, the paper plates I Have a Heart, I Have a Stomach, the New York Times best-selling book Keeping up with the Iranians, and last but not least the overhanging question: a girl can leave Iran, but can Iran leave a girl the fuck alone?

Concept: Afrang Nordlöf Malekian
Co-produced, performers: Mia Herman, Sepideh Khodarahmi, Afrang Nordlöf Malekian, Edwin Safari
Graphic design: Agga Stage
Host: Samuel Girma
Poster photographer: Jean-Baptiste Béranger
Event photographer: Malin LQ
Singer & songwriter of Bous El Wawa: Nour Helou
Baker: Nour Helou
Driver: Poya Livälven
Interlocutor: Mehregan Meysami
Light and sound technician: Astrid Braide Eriksson