Disco Tehran merges music, community and design through its world-wide parties and collaborations
Founded by Arya Ghavamian and Mani Nilchiani, the collective prides itself on collaborations with artists across the world, as well as a good party.
- Ayla Angelos
- 6 May 2022
There’s more to Disco Tehran than a good disco. First and foremost, it’s a collective run by two Iranian artists, Arya Ghavamian and Mani Nilchiani, who met in 2014 while working on a feature film; Arya sent a “random” message on Facebook asking Mani to meet and talk about a film he’d been shooting. Second of all, it’s a dance party and live performance project that connects the dance floors in New York and the world to 1970s cosmopolitan venues in Iran’s capital. “These parties are a connection to a long forgotten underground disco scene in Iran presented as a parallel universe re-emergence of what they could have been, had they not been destroyed by the revolution in 1979,” Arya tells It’s Nice That.
The first iterations of Disco Tehran arose in the shape of private concerts, organised in Arya’s “tiny” NYC apartment where he’d cook Iranian food and invite both artists and friends over. Meanwhile, Mani would play the music. “In 2018,” adds Mani, “we took the party to the public to celebrate Nowrouz (celebrations of Iranian new year and the arrival of spring) with the people of NYC.” Ever since, the parties have been floor-fillers – sold out across the world with appearances from bands hailing from Latin America and Africa, plus DJs from Europe and Asia. It’s a celebratory fusion of people, music and place, where people of all walks of life come to dance, to revel in the party and, most imperatively, to make memories.
Its foundations are therefore deeply rooted in music and community, not least the fact they want to bring people together to have a good boogie. And, aesthetically talking, the 70s is the design element that ties it all together. Both founders are highly influenced by the arts movements from that era, especially that which emerged from Iran. As such, when they work on a project, the pair think of the art and people who made it “not as sources of emulation but as an inspiration for work coming from the memory of an era where everything seemed possible,” explains Arya. This means that collaborations are of key importance to the making of Disco Tehran, and oftentimes, they’ll work with different artists to broaden their horizons. They refer to them as their “family of artists” who each help to create “amazing experiences both for us and for our family of audiences who come to our shows”, Mani adds.
A recent endeavour is an oral history project devised in 2021, that involved collecting family stories of immigration in collaboration with Fisk Projects. The work premiered at MoMa PS1 with a mixtape, combing visuals with sound to create an utterly immersive experience. The pair describe the process of receiving immigration stories as being “touching”, with tales coming from in from India, Iran to Colombia. Showing the diversity of its output, the team are creating a new oral history project in which they’ve collected family satires from Nowrouz. “With Nowrouz being an ancient and multicultural celebration,” says Arya, “we are now seeing story submissions that far surpass national borders, and span various ethnic and linguistic backgrounds; a unison in celebration.”
So, if your bones haven’t already started tingling at the thought of going for a dance, then we’re sure they’ll start grooving and jiving once you hear of the duo’s future plans. Not only is Disco Tehran launching a cinema project entitled Cinema Tehran, it’s also booked in a world tour. Time to boogie!
Copyright © Disco Tehran, 2022
About the Author
Ayla is currently covering Jenny as It’s Nice That’s online editor. She has spent nearly a decade as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.