The genre-bending Persian/New Zealander artist CHAII express
CHAII was inspired to create the ‘Lightswitch’ trilogy after learning more about Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979. It resulted in countless creative talents, including musicians, actors and artists, relocating to California after their work was banned in their homeland. California remains the biggest Persian music community outside of Iran over forty years later.
CHAII commented: “I feel a strong connection to it as I’m from the new generation of Iranian immigrants that are doing music outside of Iran. When I initially travelled to Los Angeles to visit family I felt like I was in the perfect blend of Western and Persian cultural influences. Coming from New Zealand, where there’s a very small Persian community that you barely see or hear from, it was a total shock.
For the ‘Lightswitch’ trilogy I just had to go to California to film the videos because of the strong connection musically and culturally I had with the area. My music is a fusion of American hip-hop and Persian music so it was the perfect place with the right mood for this project.”
“‘Lightswitch’ is about wanting to see the raw realness in everything, being true to yourself and how obvious it is when people are fake. It’s also about the hard work I’ve done so far and it’s taken a minute to get here but at least I can have no guilt or regret about it down the line.
For the video, I wanted to show the different sides of L.A., from the humble neighbourhoods to the Hollywood Hills and Venice Beach. I find it crazy that you can be one street away from entering a totally different neighbourhood. The contrast and division was something I hadn’t seen anywhere before and I wanted to bike through all the different areas as a symbol of unity.”
“‘Nobody Know’ is a fun freestyle I did on one of my beats that I made with my friend Soraya LaPread. She added crazy killer sounds to the production. Soraya is half Persian so she’s always had a deeper understanding of my music.I had a few sessions with the legendary Sylvia Massy to re-track some vocals and add final touches of production. We played around with different vintage microphones and instruments in her studio to create the final sound. The highlight for me was recording my vocals through Sylvia’s lightbulb vocal chain. It gave the song the exact feel I was trying to go for.
I kept the video concept simple and playful. I wanted it to match the freestyle energy of the song. It plays with the idea of appearing and disappearing in the music scene, while leaving a mark. No-one gives a damn about trying to fit in these days, which is something I love about what’s happening right now.
“I was once told that the highs and low feelings in life are a reflection of your thoughts and subconscious – they are not real nor should we be aiming for them, the middle however is a state that is true and constant.
This song is a three-part journey of thoughts and emotions that I’ve experienced. From having negative thoughts of not being able to achieve your goals to people around you feeding you their fears. The second stage is accepting that there are highs and lows in life and finding that middle ground. The last part of the song is about constantly looking to move forward in life, and being able to overcome people who tell you that you can’t achieve something.
I edited the video myself as I wanted it to be a true reflection of those feelings.”