23 December 2003
Iranian DJ Brings Persian Influence to Washington Night Scene
Dariush Rateshtari wins over diverse crowds in U.S. capital
By Armond Caglar
Washington -- Dariush Rateshtari made his last-minute preparations and final sound checks, then pressed the button on his elaborate stereo-system soundboard that would trigger the start of the night.
Euphonious rhythmic beats began to surge, reverberating throughout Diva Nightclub just blocks from the White House in downtown Washington, D.C. During a performance here recently, Rateshtari, or DJ Dariush, as he is called, did not have to ask the mixed Persian and American crowd if his style of dance music was resonating. Their enthusiastic response said it all.
"The most important thing for me is the quality of music and the good performance," said Rateshtari, 32, who moved to the United States in 1999. He has been honing his skills as a DJ since his teenage years growing up in Teheran. "My unique approach to this work includes quality sound and light systems and huge archives and diversity of music," he said. "This has set me apart from my competition."
While Rateshtari's style is heavily Persian-influenced -- about 90 percent of his albums are Persian -- he has the ability to adapt to the wishes and tastes of various audiences. His repertoire embraces popular ethnic and international beats, including trance, techno, Arabic, Latino, and Indian as well as musical favorites that typical American club-goers would enjoy, such as American-style rap, hip-hop, and rock-and-roll. "I love most kinds of music," he says.
This unique approach brings Rateshtari a diverse clientele. In addition to blending Persian and international styles in the dance clubs in the metropolitan Washington area, he frequently performs for ethnic groups such as Indians, Turks, Arabs, and others who contract him for smaller, often family-oriented events, such as weddings, birthdays, and other celebrations. In the end, however, regardless of the size and type of event, the end result is typically the same: people dancing.
Born and raised in Teheran in a Zoroastrian family, Rateshtari was introduced to music at an early age. As a teenager, he listened to Voice of America radio broadcasts which nurtured a growing interest in music as well as life in the United States. He began to gain an appreciation for other forms of art as well, including painting and graphic design.
"I used to listen to Voice of America every night and every night usually around 9:15pm they would play one song," Rateshtari explained. "That was the only way for me to find out which singer had a new song and soon I began to archive all of the Persian and international music they were playing. I was so into music."
But it did not end there. Just as his musical library grew, Rateshtari began to receive requests from his friends asking him if he could serve as a DJ for their family events and house parties. Soon, word spread among Teheran's greater Zoroastrian community that Rateshtari, with his musical tastes and advanced equipment, was the most qualified to perform at any event that required musical entertainment, especially weddings.
"The Zoroastrians had three places for weddings in Teheran and soon I became the official DJ at all the Zoroastrian weddings. That was the beginning of my DJ career," he said.
After graduating with a degree in Geology from Teheran University in 1994, Rateshtari still felt an unfulfilled interest in the arts. With more time to spend on hobbies, he decided to enroll at the Teheran Technical School where he began to study design and computer graphics. As time passed, he became interested in relocating to America to pursue his interests in graphic design and music.
"I wanted to move to a place that was more compatible with my way of thinking," Rateshtari said. "I believe that we all have one life and that we live on this planet only once. I just wanted to live free."
Eventually, when the opportunity presented itself, Rateshtari moved to the United States, leaving some of his family behind but also following in the footsteps of his sister, who had left Iran three years earlier.
Moving to the Washington, D.C. area, Rateshtari enrolled at Montgomery County College, a local community college, and took courses in graphic design while expanding his skills as a DJ. Although he considers it to be a part-time job only -- a lucrative hobby -- he has invested considerably in ensuring the technical equipment he carries is the best. He has spent thousands of dollars on high-watt speakers, power amplifiers, lights, sub-woofers, and mixers.
Rateshtari, who is well on his way on becoming an American citizen, says there can be difficult aspects to this line of work. He says it depends largely on the audience. If the event is small, and the majority of people are elderly, Rateshtari says it can be difficult to pick the right mix of songs that will keep them dancing.
Larger events sometimes have their drawbacks as well. Once during a New Year's Eve performance, Rateshtari recalled having to continually mix the music for seven hours straight without the benefit of another DJ to back him up. Difficult as it may be, it is all part of the job, however.
He says most of the Americans who come to his events enjoy his blend of international and Persian-influenced music, such as Bandari, which is a rhythmic type of dance music traditionally played at celebrations. The music is named after a dialect spoken in southern Iran.
"Most of the Americans who come to my events like Iranian music," Rateshtari says. He also says the types of Americans who typically listen to pop or rap, "would probably be more likely to listen to Persian music."
But words alone may not be enough to describe his DJ style and music. For as the aphorism on his website accurately elucidates, "When words are at a loss, the music delivers."
For more information on DJ Dariush, visit www.djdariush.com
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)