Ata Ebtekar aka Sote (b. Hamburg, Germany) is an electronic music composer and sound artist based in Tehran, Iran.
In the past 20 plus years, his music has been published by various companies, such as Warp Records, Sub Rosa, Digitalis, Morphine, Sonic Arts Network plus others.
Global cultural exposure through transmigration has been a significant stimulant for his aesthetics. Sote’s goal is to create unique and timeless pieces of music that are not available anywhere except in his mind.
His compositions and multi-channel installations are sonic tales synchronously decoding and regenerating customary pattern of thought in nature; aural designs of crisis and harmony where contempo aligns with folklore, orchestrating an artificial saga with a variety of illuminations and analyses. His passion for all music especially, all forms of electronic music, and his extensive involvement in the sound art academia world, has led him to compose in a wide variety of musical styles with a strong emphasis in electro-acoustic techniques, microtonal systems and polyrhythmic motifs.
He has a firm conviction that rules and formulas must be deconstructed and rethought; hence he alters musical modal codes from their original tonality and rhythm (tradition) to achieve vivid synthetic soundscapes.
In order to accomplish dynamic expression on electronics, gesture and texture, he employs various synthesis languages and dsp techniques in a modular sound environment.
Ata ‘Sote’ Ebtekar believes that music is a cultural habit of sound and anti-sound (silence). Therefore, he generates music without a specific culture, which he believes to be “the other sound.”
For his recent performance at the Next Festival in Bratislava, Ata Ebtekar, aka Sote, was paired with the Slovak new media artist Stix for a mesmerising set where music and visuals perfectly complemented each other, a rare feat considering this was an ad hoc collaboration and the two only physically met on the night. The Next performance also provided the perfect occasion for a Sonic Close-Up with Sote in order to discuss his live approach. Following on from that Ata Ebtekar was kind enough to touch upon the current Iranian electronic scene.
I first came across your work on the Persian Electronic Music – Yesterday and Today 1966-2006 double CD on Sub Rosa. In that case, you were working on traditional structures in order to create something radically new.
At the time when I was making that kind of music, the idea was to make traditional and folk music but without using any traditional Persian instruments. Prior to that album, I did the Dastgaah album on Dielectric records / RLR, which had the same concept.
The thing with classical Iranian music is that there are a lot of rules, just like with any other classical music for that matter, but at that time I just wanted to make my own rules.
So I took the Dastgaah system and the Radif system, which are basically the Persian scales, together with a lot of very old Persian folk melodies, and just worked within an all electronic framework. I just did a lot of synthesis in order to see what I could come up with and basically to me, the end result was classical Persian musical, even if classical electronic Persian music. At the time there was no such thing and I just wanted to hear something like that, that’s why I was making it. Now, to me, that’s new culture, if you will, but if you talk to somebody who is a hardcore traditional classical musician they’re just going to laugh at you and say, “No way!” To me, the idea was, “What if a bunch of Iranian master musicians were taken hostage by extraterrestrial life and were put in a camp with state-of-the-art musical machines to teach improvisation to artificial intelligence?” The music of this album is the soundtrack to this scenario. So there were playful ideas behind it as well.
There have been a number or great releases in the last couple of years within ambient and electronic music from Iran, as you are currently based in Tehran, how would you describe the scene?
I think right now the experimental electronic scene in Tehran, or in Iran I should say, is pretty small, but it’s definitely happening. There are a lot of young talented artists involved in all sides of experimental electronic music. There is a group of people, that I am involved with, that tries to do lots of cultural stuff through an organization, with lectures, performances and an annual festival. The reception has been great, lots of things are happening and the future is bright. We are trying to find new talent, and nurture it. I have been saying this for the past few months, but I really think there is going to be a hub in the next five to ten years in Tehran. At present there are governmental restrictions in terms of electronic dance music, which has to stay underground, very underground because dancing in public is not allowed, and this also means that there no dance clubs or anything like that. In a strange way, I think, that for our scene, the experimental electronic music scene, this is a positive thing, because young people are probably going to be more drawn and see more opportunities within experimental electronic music which they have naturally more access to because of the things that are happening publicly, instead of putting themselves in a risky situation where they might go to an underground event and be arrested. But you know, Iranians are great art lovers, poetry lovers, and art and culture are a big thing in Iran. Because of this tradition and with what is happening with experimental electronic music, I believe that we have a bright future in front of us.