Photo: Yoshitoshi Records
PREMIERE: Sharam Debuts "Exodus" Mix Featuring James Baldwin
At Coachella 2019, GRAMMY-winning house legends Deep Dish, consisting of Iranian DJ/producers Sharam and Dubfire, reunited for a set in the Sahara tent. During Weekend Two, they played Sharam's techno banger "Exodus," released a month later on his Yoshitoshi imprint. Now, Sharam revisits the track with a powerful 2020 update—a sample of one of author and civil rights activist James Baldwin's speeches—and reflects on the early house tracks that introduced him to other racial justice leaders as a young immigrant in America. You can pre-order "Exodus (Pin Drop Mix)" here.
When I came to America as a young kid I didn't know much about it, other than what I had seen on television in Iran—shows like "Sesame Street," "Fat Albert" or a few American movies that made their way to TV in Iran pre-revolution, which typically starred Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood. I also knew about Muhammad Ali, as my father and brothers used to stay up late to watch him fight.
When we immigrated to the U.S. and I started to attend school, I studied American history but didn't really grasp or understand much other than topical information because of the language barrier. My sole focus was to learn the language as quickly as I could, so the television became my best friend again, this time mostly MTV. I soaked up as much music as I possibly could. I would write down and track the MTV Top 20 countdown every week like a trainspotter to see how the songs did in the charts from week to week.
Pop culture was my pathway to learning about American culture and to understanding the language. I had an insatiable appetite for discovering new music, almost an obsession, which led me to become a DJ and producer. I recall a few tracks I came across in the record stores early on featuring the spoken word. These unique records started doing the rounds at the stores I frequented. Little did I know that those songs were serving as an educational device for me and so many others. I was introduced to Martin Luther King, Jr. and to Maya Angelou. Speech and poetry over house grooves. Those records were my entry point to learning about these great American historical figures. Those pivotal spoken word house records opened my eyes and ears to the civil rights movement.
Fast-forward to 2020 where awareness surrounding racial equality has witnessed a new awakening. I thought this would be a great opportunity to use the medium with which I was introduced to civil rights, to bring awareness to another civil rights titan James Baldwin, one of the great writers, orators and civil rights leaders of the 20th century. His poetry, novels and speeches brought to light the racial and sexual discrimination issues facing our society throughout his lifetime.
I'm honored to present this reworked version of my 2019 track "Exodus" featuring Baldwin's remarks from his famous debate with William F. Buckley in 1965 at Cambridge University about Race In America. His powerful words illustrate the divide in accomplishing the American dream, something that is still present in today's world and something that has resonated with me.
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As many of you know, house music means more to me than a craft or a career. To me, it is also capable of being educational, a source of inspiration and an exchange of ideas and wisdom. This Friday I'll be releasing a very special re-release of my track "Exodus" on @yoshitoshirecs , and I can't wait to share it with you. Proceeds will be going to Hampshire College's James Baldwin Scholars Program. You can find the pre-order link in my bio. Stay tuned for more details!
I hope this record can help shed light on his work and inspire others to discover his important work. I will donate all proceeds from this song to Hampshire College's James Baldwin Scholars Program, a fund which supports students who have great potential but who, because they have attended under-resourced and underperforming schools, might otherwise lose the opportunity to attend college.
2020: a defining moment for everyone who cares about equality in America and around the world. Dance music is and has always been about inclusion and acceptance. I wanted to celebrate that by shining light on James Baldwin's legacy as a writer and civil rights activist who has inspired many of today's great minds.