Zahra Haji Fath Ali Tehrani

Lights Up commission

Zahra was commissioned as part of Lights Up in November 2020 to create a piece of work on the theme of ‘relationships’.

hands made to work. work harder to keep everyone together.
being diaspora in england in a family setting where work and keeping our heads above water has been key, cultural practices have been lost, the connection to our family lineage and language have not been prioritised.
this piece includes words from my parents and family in iran, their thoughts on what their biggest losses have been, and how they have built strength in keeping going with the hope that one day we will all be together. togetherness.

with thanks to:
siavash haji fath ali tehrani
geraldine haji fath ali tehrani
shapur haji fath ali tehrani
akram yazdanian
maryam kabiri
nia fekri
amy beddow
julia utreras


Zahra is a musician, composer, and performer who has been creating music for over 15 years. She is currently based in Oxford where she was born and raised as a second-generation immigrant, her father emigrated to the UK from Iran and her mother is Irish. Thoughts on identity run as an undercurrent through her work as she seeks to connect the different cultures she embodies through her creative process.

Zahra performs as a solo act, Despicable Zee, through which she has released the self-produced EPs Wednesday’s Child and Atigheh. It’s hard to confine these to a single genre. She threads layers and layers of lo-fi beats over sampled sounds you can never quite place, tied together by transient melodies that transport you to something like a reverie, a space in-between… perhaps this is the best way to describe her sound. It sits somewhere in-between spoken word poetry and echoed rap, in-between asking you to slow down to reflect, and inviting you to dance with its off-kilter rhythms. Even her lyrics explore what it means to be liminal. Lines are embedded with Zahra’s reflections on the experience of immigration and existing between cultures which are worlds apart. She weaves in samples from Iranian ballads, lullabies from her Irish mother and Iranian grandmother, and sounds of her son which she’s collected as he grows up, pockets of childhood captured in the quiet moments.

Alongside releasing her own music, Zahra has toured the UK and Europe drumming for acts such as Lafawndah, Young Knives, and a residency with Stealing Sheep. She performed her latest EP on the BBC Introducing stage at Latitude, before taking Atigheh on tour across the UK. The EP has been described as “a single ripple in a chain of intergenerational motion,” as Zahra sings “to understand why her father left and what he left behind”. She explores the balance of chaos and love attached to motherhood, longing to belong, and being homesick for a place you never knew. Her music asks what home means to you and, leaving spaces between words punctuated with scattered beats, it waits for you to answer.