Israeli DJs Join Iranian-born Techno Musician to Produce Record

Deep’a & Biri discuss the unusual collaboration behind their new record.

Last Sunday, DJs Yaron Amor and Itai Biri received the first copy of their new record, “Hope,” for quality control before it went into mass production. To hear this new recording, which is the second released by their label, Black Crow Records, the two techno producers from Tel Aviv decided not to settle for the turntable in Amor’s apartment. Instad, they crossed the street to the nearby mini-club, Radio EPGB, and asked to listen to the recording on the sound system there. They can be pleased: Recently, Amor and Biri were interviewed for an article to be published next month in DJ Mag, one of the most prominent journals dedicated to electronic music and club culture. It praised “Hope” to the skies.

Biri, 23, and Amor, 30 (known as Deep’a) have been producing music together for five years under the name Deep’a & Biri. A few months after they started working together, they released two debut EPs (shorter records) on two different German labels. Later on, they released several more EPs on various labels, including Rotary Cocktail Records. In September, they released their first LP (long-playing record) on International Deejay Gigolo Records, one of the most successful electronic-music labels in Germany — a significant accomplishment for Israeli musicians.

“Hope” is a collaboration of Amor and Biri with Aril Brikha, a well-known techno producer whom the duo has admired for years. The fact that Brikha was born in Iran to a family of Assyrian descent provides an additional facet to their work. “I can hardly speak around him,” Biri says. “When I heard his music at the age of 17, it opened new worlds for me.” Amor adds, “It’s like being a basketball fan and having Michael Jordan show up in your back yard for a one-on-one.”

Biri and Amor met Brikha, who divides his time between Stockholm and Berlin, when he played in Israel after years of refusing to do so for political reasons. When he arrived, he was greeted by a rocket barrage from Gaza.

Each side contributed a new track to the album and a remix of the other’s track. The identity politics in the background of the collaboration is reflected in the album cover, which is based on a geometric pattern from a mosque in Iran, as well as on the album’s name, which was printed in Hebrew, English, Arabic, Farsi and Assyrian, a neo-Aramaic language.

But the frame story did not trickle into the music itself, “which is classic Detroit techno,” says Amor. In a conversation from Berlin via Skype, Brikha recalled that he loved the project and agreed to the collaboration on condition that the profits be donated to charity. The project, then, has additional value: Brikha is now searching for an independent Israeli-Palestinian organization dedicated to promoting peace to receive the profits from record sales.

Deep’a & Biri played outside Israel for the first time only in June, at a party thrown by Rotary Cocktail Records in the KaterHolzig Club in Berlin. Since then they have played in Barcelona, Moscow and Thessaloniki. “Redshift,” their first release on Black Crow Records, got a warm reception. Later this year, the duo will release two more albums for Black Crow and two more on top of that: one for Rotary Cocktail and another for a British label whose officials contacted them after hearing their album for Gigolo. For the British label, they also recorded a podcast comprised of their productions.

Their rapid success led them to hire a PR firm in Berlin and a booking agency in Zurich. “That is the agency that runs Derrick May’s label [May is one of the godfathers of techno]. May invited us to play with him this month in Zurich and at the Rex Club, one of the most important clubs in Paris,” says Amor. “It looks like we’ll be playing in Barcelona soon again, and now we’re starting to talk about summer festivals.”

Even as they send out feelers abroad, Deep’a and Biri are key figures on the local nightlife scene, mostly thanks to their collaboration with the Barzilay Club in Tel Aviv. For years, the Barzilay Club was a major crossroads between the global techno-house scene and its local offspring in Tel Aviv. Amor and Biri’s studio in south Tel Aviv is a small, narrow space with a metal staircase at one end. The studio equipment is fairly basic: a table with a computer and control keyboard. There is no light in the restroom downstairs, and the toilet has no seat either. They say that their nighttime sessions at the end of the work day do not tire them out.

“We’ve got drive,” Amor says. “This burns inside us more than our day jobs do, and stuff breaks out of us when we come here.” They do not always think about the dance floor while they are hidden away in their small studio, working on their music. Instead, their hope is to “take the listener to reflective and melancholy places,” Amor says.

Noa Yafe
Michael Topol