Lightswitch EP

CHAII

Lightswitch EP

Iranian-born rapper CHAII was eight when her family moved to Auckland. Upon arriving in New Zealand, the first thing she saw on TV was Eminem performing “The Real Slim Shady.” “I was really drawn to it,” she tells Apple Music. “I was rapping along but I didn’t know English, so I was saying all these words I shouldn’t have been.” Coming from Iran, where it’s illegal to rap, the freedom to write and perform was a revelation. By the age of 11, CHAII–whose name means “tea” in Persian–had started experimenting unsuccessfully with combining English and her native tongue of Farsi. The breakthrough came when she fused Persian and Western time signatures, as heard throughout her debut EP, Lightswitch, particularly on the track “Digebasse,” (Persian for “enough”), inspired by the movement to give women in Iran more freedom. “A lot of Western music is in 4/4, but Persian music is 6/8, it’s really bouncy,” she says. “Gelling the two together is hard, but with ‘Digebasse’ it worked.” The opening title track is a heady, high-energy introduction to this short, intense release that’s reminiscent of mid-2000s M.I.A.—but darker. And CHAII’s energy and pride are further displayed via the gritty beats and bilingual lyrics of tracks like “Trouble” and “Digebasse.” “I really want to be a voice where it’s needed,” she says.

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