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A BETTER LIFE

The Iranian singer, composer and multi-instrument­alist MENTRIX, aka Samar Rad, currently lives in Berlin. Here, she writes about her extraordin­ary journey into music…

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We hear a lot about immigratio­n. We hear about war and destructio­n and see people suffering somewhere far away. But little do we know about the one who immigrates, integrates, and struggles to survive – and to thrive. The individual who just wants a different and better life. y f>“ˆly firsÌ lefÌ r>n ˆn ̅e e>rly ¿™äsAE l>Ìer] I moved to Paris independen­tly, to enrol at unˆÛersˆÌy ˆn Óää£. Ü>s > Lrˆ}…Ì sÌudenÌ ÜˆÌ… great marks, driven with great social skills. I wasn’t scared of working hard, I spoke French perfectly since I partially grew up in Paris and ˆden̈fied >s …>lf‡ renV….

But life as an adult was going to be very different: suddenly, I was no longer equal to my friends. I no longer had the same opportunit­ies and my options in terms of career and profession­al experience were cut short. I needed special documentat­ion to work, to study, to move. I could not easily change my line of studies and every move I wanted to make was conditione­d and had immediate consequenc­es on my stay in France.

y lˆfe soon LeV>“e > VyVle of neÛer‡endˆn} applicatio­ns, temporary permits, standing in lines, providing proof of one thing or another. Almost overnight, I was rendered powerless. I was less than the ordinary citizen, with their ordinary rights.

This is when I began to identify more and more certainly as an immigrant. My friends were now Russian, Mexican, African. We shared a common reality. Naturally, I began to connect with my Iranian identity more. As an immigrant, you are expected to integrate and adopt the new culture and values of the host country. And your survival instincts push you to do exactly that. But when – despite all your best efforts – roadblocks meet you at every turn, you begin to question your role and place in society. Not being fully accepted by a society forces you to redefine yourself.

This is an aspect of immigratio­n that we seldom talk about. We tend to associate immigrants with refugees. Too often portrayed as helpless, poor or ill, refugees are in turn «erVeˆÛed >s loÜer‡Vl>ss VˆÌˆâens ܅o noÌ only cannot and will not contribute to the system, but who will rob it. The truth is that without being able to freely play a satisfying role in society, it is impossible to integrate and thrive. But this is not a story that ends badly or sadly. The moment my European residency was solved, I began to thrive. Without the pressure of “y sÌ>y Vo“ˆn} Ìo >n end] fin>lly felÌ free. I could at last focus on me and I felt a strong urge to express myself.

But music was not an obvious choice. Even though I was always drawn to music and fascinated by it, I could hardly afford to enjoy it, let alone dream of it! It was my spiritual practice that put me on this path. Almost as soon as I began university, I became a student of -ufis“. le>rned Ìo sˆn} >nd «l>y r>nˆ>n instrument­s through these teachings.

In a way, this musical path had already begun before I was aware that it could turn into my main occupation and that one day I would identify as a musician or as an artist. And such is life: if we truly get a chance at following our heart, our path is right before us.

I just released the second single of my forthcomin­g album My Enemy, My Love. Musically, it is an encounter of eastern and western sounds and melodies. Lyrically, it reveals my inner and outer struggles. And quite frankly, I have no idea how it all came out of me.

I found myself writing and singing and producing and found this incredible force inside. A force I had. A force I had lost and found again as soon as I was free to move and to follow my heart.

I believe that I am part of a generation of immigrants who can identify with some of these social realities. With music we get to communicat­e our identity, strength and talent. 7e }eÌ Ìo Le …e>rd >nd seenAE >nd «o«ul>r ˆf Üe >re luVŽy. V>ll ˆÌ «oṡˆ““ˆ}r>ṅ«o« >nd ̅ˆs q ˆn Çää Üords q ˆs “y ourney ˆnÌo “usˆV. • Mentrix’s debut album My Enemy, My Love is out April 3rd via House of Strength

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