I had the wonderful opportunity of interviewing Amir, the founder of Bia2.com, who is also a personal role model of mine because of his creativity, pioneership, and (as I’ve come to observe) great manners. I remember being 13 and discovering Bia2.com, and frantically downloading all the Mp3s I could get my hands on because I was afraid it would shut down, and I’d lose the access to my Iranian-ness that it had granted me. But not only has Bia2 not shut down, its grown in popularity and thanks to Amir and his team, it is now a source for quality Iranian media and entertainment.
I know many people of all ages turn to Bia2.com for not only music, but a little piece of heritage, culture, and home — as was the case with me. A lone Iranian teenager growing up in the suburbs of New Jersey, dancing to Black Cats in front of the mirror.
And while Amir is extremely modest, I think this interview is an ode to his journey: of something that grew from a hobby to a career, and a website that does more than post music.
– Tell me about your background.
I was born in Tehran, Iran and then I moved to the Orlando, Florida when I was 16.
– How was the culture shock?
Yeah, it was a huge shock. My dad, education- wise, doesn’t mess around. So literally, when we moved here, we arrived in Florida from Iran at around 9 pm and the next morning he sent me to school. My uncle had already signed me up and everything, and it had been a week or so that school had already started, but I was so lost. In Iran, you go to one class and the teachers change. But here, I had no idea that you had to get up and change classes. It was just a mess.
I was also the only Iranian student among 2,500 kids so I didn’t have any Persian friends, and it was really rough. But in a way, it was good because it pushed me to be social and meet new people.
I think after six months, I started getting used to things and overall, high school was a really good experience.
– How did Bia2 get started?
When I was in high school, I started Bia2 but it was under a different name, ‘Soltan’.
When I moved to Orlando, people had no idea what Iran was. I wanted to show them but it was really hard to explain, so I made this website and every time people would ask me ‘where are you from?’ I’d show them the website, where I put all the pictures I brought from Iran.
Back then, in 1998, if you searched online for Iran there weren’t a lot of pictures that weren’t negative. I really wanted to show the positive side of Iran, as well as share MP3s. And then it just picked up.
– So when did the name change occur? And how did you come up with Bia2?
In 2003, I registered the Bia2.com domain. One of my very good friends from Florida, Ali– a really creative guy—he always had this thing, after a lot of things he said he would say “Bia Too,” so when I made a list of all the names, I put that on there. I think initially it was ‘Bia Two’, with the number written out. But I added my own touch of just making it simple, “Bia2”.
– How much time did you dedicate to Bia2 when it first started?
A lot. I can remember a lot of times when my friends would go out and party on the weekends, and I would stay home working.
Bia2 was the perfect combination of my two passions: technology and music.
– What do you love about music?
When I was a kid, I used to play Santoor and later guitar. My mom has a beautiful voice. I just grew up around music— in all the gatherings, everything.
It’s also sort of a meditation for me, if anything gets on my nerves, or I want to calm down, music has always been that for me.
I even have music on while I’m working, there’s something playing in the background always.
– I know on Bia2, there are all different genres of music. But do you have a favorite?
I listen to a lot of music. I like pop music, and artists like Siavash Ghomeyshi. I also like some of the newer stuff, Persian rap—some of it, not all. And I do listen to a lot of non-Iranian music as well.
– Personally, I feel that the Persian Music industry has changed in the past few years, and the quality of the tracks being put out seems to be better. Is this really the case?
Both yes and no. The quality has improved, but the quality of the whole world’s music has changed and improved. There’s still a lot of crappy music. And the reason is that, before when you wanted to make music you had to go to a studio. But now, with a microphone at home, you can download some software—and everyone becomes a producer, or a DJ.
In Iran, this is good because a lot of people who couldn’t get permission to record in a studio can still make music. But then, there are some people who decide to record a song because they’re beekar, and this adds to the quantity of music coming out every day, but not the quality.
– What are your thoughts on Sex within our culture, and why it’s taboo?
As we grow up, there is always a lot of rules put in our heads, and I think as Persians we’re given a lot more rules. I don’t know if its because parents want us to be more disciplined or… it just seems that we have way more rules. And I think Sex is the same thing, there’s a lot of rules around it that we’re taught from when we’re young.
There is no right and wrong, its just rules. and I think they’re slowing us down.
I see a lot of my friends struggling with it. Somehow, if you don’t become a dentist, or choose to be a photographer, you’ve broken a rule.
– Three things you value most in life?
Family, Honesty, Trust
– Where was your first job?
I worked at Subway.
– I love my Persian mom because… they’re the only person who will love you more than they love themselves.
– How do you like your Fessenjoon?
Definitely Sweet. And Tahdig is always good.
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