I am an American citizen, but at the same time, I can relate to having to escape your home country due to political conflict and being forced to begin again in a foreign land. Americans should remember that they are all descendants of immigrants. That is what has always made America so special and powerful.
I met Ali in passing a number of times while attending Miami during Winter Music Conferences between 2007-2010 (those trips were all a little bit fuzzy so specifics escape me). I’ve played countless Deep Dish records over the years and naturally scrambled to get my hands on anything I could as he transitioned into the techno powerhouse known today as Dubfire.
It wasn’t until a rather coincidental trip to LA in February of 2013 where I had the opportunity to share a meal with him, Carlo Lio, SHADED, ENDO, the Bullitt Agency team, and all the subsequent friends (read: family) that make up such a loving and welcoming group of people (Ali’s dinners are legendary for being a celebratory affair). Speaking with Ali over dinner and having him explain the technical setup of his iconic performance with Richie Hawtin for their first B2B (Click to Click) is truly a conversation I’ll never forget. He is an incredibly intelligent and articulate man with such an intense passion for the music and food industries and he made me feel part of his crew right from the start.
That night, I also had the pleasure of meeting and become friends (as well as on-call tech support) with Ali’s younger brother, Bullitt Agency CEO, Arash. Just like Ali, his welcoming and charismatic demeanor cements a feeling of comfort and familiarity. Arash also has the addition of a strong, charismatic yet aggressive entrepreneurial spirit. One short dinner with him and you’ll want to quit your job, start a company and try to take over the world because you feel empowered to accomplish anything. It’s really quite impressive.
It was during one of those dinners that Arash hinted that this documentary was in the works and who they were looking to be part of it. The list of musicians just tumbled out of his mouth like a who’s who of the dance music scene for the past 20+ years. The fact that these legends of electronic music were excited to be part of this project shows the respect that the scene has for what Ali has accomplished.
The next year, during yet another dinner (I’m noticing a theme here), I had a sneak peak at the official poster and finally, the title: Above Ground Level. A few weeks later, the trailer was released.
Ali and his brother, Arash Shirazi, exemplify what it means to come to the land of opportunity and make something of it. Not only have these two individuals become leaders in their industry, but they have taken it upon themselves to engage in these social conversations to promote positive open-mindedness surrounding the topic of immigration in the hopes that others like them can write their own American story.
Though the film was finished well before the Trump administration took office, Ali and Arash (as well as their incredible families) have been front of mind for me with all of the constant turmoil. Here are people who regularly invite me to experience authentic Iranian cuisine at their parents home, who are now being lambasted on social media because of where they were born. They can’t even visit their home country without worrying about being a political target and now the Trump administration is preventing their own family or friends from visiting. The US should welcome more people like the Sharazinia’s: gracious, talented, loving, inspiring, entrepreneurs.