is Iran's most popular, and controversial, musician.
He is known for fusing traditional Persian music with Western styles such as
rock, jazz, and blues. He blends the verses of great Iranian poets, such as
Hafiz and Rumi, with his own poetry and words.
Many see the 32-year-old Namjoo as a genius -- an avant-garde artist who breaks
barriers. Others dismiss him as a lunatic. The fact is that no one can remain
indifferent while listening to his songs.
Now, he is facing angry protests over a song that includes verses from the
His brother says the song was just an experiment not meant to be publicized, but
angry Koran experts and religious figures say Namjoo should be punished for what
they call an insult to Islam's holy book.
The song is a mix of traditional Persian music with Koranic verses spoken by
Namjoo, who reportedly used to be a Koran reciter during his childhood.
'Remain Silent And Listen'
Namjoo's troublesome song was posted on websites several months ago. It all
apparently happened without Namjoo's knowledge and consent. The song didn't get
much attention among fans or become a hit like other Namjoo's songs, but it made
some people very angry.
Abbas Mohajerani, an Iranian-born Islamic scholar based in London, tells Radio
Farda that music distracts the listener from "the word of God."
"When the Koran is being read, everyone should remain silent and listen,"
Mohajerani says. "If there is music playing, then the listener's attention is
largely caught by the music."
Namjoo performing "Tolou" by Siavash Ghomeyshi:
Mohsen Namjoo - A man
who has redefined Iranian Music and taken it to
the 21st century (By Syma Sayyah,
In recent years, a number of writers, musicians, and artists from other fields
have been forced or decided to leave Iran because of censorship and tight state
Observers say censorship and pressure on artists have increased since hard-line
President Mahmud Ahmadinejad came to power in 2006. Ahmadinejad has stressed the
need to promote Islamic values. He also has ordered Iran's state broadcaster not
to play "Western and decadent music."
Subtle Form Of Protest
Many see Namjoo as a rebel, a provocative poet, and composer who through his
lyrics and music highlights problems in Iranian society.
There is hope and joy in his lyrics, but also sadness, pain, cynicism, and a
subtle form of protest.
In one of his most popular songs -- called "neo-Kantian Ideas" -- he refers to
the government of former reformist President Mohammad Khatami, calling it
"apologist." He also refers to the losses of Iran's national soccer team, a
source of frustration in a football-loving nation.
The "New York Times" has described him as "a sort of Bob Dylan of Iran." Namjoo
rejects that label, however. He says he consider himself just a musician.
"I'd rather have no adjective in front of the word musician," Namjoo says. "I'm
only a musician. That's all."
RFE/RL Radio Farda broadcaster Amir Zamanifar and Radio Farda's correspondent in
Cologne, Shahram Mirian, contributed to this report
Copyright (c) 2008 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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