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Mohssen Namjoo's music is best known for two facts: combining Persian (Iranian) traditional music with western music (Jazz, Blues and Rock) leading to intelligently-arranged assimilative music and a whole new way of singing, latter being the point he has been very criticized upon.
Namjoo was born in 1976, in small city of Torbat-e-Jam in northeast of Iran, but grew up in Mashhad. Torbat-e-Jam is best known for its dotar (a traditional Iranian music instrument) players. He began to learn Iranian traditional music at the age of twelve, after death of his father--which widely affected his life. He started his studies in traditional Iranian singing (avaz) under supervision of Nassrolah Nasseh-Pour in courses organized by Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance in Mashhad. After six years, eventually he completed the repertoire of Iranian traditional singing. In 1994 he entered the University of Dramatic Arts in Tehran as he was offered a position to study Theatre. A year after, in 1995 he joined the undergraduate music program at Tehran University where he was a student of some professional music instructors. During the days of studying music he also got familiar with western music. His music is essentially influenced by Jim Morrison, Chris Issak, Mark Knopfler, The Doors, Leonard Cohen and others.
Namjoo started to write music in early 90's. He has composed up to 100 pieces of music thus far nine of which have been published by Barbad Music in his first official album Toranj in 2007. He is also a lyricist but in most songs of Toranj, he has mainly preferred to use poets from great Iranian traditional poems like Hafez, Rumi and Sa`di. An interesting point about Namjoo's songs is that for even a Persian who listens to his music for the first time the words may be slightly hard to understand! It is totally because of his unique way of performing the vocals. This point is what many critics have criticized him upon. Some conservative people may find his way of singing, which often turns out to be quite strange and funny during a song, rude to Persian literature while others may find his efforts very intimate. As he himself states in a documentary made based on his life, his music is all about tearing apart taboos and experiencing new moulds. As far as Namjoo's music in concerned, it is obvious that he has proper affinity with both Persian and western music. He also has the courage to mix them.
Namjoo has also had some international performances up to now. He performed at a concert which was part of Tehran Hotspot at Rotterdam International Film Festival at Ro theatre as well as in couple of some other events in Utrecht, Venice, Rome (Academy of Fine Arts) and Paris (La Baline Balanche). In addition, he has composed music for number of Iranian short films, animations and plays since 1995.
Mohsen Namjoo, (Persian: محسن نامجو), is an Iranian musician, singer-songwriter. His style of music is influenced by Blues and Rock as well as Iranian folk music. The lyrics of his songs are also odd combination of Persian classical poems, his own lyrics, and contemporary poems; and uses the words freely with irony and sarcasm to carry the music and make a free style of singing. An Iranian correspondent for The New York Times in Iran wrote that "some call him a sort of Bob Dylan of Iran".Fathi, Nazila (1 September 2007). "Iran’s Dylan on the Lute, With Songs of Sly Protest". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 December 2011.
Namjoo was born in 1976 in Torbat-e Jam, a small town in northeastern Iran. In late 1997 and early 1998, Namjoo had his first two concerts, themed "modern combination of Iranian poetry and music". In 2003 he started recording parts of his own works in Tehran. His debut album titled Toranj was officially released in Iran in September 2007. He also composed soundtracks for movies and plays.
He was featured in the documentary Sounds of Silence (directed by Amir Hamz and Mark Lazarz] which has been screened at international film festivals. He also appeared in a feature narrative film called Few Kilograms of Dates for the Funeral (Director Saman Saloor), played in various film festivals.
In 2006 the Iranian judicial system sentenced Namjoo in absentia to a five-year jail term for allegedly ridiculing the ash-Shams, a surah of the Quran, in his song "Shams". The conviction took place in spite of his formal apology. After establishing in the West, the song was released as part of his album Oy.
In 2010, Namjoo kicked off his "A Minor" tour with a new band ensemble centered around some of his most popular and courageous songs. In June they performed at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, California (US). In October they performed at the Sony Center in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Mohsen Namjoo also released a single titled "Such Strange Times" in June, a song which was sung in English.
In fall of 2011 Namjoo recorded his next album Alaki live during his concert in Stanford University. This album was part of his work in Stanford Pan Asian Music festival. Accompanying band consisted of Ali bazyar (Percussion), Dina Zarif (back vocal), Tannaz Jaffari (back vocal), Serwah Tabbak (back vocal), Siamack Sanaie (Guitar), Mark Deutsch: (Bazantar, Guitar)
In fall of 2012, Namjoo released his new album 13/8. Thirteen/eight is a compilation of six pieces by Mohsen Namjoo, which were developed in the United States during the past year. The performance has been prepared in collaboration with California-based musicians James Riotto (Contrabass), Robert Shelton (Keyboard), Ezra Lipp (Drums) and Greg Ellis (Percussion). Payam Entertainment produced a series of live performances for 2012. The inaugural performance in Berkeley, California will be recorded in preparation for a future double-album release by the same title.
Since late 2013, Mohsen Namjoo has been Brown University Middle East Studies' 2014 Artist in Residence. During his residency, he is engaging in a number of activities. On December 7, 2013, to kick off his residency, he gave an electrifying performance to an enthralled audience at the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts. In spring 2014, he taught a course titled “Tradition and Protest: Persian and Iranian Music,” and gave several musical talks to public audiences on topics including “Shahram Shabpareh: Honesty and Minor Scale,” and “Iranian Rhythms.” The spring 2014 semester was capped by a well-attended concert on the evening of May 10 "When you are talking about Iranian fusion, what are you talking about?." Webcasts are available to view from Brown MES.
In fall 2014, Namjoo will teach “Revolution and Poets: Content and Form in Iranian Poetry.” Organized by Middle East Studies, Brown, he will take part in a panel discussion on Protest Music/ Music Performance and Social Change on Thursday, November 13, as well as take the lead on assembling a couple of Iranian bands, banned from playing in their own country, who will come together for the first time in an Iranian Music Festival titled “Iran Underground” on November 15th at RISD Auditorium. The event is part of Brown’s 250th Anniversary events."Mohsen Namjoo Official Website | Mohsen Namjoo Music". Mohsennamjoo.com. Retrieved 2014-04-29. محسن نامجو به 5 سال حبس تعزیری محكوم شد | سایت خبری – تحلیلی موسیقی ما (in Persian). Musicema.com. Retrieved 2014-04-29. http://www.internationalfreepresssociety.org/2009/07/iran-mohsen-namjoo-convicted-for-unconventional-singing/ "روزنامه اعتماد87/6/7: شكايت قاري مشهور قرآن از محسن نامجو". Magiran.com. Retrieved 2014-04-29. "Press Release: Thirteen/Eight Mohsen Namjoo and Ensemble Live in Berkeley and Los Angeles | Mohsen Namjoo Official Website". Mohsennamjoo.com. 2012-04-04. Retrieved 2014-04-29.
FilmographyChand Kiloo Khorma Baraye Maraseme Tadfin (2005)
2014: Mohsen Namjoo performed with Al-Bustan Takht Ensemble as part of Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture concert series."Classical and Contemporary Persian and Arab Music". Albustanseeds.org. Retrieved 2014-11-17.