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“Evolution of Iranian Rhythms”
Guest: Mohsen Namjoo
Mohsen Namjoo is an Iranian artist, songwriter, singer, music scholar and setar (traditional Persian lute) player based in California. Born in 1976 in Torbat-e Jam, Iran, Namjoo began his musical training at the age of twelve, studying under Nasrollah Nasehpoor until the age of eighteen. In 1994 Namjoo began to study Theater and Music at the University of Tehran, where he was trained under Alireza Mashayekhi, Azin Movahed and other masters. Namjoo also studied Iranian folk music under Haj Ghorbane Soleimani. His unique music style resembles a patchwork of Persian classical poetry of Hafez, Rumi or Saadi with western music, namely rock, blues, and jazz.
Since 2003, Namjoo has recorded parts of his works in Tehran. His debut album titled Toranj was officially released in Iran in September 2007 with his own voice featured in most of his creations. He has also composed soundtracks for movies and plays, and 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 Salur). Namjoo’s first performance outside of Iran was in January 2006 at the Tehran Hotspot of the International Rotterdam Film Festival where he played solo. In 2009 he was sentenced in absentia to a five-year jail term by the Iranian revolutionary courts for allegedly ridiculing the ash-Shams, a sura of Qur’an in the song named “Shams”. The conviction took place in spite of his formal apology. After establishing in the West, he sang this song in his Oy album which was produced in Italy in 2009.
In 2008 Namjoo kicked off his first solo US tour, which granted him the Visiting Artist Fellowship at Stanford University, co-sponsored by the Christina & Hamid Moghadam Program in Iranian Studies and the Music Department at Stanford. In 2010, Namjoo partnered with Payam Entertainment to present Namjoo in A Minor with a new ensemble centered around some of his most popular and controversial songs. They performed at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, the Sony Center in Toronto, Canada and the Herbst Theater in San Francisco. Payam Entertainment released Namjoo’s latest album Useless Kisses in 2011, and Alaki in 2012, which live recording from a performance at the Stanford University in February 2011. In the fall of 2011, Namjoo joined the team of celebrated New Yorke based Iranian artist Shirin Neshat as the music director of her performance OverRuled, commissioned by the Performa 2011 Festival in New York City. He is currently working with the Iranian filmmaker, scholar and play write, Bahram Beyzai on his new project commissioned by Stanford University. Namjoo continues touring the world and creating new music. His new album entitled “Thirteen/Eight” is due in the fall of 2012.
Hailed as “the Bob Dylan of Iran” by the New York Times, Mohsen Namjoo is a visionary artist who speaks for and touches the souls of today’s youth. Seamlessly blending the Classical with the Modern, the ancient with the current, Mohsen Namjoo is a true musical maverick.