On Saturday, November 19, Iranian musician Mohsen Namjoo (dubbed “the Bob Dylan of Iran” by the New York Times) played to a packed house at MIT’s Kresge Auditorium. Known for his biting, satirical lyrics and his musical adaptations of poetry from Rumi, Hafez, and ‘Attar, Namjoo’s sound can best be described as eclectic: his songs seamlessly blend elements of traditional Iranian music (he’s classically trained) with genres such as rock, blues, and jazz, for a sound that is unconventional, confrontational, and bold.
Fans of Namjoo, including this contributor, were not disappointed: after overcoming the initial shock of seeing the singer sans his famously voluminous hair, the audience was treated to an acoustic set that featured an array of songs both old and new. At times, his rather unique vocals bordered on the absurd, but one was left in awe of the sheer creative force behind his music. Particular highlights include his performance of poems by both Rumi and ‘Attar, and his encore, the debut of a song off of his upcoming album which elicited fits of laughter from the crowd.
While his sound may be jarring or cacophonous at times, it was a delight to see such an influential (and controversial) musician play to a welcoming audience. Namjoo seemed relaxed and also engaged with the crowd (in Persian) in between songs; his calm, meditative presence set the tone for the evening. It was clear from the rapt expressions on the faces of his audience that Namjoo’s music continues to leave an indelible impression both on the contemporary Iranian music scene and, on a more personal level, his listeners. He is a musician who is not afraid to be original, to challenge authority and conventions with his music, and to use his art as a platform to give voice to, and indeed to protest, the difficulties that youth inside Iran face.
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Mohsen Namjoo’s Official Website: