HE plays the setar, a traditional Persian lute, and is a master of classical Persian literature and poetry. But the sounds he draws from the instrument, along with his deep voice and his playful but subtly cutting lyrics about growing up in an Islamic state, have made Mohsen Namjoo the most controversial, and certainly the most daring, figure in Persian music today.
Some call him a genius, a sort of Bob Dylan of Iran, and say his satirical music accurately reflects the frustrations and disillusionment of young Iranians. His critics say his music makes a mockery of Persian classical and traditional music as he constantly blends it with Western jazz, blues and rock.
Mr. Namjoo, 31, is a singer, composer and musician, but most of all, his fans say, he is a great performer.
“I wanted to save Persian music,” he said in an interview at one of his studios in Tehran. “It does not belong to the present time and cannot satisfy the younger generation. The fact is that Persian music is very close to other styles, and it is possible to mix in other styles with a little shrewdness.”
His blending of Western and Persian music produces unexpected moments that jar the traditionalists but are thrilling to his fans, who are mostly young artists and intellectuals. His music sounds Persian, but the melodies take away the melancholy that often suffuses classical Persian music.
But it is Mr. Namjoo’s lyrics, his fans say, that make his music so important. He sings old Persian poetry, such as works by the 13th-century mystic poet Rumi or the 14th-century poet Hafiz, with its connotations of love and lust. But with his mastery of Persian literature, he is able to write his own lyrics into the accepted forms, adding layers of meaning. (more from NYtimes)
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